How CBN may be able to help you sleep better
This new cannabis compound has become a popular sleep aid. Here’s how it works and how it differs from CBD.
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She’s written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women’s Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Cannabidol has infiltrated every part of life — from leggings , to lattes, pet treats and more — and as it continues to gain popularity, more products hit the shelves every day. But another chemical that’s derived from hemp and cannabis just like CBD is now popping up in the sleep world. It’s called cannabinol, and it may be able to help you sleep better.
As someone who doesn’t respond well to melatonin, I’ve heard that CBD can help counteract the hangover effect that people can experience from melatonin. So I was intrigued when I heard from the CBN brand Sandland, which makes CBN supplements that contain microdoses of melatonin that promise to help you sleep without that groggy feeling. I hoped that CBN combined with a tiny dose of melatonin would be exactly what I needed on the occasional nights I have trouble sleeping. When I tried the supplements, I was pleasantly surprised when they helped me sleep without the typical next-day fog I usually feel.
Currently, all types of CBD lack solid clinical research studies — but many are in progress, and we are close to having more scientific explanations on exactly how CBD works. CBN is even newer to the scene: For now, the information we have is largely anecdotal or based on animal research, which is helpful but not as helpful as human clinical trials. With that in mind, I spoke to the Sandland Sleep CEO Josh Townsend to gather more information on CBN and how it works.
What is CBN? How is it different from CBD?
Both CBD and CBN are cannabinoids, or compounds derived from cannabis plants. According to Sandland Sleep, CBN is the most sedative out of all the compounds in cannabis. CBN was discovered recently from decomposed THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis).
“Cannabinoids can be classified in several ways, one of which is Broad vs Narrow,” Townsend says. “CBD is a very broad cannabinoid that does a good job in addressing general inflammation and potentially supporting mood stability. However, CBN is very specific and contributes to sleep and the decrease of anxiety.”
Even though CBN comes from THC, Townsend says it doesn’t have the psychoactive properties you might think of. “CBN is its own molecule and does not contain THC or any other psychoactive compound that could create a mind-altering event, or that could create a ‘positive’ drug-screening test result,” says Townsend.
CBN is a type of CBD that is derived from decomposed THC.
CBN and sleep
If CBD research is still considered in its early stages, then CBN is in its infancy. According to Townsend, CBN has been studied even less than CBD. In a study by Steep Hill Labs, CBN seemed to show sedative properties, but the lab later said more research is needed to understand if that’s true.
Although we don’t have the research (yet) to understand how CBN might improve sleep, Townsend says it could be explained in part by terpenes. “Within a hemp or cannabis plant there are several other compounds than just the cannabinoids. It is generally believed that all these compounds work in synergy to give the cannabis/hemp plant its medicinal properties. This effect is called the entourage effect,” says Townsend.
You might have heard of “broad spectrum” vs “full spectrum” CBD — many people debate whether one is better than the other. According to Townsend, this all comes down to terpenes. “Basically, the full spectrum camp claims that there is a greater entourage effect with full spectrum oil because none of the terpenes and flavonoids were removed. Whereas broad spectrum oil has removed most of the terpenes and flavonoids, leaving a more concentrated CBD,” he says.
Sandland is a product line that contains microdoses of melatonin with CBN.
Terpenes are found in every type of plant, and they can explain both CBD’s and CBN’s medicinal effects. “Through scientific and some anecdotal research, it has become widely accepted that certain terpenes assist with relaxation and sleep, beta caryophyllene, cedrol, linalool and alpha pinene specifically,” says Townsend. “We have been able to extract certain terpenes and combine them in our formulation to augment the effects of CBN. Our proprietary terpene package is delivered using dehydrated hops.”
Melatonin and CBN
Melatonin is one of the most-hyped sleep supplements out there, and when combined with CBN it may offer an even better sleep-inducing effect. “Our bodies create very little melatonin naturally and a large dose of synthetic melatonin may very well have negative effects (read: hangover),” says Townsend. This is why he says Sandland’s CBN products contain a small amount of melatonin, which is supposed to more closely emulate how the body naturally produces it.
It turns out the small melatonin combined with CBN was a sweet spot for me: I felt a difference, though not dramatically, and most importantly, I woke up without a groggy hangover. The verdict is still out on the science behind CBN, but you should always consult with your doctor before adding any type of supplement.
