How CBD Takes Care of Your Sleep: Combining CBD and Melatonin
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.
- Introducing: Melatonin
- How to improve your sleep quality
- How to take melatonin?
- Cannabis as a novel treatment for insomnia
- Cannabis and sleep
- Cannabis or melatonin? Or both?
- Advice on taking CBD
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
With our intense work life, it often isn't easy for us to always get a fair amount of sleep. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t underestimate the vitality of this process. In fact, here are some warnings on how the lack of sleep can negatively impact your health.
Numerous research has shown that not getting enough sleep for just a few nights in a row can drive a healthy person into prediabetic conditions. This is because moderate sleep deprivation reduces the body's ability to control blood glucose levels. On top of that, the lack of sleep has a devastating effect on immunity, making us vulnerable to infections.
In one study, participants who slept less than seven hours were three times more likely to catch colds than those who slept seven or more hours. People with sleep deprivation were producing too much ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger, and not enough leptin, a satiety hormone, thus increasing the risk of obesity.
A recent study by a group of Hong Kong scientists found that a lack of proper sleep and wakefulness at night can damage a person's DNA structure. Hence, working night shifts and not getting enough sleep at night can lead to many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular, neurological, and pulmonary diseases. Scientists from the Hong Kong University presented results showing that people who work night shifts have DNA repair mechanism problems. The results showed that people who are required to work overnight have 30% higher DNA strand breaks than those who are not required to work overnight. And this DNA damage is further increased by more than 25% due to severe sleep deprivation.
There was also a link between lack of sleep and decreased brain activity and even, in the long term, dementia. It can be explained by an accumulation of toxic substances in the brain during the day, and such can be removed during sleep. If you don't sleep long enough, your condition "resembles a mild concussion”.
But, what regulates our sleeping cycle and makes sure that our DNA is restored while resting?
Humanity learned about the existence of melatonin only in 1958, thanks to a professor at Yale University who discovered it. Since then, the crucial role of melatonin was indisputable and was a target of many therapeutic drugs.
The hormone is produced by the brain's pineal glands (the size of which does not exceed a pea) and is responsible for circadian rhythms - a vital regulation of sleep regime. Strictly speaking, melatonin doesn't make you fall asleep, but it tells your body it's bedtime. Therefore, a deficiency of sleeping hormone makes it difficult to fall asleep and makes our rest hectic. When that happens, we would often wake up at night and cannot go back to sleep. In the dark, melatonin production becomes more robust, but it decreases if it is light in the room. Hence, problems with this hormone level are most often found in those who work at night or in dark areas.
What interferes with melatonin production?
Stress factors and long hours of work can be quite exhausting by themselves, even without lack of sleep.
However, what can interfere with the melatonin production?
It was shown that some medications reduce the level of melatonin production. This is especially true for beta-blockers and any NSAIDs (including aspirin). Therefore, when taking these drugs, you should monitor your sleep, and in case of problems such as the occurrence of insomnia, you should seek your doctor's advice.
Also, alcohol consumption negatively affects the secretion of this hormone. Besides that, fasting, even if it’s for only a short period of time, can cause the same problems. Furthermore, the lack of folate, magnesium, and zinc may also impair melatonin production (this was confirmed by studies in rats). Moreover, some insecticides mimic melatonin in the body and thus cause sleep disturbance.
How to improve your sleep quality
Healthy sleep is much more than just a mandatory daily routine. In fact, the Head of the International Society for Hormone Replacement Therapy, Dr. Thierry Ertog, Brussels, emphasizes the importance of endocrine balance for normalizing sleep and well-being.
In addition, you could consider following these simple rules to help you get a good night's rest:
- Avoid foods and drinks that interfere with sleep
In essence, do not consume any caffeinated beverages/foods as well as alcohol - this is because they dramatically reduce melatonin levels.
- Avoiding having late dinner
You should not eat several hours before bedtime because it is evident that it will be difficult for the body to sleep if it is busy with digestion. For quality rest, eat at least four hours before bed.
