By Kristi Pahr
The quest for a good night’s sleep has morphed from a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk before bedtime into an $80 billion industry in the U.S alone. Exhausted Americans are desperate to sneak some quality zzz’s into their busy days and willing to shell out big bucks for everything from fancy mattresses to prescription sleep aids.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that there are other options for a good night’s sleep – options that don’t come with a four-figure price tag or a long list of troubling side effects. As research into cannabis and the dynamic compounds that give the plant its medicinal and therapeutic properties grows, we’re learning more and more about a number of positive physiological effects, and sleep is one of them.
Cannabidiol and The Endocannabinoid System
The cannabis plant is loaded with compounds called phytocannabinoids – the chemical compounds that give cannabis its medicinal and therapeutic properties. Our bodies also produce cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters that interact with receptors and proteins located in every organ system in the body. The network of transmitters and receptors is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and it does the hard work of keeping our bodies in balance, or homeostasis.
Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most predominant cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, is full of beneficial and therapeutic potential. Research shows that CBD holds promise for easing such conditions as pain conditions, digestive issues, and more. Plus, it’s virtually side-effect-free. Because of its calming, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties, CBD is a great weapon to add to your arsenal in the battle for a good night’s sleep.
CBD and Sleep
CBD isn’t doing the majority of the work all by itself when it comes to getting some zzz’s. Where it’s useful is in allowing other cannabinoids to bind with ECS receptors longer and better than they would if CBD weren’t on board.
Most endocannabinoids, the cannabinoids our bodies produce, aren’t very long-lived – they do their jobs and are broken down. CBD serves as something like a reuptake inhibitor, preventing those compounds from breaking down and allowing them to stay present for more time, doing more work than they would without CBD.
Endocannabinoids like anandamide, the so-called “bliss molecule,” is a great example. Anandamide directly impacts things like inflammation and mood, providing a stabilizing influence. If you have pain, the body synthesizes and releases anandamide to relieve that pain. If you are anxious or upset, anandamide helps you calm down. The problem with anandamide, however, is that it is fragile and breaks down quickly.
CBD prevents cannabinoids like anandamide from breaking down, which allows them to work longer and harder than they ordinarily would.
There is also research that suggests that CBD acts on serotonin receptors. Serotonin is one of the feel-good chemicals our bodies release to help us relax and wind down, thereby promoting restful sleep. Serotonin is also responsible for modulating mood and can reduce feelings of nervousness or restlessness, which are well-known roadblocks to falling asleep quickly.
CBD and Your Bedtime Routine
A nighttime routine is a well-established way to let your body know it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. The simple steps you take before bed act as a trigger for your mind and body and help prepare you for bed before you pull back the covers and lie down. Adding CBD into your routine is a simple way to put your mind in the right space for sleep while reaping the benefits of CBD.
CBD is available in many preparations, making it easy to choose what works best for and your lifestyle. A cup of tea infused with CBD or a gummy before you head to bed can become a trigger for your body, allowing the mind and body to relax and let go of the tensions of the day.
By adding CBD to your nighttime routine and ditching side-effect laden prescription sleep aids, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
- De Gregorio D, McLaughlin RJ, Posa L, et al. Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain. 2019;160(1):136-150. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001386
- Leweke FM, Piomelli D, Pahlisch F, et al. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Transl Psychiatry. 2012;2(3):e94. Published 2012 Mar 20. doi:10.1038/tp.2012.15
Kristi Pahr is a freelance health and wellness writer and mother of two who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She is frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Men’s Health, and many others.