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Will CBD Oil Replace the Sleeping Pill?

There are many sleep supplements available. But nothing has taken the world by storm like CBD oil. In every neighborhood gym, spa, and salon, someone is touting (and hawking) the pain-relieving benefits of CBD oil.

The CBD market has taken off. Sales are expected to grow to more than $2 billion from only $292 million in 2016, according to the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm.

Growth and mainstream adoption may be slowed by regulatory and quality control issues, which affects the entire cannabis industry. But CBD products derived from the hemp plant are now sold in nearly all 50 U.S. states. In areas where there are legal medical and adult-use cannabis programs, highly potent CBD products are also available.

The outsized health-benefit claims for CBD are spread through word of mouth and from family member to family member. There are more anecdotes than double-blind studies. But the science of CBD oil is starting to catch up with the hype. We’ll examine the trends and whether CBD oil can work any wonders for insomniacs and restless sleepers.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, an active compound found in the hemp plant. There are more than 85 cannabinoids, of which tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the most famous among marijuana users. For its part, CBD is non-intoxicating and doesn’t produce any of the psychoactive “highs” associated with common marijuana.

CBD is non-intoxicating and doesn’t produce any of the psychoactive “highs” associated with common marijuana.

Any cannabis plant will have different amounts of CBD and THC depending on the strain, with hemp and marijuana being the two most popular variants. These strains create different recreational and medicinal profiles. Researchers say industrial hemp or medical marijuana is ideal for pain sufferers seeking the emerging medical benefits of CBD without the “high” and potential side effects of THC.

Whereas THC creates deep euphoria, hallucinations, or even anxiety, CBD reportedly “clears the mind” and calms the body. It may have potential medicinal value, including pain relief, neuroprotection, and anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study of CBD users reports that almost 62% say they use CBD to treat a medical condition. The top three medical conditions associated with CBD were pain, anxiety, and depression. CBD oil is also used heavily for sleep disorders, including insomnia.

According to Eaze, a cannabis clearinghouse, when first-time customers come into the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center in Studio City near Los Angeles, founder Craig Wald reports that they aren’t asking “How can I get stoned?”

Wald says, “They want to know what works the best for arthritis, for anxiety. And they want to know what works for sleep.”

More and more, CBD oil is being used as a safe and natural sleep aid and an alternative to sleeping pills.  CBD helps people sleep without making them feel groggy the next day. At high doses, it acts as a sedative.

More and more, CBD oil is being used as a safe and natural sleep aid and an alternative to sleeping pills.

One California dancer and personal trainer has no qualms taking CBD oil up to three times daily. Filling up a dropper, he puts it into his morning coffee in the morning and again before bed. As a side benefit, he reports that it promotes skin health and reduces acne breakouts.

Cannabidiol is even more popular with women than men, who generally prefer THC-laced products.  A survey from the Brightfield Group and HelloMD  found that 55% of CBD users were females. Women enjoy its stress-reducing, non-psychoactive properties for health and wellness.

CBD is delivered in a variety of formats, including vaping and edibles. Brightfield estimates that tinctures and oils, which make up less than 1% of the general cannabis market today, will grow in popularity.  Hemp-based CBD tinctures, designed for valid medical purposes, are expected to lead the way. They are commonly marketed as alcohol-infused cannabis extracts, delivered with a medicine dropper, and applied under the tongue (sublingually).

Medicinal Benefits of CBD Oil

Medical research into CBD oil is at the earliest stages and will ultimately determine the fate of cannabidiol. A small 2011 study  of a few dozen participants found that CBD at doses of 300-600 mg reduced anxiety disorder and enabled participants to speak in front of a large audience. CBD also reduces anxiety in patients with SAD (social anxiety disorder). New research suggests the potential for the treatment of PTSD and enhancing cognitive behavioral therapy.

CBD appears safe and well tolerated up to 1,500 mg per day. Moreover, because the compound does not create dependency and shows fewer sedative effects, it’s seen as a potential alternative to prescribed benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs. If studies bear out that CBD can help with substance abuse, then the compound might have a large role to play in reducing opioid addiction.