The most important health tech of CES 2021
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
CBD and Sleep
The popularity of cannabidiol, or CBD, has exploded over the last few years. CBD seems to be everywhere, in everything from capsules to coffee. Sales of the compound are expected to increase by forty times in the next three years. CBD is now legal in all fifty states, and can be purchased online and in shops across the country.
CBD has been heralded as a remedy for a wide range of health concerns, including insomnia. Though the science is limited and conflicting, there is increasing evidence that CBD may indeed impact sleep. What does the latest research say about CBD for sleep? Does it make sleep easier or more difficult? And is it safe to take?
Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is a natural compound found in the flower of the cannabis plant. Cannabis contains more than a hundred phytocannabinoids, or natural chemical compounds. Most of these are found in the resinous substance produced by the plant’s fine, crystal-like trichomes, or hairs.
CBD is typically derived from industrial hemp, which contains less resin than cannabis. The term “hemp” is used to describe types of cannabis that contain 0.3% THC or less. Marijuana-derived CBD is available only in states where growing psychoactive cannabis is legal, such as Colorado.
Though CBD is closely related to perhaps the most famous phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the two compounds act in different ways and target different receptors in the brain and body. CBD is not psychoactive, and does not cause the intoxication that THC is known for. CBD is consumed in such forms as oils, capsules, gummies, sublingual sprays, and tinctures. It may also be inhaled in vaporized form, or “vaped.”
The CBD Extraction Process
CBD is extracted from hemp or cannabis using one of the following extraction methods:
- CO2, or pressurized carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide behaves like a solvent at certain temperatures and pressures, making it possible to extract CBD and other phytocannabinoids without the dangers of chemical solvents. CO2 also removes chlorophyll, which may taste bitter and cause unwanted effects when included in CBD products
- Ethanol and other solvents. High-grade grain alcohol can be used to extract CBD, but may degrade or destroy the plant’s natural waxes along with their potential health benefits. Other solvents such as butane may damage plant waxes, as well, and do little to remove impurities such as chlorophyll. They may also leave behind residues that are toxic to the body
- Olive oil. Olive oil of any kind can be used to extract oil from cannabis or hemp plants. Olive oil that contains cannabidiol is perishable and must be stored in a cool, dark place
CBD’s Effects on the Body
The human body contains a biological system made up of endocannabinoids, specific neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate such essential functions as appetite, mood, fertility, memory, and pain. This system is also associated with the feeling of euphoria that may result from intense exercise.
The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are referred to as CB1 and CB2, and are found in the brain, peripheral organs, and nervous system. CBD influences various receptors both inside and outside the endocannabinoid system, changing how hormones and neurotransmitters behave. These interactions with CBD may have a beneficial effect on such physiological processes as:
Other CBD benefits include a positive effect on seizures, particularly pediatric forms that are otherwise difficult to treat. The CBD-based drug Epidolex was recently approved by the FDA for treating two rare and severe forms of childhood convulsive epilepsy for which there is no other treatment.
CBD Safety and Side Effects
CBD has a very different side effect profile from the other well-known phytocannabinoid, THC. While THC can cause side effects such as hallucinations, anxiety, and hunger due to its psychoactive properties, CBD contains no psychoactive compounds.
Though studies on the side effects of CBD are still scarce, the research that does exist supports CBD as a safe and well-tolerated compound. (2) According to current studies, CBD appears to be non-toxic, and safe in doses up to 1500 milligrams each day. Chronic, long-term use appears safe, as well. (3)
CBD does not seem to impact appetite, blood pressure, heart rate, or body temperature. The movement of food through the GI tract appears unaffected. Though CBD has an impressive safety profile according to existing studies, it is not without certain side effects. Possible side effects of CBD products include:
- The metabolism of certain kidney medications
- Effects on fertility and in vitro cell development
- The activity of proteins in cell membranes that help to transport drugs and other substances
Studies of certain CBD-based drugs showed a higher incidence of certain side effects in people who took the drug than in those who didn’t. (4) The side effects noted during research included:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
Some of these effects may be dosage dependent, meaning they are more likely to occur at higher doses. Anti-seizure drugs are made from a particularly potent strain of CBD, and might be more likely to cause reactions than non-pharmaceutical grade CBD products. The full side effect profile of CBD will become clearer as further studies are conducted and anecdotal reports from users are collected.