- Try your best to remain calm
In the evening, try to avoid stressful activities that excite your mind too much. So, do your best in avoiding complex discussions or hectic planning that stimulates adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol production before you go to bed.
- Be proactive
During the day, be sure to find time for physical exercise as this positively affects your general well-being. This is because physical activity can help you feel tired after a long day and thus, you are more likely to sleep well at night.
- Stimulate hormone production
As you may already know, the leading causes of insomnia are a lack of melatonin and a deficiency of cortisol and thyroid hormones. So, taking extra doses of hormones may help to balance your hormonal levels. However, do make sure that you always consult with a doctor first.
- Optimize your micronutrient levels
The most important supplements for healthy sleep are tryptophan and 5-HTP, whereby even small doses of these amino acids can help improve your regimen. It is vital to maintain a ratio of 5 (or even 10mg) of tryptophan to 1mg of 5-HTP.
In general, the appointment and selection of doses should be made by a competent physician. Besides that, it is also essential to eliminate folate, vitamin E, magnesium, and some other types of deficiencies that could affect your quality of sleep. For example, isoflavones at a dosage of 100 to 400mg per day can help women who are suffering from restless legs syndrome. Therefore, just like any other pathological condition, insomnia should be diagnosed comprehensively and not taken lightly by simply consuming sleeping pills.
Also, there are simple tricks that you can take on board:
- Go to bed before 10 pm
- Limit the use of gadgets before bed, as remember that even minor exposure to conventional white-blue light bulbs can shut off melatonin production for long hours
- Be sure to turn off the light during night sleep, or alternatively, use blackout curtains or wear an eye mask
- If it is not possible to provide a sufficient level of darkness in the room at night (even with the lights turned off), it is worth hanging blackout curtains or wearing a special sleep mask
- If night sleep is not enough, it is advisable to rest during the day
How to take melatonin?
Medications containing melatonin are classified as dietary supplements or sports nutrition. Concentration - from 1 to 10 mg, the appropriate doctor determines.
Despite the difficulty of sleeping, sometimes an amount between 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams of melatonin can be enough to restore the cycle. It means that you can use even half of a tablet each night from the start. However, some people may require bigger doses that can reach up to 5 mg. And yet, the administration of doses above 5 mg isn't any more effective than administering regular doses. Thus, taking a dosage higher than 5 mg would probably be unnecessary.
It is usually advisable for you to take melatonin one to two hours before bedtime (but do listen to a trusted healthcare professional first). But remember that you should never abuse it as you may risk disrupting your hormone production. Plus, high concentrations of melatonin can cause harmful side effects in the consumer, such as headaches, bouts of nausea, increased sleepiness the next day after taking the supplement, and a noticeable increase in the brightness of dreams.
Cannabis as a novel treatment for insomnia
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural, non-toxic, and non-psychoactive cannabinoid. It is basically a chemical compound from the Cannabis sativa plant.
Our body has receptors that can interact with the active substances of cannabis. These receptors are a necessary part of the body's endocannabinoid system and are found almost everywhere - from within our brain to our immune system.
The main task of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain the state of homeostasis (i.e., the norm under which all biological processes in our body proceed precisely as they should).
With that in mind, CBD works with this system to activate receptors and stimulate the production of natural endocannabinoids. Since the endocannabinoid system is found all across our entire body, CBD is hypothesized to be effective in treating a wide range of ailments, thereby implying that the substance possesses enormous medical potential.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another important compound of cannabis that causes the famous psychoactive effect of feeling "high".
Simultaneously, this active substance may be the culprit for some of the herb's sedative effects as THC affects mechanisms that help regulate the body's biological clock and pleasure centers, whereby it mimics compounds that interact with melatonin. In essence, THC stimulates the CB1 receptors and thereby causes people to experience a state of euphoria more often. But of course, if you were to over-consume it, the large amounts of THC will cloud your ability to think rationally and could potentially induce greater levels of anxiety.