Cannabidiol has also been shown to have positive therapeutic benefits for anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain treatments. It could also reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.  The anti-anxiety effects may be due to CBD’s interaction with a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which in surplus produces a calming effect in the brain.

U.S. drug companies got a big boost in June, 2018, when the Food and Drug Administration approved the prescription drug Epidiolex from GW Pharmaceuticals, which lists CBD as its active ingredient. Studies show that Epidiolex cuts certain kinds of epileptic seizures by 40%

Sleep Research and CBD Oil

The anecdotal evidence for treating insomnia with CBD oil is strong. According to a 2017 Eaze Insights Report, more than half of their California customers use cannabis for sleep. Of those, 95% were able to reduce their prescription sleep medications, and 45% stopped taking sleeping pills entirely through sleep-inducing cannabis products like CBD. Among expert users, indica-strain products are recommended as they tend to have higher CBD content than sativa strains, thereby accentuating the calming qualities.

Based on several recent studies, cannabidiol may play a positive role in sleep regulation. In healthy sleepers, 600 mg of CBD produced sedative effects. In subjects with insomnia, regular CBD use was associated with an increase in total sleep time and less frequent nighttime awakenings. Another finding: low daily CBD usage reduced dream recall.

In 2018, Peter Eastwood at the University of West Australia began an insomnia study. He says, “Based on previous research we believe a small dose of medicinal cannabinoid may be effective for treating chronic insomnia and have fewer side effects than current drug treatment options.” Such long-term side effects of prescription drugs could result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Participants will use an oil formulation administered through a dropper under the tongue one hour before going to bed. The quality of sleep will be measured by wrist monitors and three overnight sleep visits to a sleep center.

One case study showed positive results in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. A young girl was given CBD supplements (25 mg) at bedtime, and CBD sublingual spray during the day as needed for anxiety. Her sleep quality and quantity gradually increased and her anxiety decreased. After five months, the patient was sleeping in her own room again. No side effects were reported from taking the CBD oil. It’s surmised that CBD may block anxiety-inducing rapid eye movements during portions of sleep.

CBD oil may hold promise for sleep apnea and sleep-related breathing sufferers but additional research is required, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). At this time, AASM does not recommend medical cannabis or synthetic extracts for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) “due to unreliable delivery methods and insufficient evidence of treatment effectiveness, tolerability, and safety.”

Risks of CBD Oil

The side effects of CBD are limited, based on current research. The most common side effects in Epidiolex-treated patients included: sleepiness, sedation and lethargy; elevated liver enzymes; decreased appetite; diarrhea; rash; fatigue, malaise and weakness; insomnia, sleep disorder and poor quality sleep; and infections. Other research suggests CBD may interact with certain kinds of prescription medications.

Supplements aren’t regulated as strictly as pharmaceuticals, and can vary widely from bottle to bottle and brand to brand. Even where marijuana use is legal, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the CBD extract as a Schedule 1 substance, a restricted category with the highest potential for abuse.

But by federal laws, CBD oil is legal, as long as it contains levels of THC under .3%. On their own, certain state and local jurisdictions are checking CBD oil claims for potency and mislabeling in order to enforce current laws and root out more dangerous synthetic cannabinoid products like spice.

Where there are unjustified claims made by CBD companies, the FDA is “prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.” In other words, cannabidiol buyer beware. Users (especially pregnant women) should first consult with a doctor and a trusted dispensary.

In Summary

There is a limited but growing body of pharmacologic data in support of cannabidiol oil. Initial sleep studies show promise in reducing insomnia brought on by anxiety. Users claim CBD oil is a safe and natural sleep aid and an alternative to sleeping pills.

However, researchers say they need larger, better designed, randomized trials before making final assessments. As with many nutritional supplements, there is a problem of product consistency, content, and purity. If you tread cautiously and work with your doctor, you may discover a new and safer avenue to better sleep and well-being.