CBD and Sleep: The Evidence
Research on CBD as a treatment for sleep difficulties as well as other medical conditions is in its infancy. Between 2002 and 2012, there were just nine studies published on the use of CBD to treat pain. The pace of research has picked up in recent years, with over 30 studies published since 2012.
Anecdotal evidence exists for CBD’s positive effect on healthy sleep patterns, but more studies need to be conducted before definitive conclusions can be drawn. However, multiple studies have shown that CBD has a marked influence on anxiety, which may be key to its beneficial impact on sleep. CBD also appears to improve sleep by altering the brain’s perception of pain signals. Pain is one of the most common causes of interrupted sleep, and may be temporary or chronic.
CBD and Anxiety
One recent study showed that CBD’s effects on the central nervous system may calm anxiety and promote healthy sleep. Adult psychiatric patients suffering from anxiety or sleep difficulties rated the effect of 25 milligram capsules of CBD. Though scores for sleep indicated that CBD’s impact was mild, scores were significantly higher for its effects on anxiety. (5)
CBD may have a positive influence on anxiety by changing the way the body processes serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with well-being and positive emotion. CBD may work in a similar way to the class of antidepressant medications known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs target the sertonin receptor known as 5-HT1A and increase the amount of serotonin available to the brain. A 2014 study demonstrated that CBD improves 5-HT1A transmission in rats and decreases behavior that indicates anxiety and stress. (6)
Multiple studies reveal CBD’s positive impact on anxiety, which may support the compound’s sleep-promoting effects. (7) Though CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety appears clear, there is some evidence that it may actually promote wakefulness and decrease both slow-wave and REM sleep. (8) Some animal studies show an increase in total sleep time, while others show that it increases wakefulness. (9) (10) (11) The effect may be dosage dependent, or may be different in human beings. More research needs to be done to assess CBD’s direct role on the sleep-wake cycle.
CBD and Pain
Because of CBD’s positive effect on pain perception, it may be helpful for promoting sleep, particularly in people suffering from neuropathic or inflammatory pain such as Crohn’s Disease. The GI tract seems to be particularly responsive to CBD, which may help relieve the nausea and vomiting that accompany some pain conditions and medical treatments. (12)
CBD appears to reduce pain in part by modulating glycine receptors in the central nervous system. Glycine receptors are inhibitory, which means they reduce the perception of pain. CBD may increase the effect of such receptors, relieving pain that can cause insomnia or fragmented sleep. (13)
Research demonstrates CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation through its influence on adenosine, an important neurotransmitter. Adenosine and its receptors are strongly associated with the regulation of inflammation in the body. CBD increases the amount of adenosine available to the brain, thereby impacting the activity of adenosine receptors and reducing inflammation. (14)
How To Use CBD
When considering CBD as a treatment for sleep difficulties or for any other reason, consultation with a physician is always recommended to discuss possible side effects, drug interactions, and dosages.
CBD may be taken in a number of forms, from capsules to vaping. Since usage of the compound is still fairly new, dose titration may be the safest and most effective way to take CBD. Dose titration involves starting at a low dosage and gradually increasing the amount taken to help minimize side effects.
There is currently no recommended dosage of CBD for sleep or any other health concern. To help determine the best starting dosage for you, keep the following in mind:
- Your individual physiology and body weight. Do you tend to feel the effects of certain medications at low doses? CBD could be similar. If you are larger or heavier, you may need a higher dose of CBD to experience beneficial effects on sleeping patterns, anxiety, or pain
- The strength of the CBD product. A tincture may be more concentrated than a capsule for example, or vice versa. Vaping a CBD product may deliver more active ingredients in a smaller amount than CBD in a topical form. Some forms of CBD such as capsules may take longer for the body to absorb, delaying its effects or changing its effectiveness. Experimenting with different forms and concentrations of CBD can help determine which product works best for you
- Tolerance. Some CBD users may develop a tolerance to the compound with regular use, necessitating an increase in dosage or change in how the product is delivered. For example, capsules may stop working over time, while switching to a CBD tincture taken sublingually may be more effective
Last Word From Sleepopolis
In the last few years, CBD oil and other products have become enormously popular. Touted as a treatment for everything from depression to multiple sclerosis, CBD is just beginning to undergo the rigorous research that will either support or refute its reputation as a remedy for many common ailments. Though early research points to positive effects on anxiety, pain, and possibly sleep, only time and more peer-reviewed studies will prove if CBD is as promising as it appears to be.