On the other hand, in the case of CBD, none of them will happen as CBD reduces the intensity of CB1 receptor stimulation induced by THC. As a result, CBD may help to relieve a person from anxiety.
There is a 1986 study indicating that THC can increase the release of melatonin shortly after consumption. For this reason, you may feel a little tired and unmotivated after a THC overdose.
With that in mind, one might ask what would be the best way out of the situation? The answer is fairly simple - always remember to consume these substances in moderation and purchase cannabis products with a greater CBD concentration.
Cannabis and sleep
According to Terry Roycroft, Head of the Therapeutic Marijuana Information Center, he reported that in addition to pain alleviation and the management of epileptic seizures, CBD is also very useful in improving sleep quality.
"The compounds in the plant tissues are ideal for both relaxing the human body and the nervous system," says Roycroft.
On that note, you may be asking, what exactly can CBD offer you?
Given the ability of CBD to help relieve stress and relax physically, it's no surprise that it could help you fall asleep faster. Its potential application could thus be particularly interesting for those suffering from pain, insomnia, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions. Meanwhile, it is important to note that edible CBD medications do not work as quickly as inhaled ones, but their effects last for several hours, which will help you sleep longer.
The Journal of Psychopharmacology presented a study from 2013 that small doses of CBD in rats could increase the total sleeping time even though this activity was more pronounced during the dark portion of the day. The activity of CBD and sleep is determined by the time of administration and the dosage. In the experiment, the researchers administered intraperitoneal injections containing 2.5 mg/kg, 10 mg/kg, and 40 mg/kg of CBD on Adult male Wistar rats. The researchers went ahead to observe the sleep recordings during the light and dark periods for four days. At the end of the experiment, it was discovered that the sleep percentage increased in groups treated with 10 and 40mg/kg of CBD compared to placebo, thus leading them to conclude that the acute systemic administration of CBD appears to increase total sleep time in addition to improving sleep latency in the light period of the day. The findings of the study thereby points to the potential ability of CBD to interact with serotonin and GABA receptors in the brain.
Help with breathing
Apnea is a severe condition in which a sleeping person often experiences breathing problems that can prolong from a couple of seconds to several minutes.
As you can imagine, with apnea, a person wakes up many times during the night, which leads to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, headache, mood swings, distraction, and other problems.
Preclinical studies show that cannabis can help with this condition. A 2013 study measured the effectiveness of the exogenous cannabinoid dronabinol ("artificial" THC) and found improvements in sleep in 15 of 17 participants after three weeks of drug use. Another study looked at the ability of THC to restore stable breathing by regulating serotonin signals. We need more reliable results to make sure marijuana is sufficient, but a start has been made.
It seems that anxiety affects every little bit of our lives. However, it affects sleeping the most. Many studies suggest that cannabis and especially CBD products offer an excellent solution for anxiety relief before public-speaking stress or exams. Still, a recent study initiated by Shannon et al. (2019) showed terrific results. The team has studied 72 adults with key concerns regarding anxiety and low quality of sleep. With taking CBD orally, the recorded anxiety scores decreased by 79.2% within the first month amongst 57 patients and remained lower throughout the entire study period. It was also spotted that among 48 patients, the sleep scores have dramatically increased by 66.7% over the first month, though it is important to note that the scores still fluctuated over time.
Taking natural remedies alongside could enhance the effects of CBD
CBD can be taken as a form of pill on its own, but it would be most effective when taken together with other natural medications.
For instance, the addition of hops, chamomile, and lavender might enhance the sedative effect. Besides that, melatonin, 5-HTP, and valerian root can also help improve sleep.
So, next time, try pairing your favorite with a cup of chamomile tea or lavender bubble bath.
Some Indica and Sativa varieties are more likely to cause drowsiness
The popular belief is that Cannabis indica strains are more potent than a sleep aid, while taking Cannabis sativa gives a refreshing and energizing effect.
While chemical and DNA tests have yet to explain why C. indica is better for sleeping pills, some scientists speculate that the aromatic compounds that make each strain different from the others are due to the number of terpenes. In other words, C. indica contains more relaxing, sedative terpenes than C. sativa.
What is the correct dosage for CBD?
The one key fact to remember is that there is no perfect universal dose of CBD for everyone.
It all depends on many factors, including the individual's susceptibility to the organism, the mode of delivery of CBD, and the specific nature of the symptoms. For example, high doses of CBD (up to 600 mg per day) are more useful for epilepsy, while lower doses are better for treating anxiety. Research shows that it is relatively easy to find the right dosage of cannabidiol, as it has almost no adverse side effects from marijuana. If you take too little, you will feel a little relief. And if it is too large, then the outcome will be more decisive, but at the same time, you will not face any negative consequences. More research is needed to determine the recommended dose of CBD for each specific disease.
However, suppose you are using oils or concentrates high in CBD. In that case, it is common to start with a small dosage of 5mg to treat symptoms such as anxiety, stress, pain, and insomnia, and gradually increase it for optimal effect.
What CBD products does the market have to offer?
CBD can be consumed in various ways - traditional when it comes to buds, evaporating the concentrate, or merely intaking cannabis supplements. Cannabidiol can also be presented as a lotion or ointment. With so many different options, everyone can easily make CBD their everyday routine. However, while all of these foods deliver CBD to the body, not all of them act and work in the same way. Therefore, we decided to talk about which use case is better to choose depending on the specific symptoms.
CBD oil is a generic term for different foods. It is often presented as a liquid extract in a bottle with a pipette built into the cap. The oil can be dropped under the tongue for rapid absorption by the body's circulatory system or mixed with food/drinks. CBD oil can also be presented as a viscous gel, which is used as a food additive. But in this case, it begins to operate much later. CBD oil is commonly used to treat a wide range of symptoms, the most common of pain, anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Edible foods infused with CBD
CBD foods are prepared meals and drinks that have added CBD oil or concentrate. CBD gummies and sweets are the most common of these. Carbonated drinks and CBD water are also popular. Edible foods are most popular with people suffering from pain, inflammation, and stress. It's worth noting that research into the potential of CBD has shown that chewing gum is the most reliable, easy, and convenient form when it comes to delivering the exact amount of cannabidiol to the body. Generally, people take CBD gummies for sleep 30 minutes before going to bed for better results. At the same time, CBD drinks are considered less reliable in this regard.
CBD for vaping
In specific quantities, CBD is added to vaping liquids of propylene glycol and glycerin. The effect, in this case, occurs almost instantly. This method of delivering cannabidiol to the body is extremely useful in dealing with stress and anxiety. It helps to get rid of negative experiences in a matter of minutes. But these liquids should be treated carefully - not all of them pass quality control. Good old organically grown CBD buds can always be a reliable alternative.
Cannabis or melatonin? Or both?
In summary, the effectiveness of marijuana or melatonin in treating sleep problems depends on biological factors and the consumer's subjective attitude towards the drug used. Simply put, we can say that, on average, cannabis is more effective in the treatment of sleep disorders than melatonin. However, it can not always guarantee a person a certain quality of sleep. Unlike cannabis, melatonin directly stimulates the body to go to sleep, without the ability to induce drowsiness upon awakening, provided it is used correctly. In turn, marijuana has a complex and long-term effect that can last up to 8 hours during the entire sleep period.
It is essential to mention that while sleep aids may help the short-term, they are not good enough for proper insomnia treatment. The National Sleep Foundation recommends people to consume sleeping aids only if insomnia continues permanently, despite other behavioral changes and non-medical treatments you've already attempted. If you're dealing with persistent sleep issues, you should immediately address them to your doctor so he can help you to identify potential causes and discuss treatments.
In contrast, pharmaceutical sleep aids may cause sleepwalking, habit formation, and daytime sleepiness, according to Harvard Medical School (2017). The World Health Organization published its report and stated that CBD had not been shown to have any of these adverse effects.
As was mentioned above, CBD is a rather useful compound, supporting healthier sleep, minimizing the period for sleep latency, and it allows you to sleep through the night peacefully without having any sleep disturbances.
However, it appears to be more efficient when combined with melatonin to improve your REM sleep. The main reason for that is because CBD and melatonin interact with the same group of receptors.
So CBD enhances sleep behavior through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 (most commonly known as endocannabinoid receptors).
On the other hand, melatonin activates MT1 and MT2 receptors. Both cannabis and melatonin receptors fall under the same group called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which means that they have similar molecular structures and produce a similar effect on body processes. Their benefits of sleep complement each other. When taking both, they may help your night's sleep become faster, longer, and, overall, better.
Advice on taking CBD
First of all, make sure you talk with a medical cannabis practitioner who gives you personalized recommendations on dosage before combining the two supplements.
Take it easy and start with a low dose of CBD oil, maybe even half of what the product instruction recommends, and carefully increase your dosage over time - you don't want to overload the body with too many sleep-inducing compounds at once. Allow your body and mind time to adjust to the effects of CBD oil.
Make some notes on whether taking CBD oil throughout the day or just before going to bed is more beneficial for promoting your sleep. Even keeping a sleep journal for the first month of using CBD oil and melatonin together sounds reasonable, so you can gauge which dosage and at what time(s) of the day are most effective in CBD consumption.
As an alternative, if you are worried about confusion with the appropriate mixture dosage, you can purchase CBD products that already have melatonin included. This removes the need to balance your quantities delicately. If using these products, start with the dosage suggested in the information pamphlet and gradually increase until you experience the desired effect.
Last but not least. When you take anything that can promote or induce sleep, you should be extra careful while driving, operating heavy equipment, or doing any activity that demands extreme concentration. Be cautious until you know how the combination will impact you.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a type of hormone that is produced by your brain when you are in a dark environment. In contrast, if you were to be in a bright environment, the light would inhibit the production of melatonin. Essentially, this hormone helps to maintain your 24-hour body clock (a.k.a. circadian rhythms), and thus your sleep patterns.
Meanwhile, although certain studies have suggested that melatonin is involved in other physiological processes, much of their effects has not been fully understood.
What is CBD?
CBD is an abbreviation of cannabidiol, which is the second most prevalent compound that you can extract from the Cannabis sativa plant. Though bear in mind that although CBD can be found in marijuana and hemp plant respectively (both are variants of the Cannabis sativa) the hemp plant has a far higher concentration of CBD than marijuana.
How could CBD function in your body to help you sleep?
Although we haven’t fully understood how exactly CBD works inside our body, we do know that CBD interacts with a newly discovered system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In essence, the ECS has been observed to play a part in regulating several processes in our body, including our appetite, mood, and sleep patterns. Besides that, there are two key receptors found within this system, namely the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
When CBD interacts with these two receptors, some studies suggested that this in turn could impact the person’s sleep-wake cycle. Besides that, CBD might also help to reduce a person’s pain and anxiety levels, thereby contributing to a better night’s sleep.
What are the different ways of consuming CBD?
There are multiple ways for you to consume CBD. For example, you may take CBD pills or capsules or even CBD oil and tinctures. Besides that, you can even consume CBD-infused edibles such as CBD ice cream, CBD gummies, and even CBD chocolate!
Meanwhile, although vaping CBD is also another way for you to get CBD into your system (at a much faster rate as a matter of fact), certain research has highlighted the potential respiratory risks associated with vaping in general. Hence, this approach is not advised.
What is the best CBD dosage for beginners?
The best CBD concentration that you should take is highly dependent on various factors ranging from your weight, your sleeping patterns, the CBD product you are using, and when you are planning to take it. Hence, it is always advised that you should speak to your doctor first before you introduce CBD into your daily consumption routine.
Should your doctor not have any recommendations, then it would be best for you to start with a low dosage first before gradually increasing it until you can experience its full beneficial effects.