Studies have shown that chronic insomnia among teens and adults may lead to depression and anxiety disorders later on in life. Alcoholism, substance abuse, and poor work performance may also arise as a result of insufficient sleep. Those who have trouble sleeping often turn to pills to remedy their condition.
However, medications may produce undesirable side effects such as daytime drowsiness or memory retention problems. Hence, research has zeroed in towards coming up with more comprehensive ways that people can use to manage their sleep difficulties without resorting to sleeping pills. Melatonin and cannabidiol (CBD), in particular, seem to be promising natural sleep remedies.
The body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that is made by the pineal gland in our brain, to regulate our body clocks. The mechanism by which our body clocks operate is called the circadian rhythm. When we fall asleep and when we wake up is determined by the increase of melatonin concentrations during the night and its decrease by morning.
The pervasive use of night lights and gadgets before sleeping has greatly disturbed the pineal gland’s normal timing of melatonin release which originally relied upon the rising and setting of the sun. Moreover, growing evidence suggests that the pineal gland decreases lower melatonin concentrations as we age, thereby contributing to poor sleeping patterns. Stress and anxiety from academics and relationships have been also associated with adolescents’ poor circadian processes.
A clinical review done by a group of Canadian doctors investigated how safe and effective using exogenous melatonin is to address sleep disorders. Exogenous melatonin is the same as the melatonin made by our bodies.
The difference is that it was synthesized outside of the body and then introduced into the body through means such as injection. Although they found out that melatonin is not effective in quickly treating sleep problems in just a month or less, they found out that it is safe and effective if used for a slightly longer two or three months (Buscemi et al., 2005). In fact, research even indicates that melatonin intake can improve sleep when taken at the right time to address the sleep problems related to jet lag (Herxheimer and Petrie, 2002) as well as due to working outside of regular business hours.
Thus, melatonin could be administered in moderation to naturally improve your circadian rhythm. Consult your physician for more information if you plan to use exogenous melatonin.
Aside from melatonin, another natural substance called cannabidiol (CBD) is being explored as a more organic alternative. Just because it came from cannabis plants does not mean it is addictive (the addictive “high” produced by marijuana is caused by a different chemical called THC). CBD can be isolated from the more harmful chemicals in the cannabis plant and is already being used to treat rare epileptic disorders.
CBD is naturally produced by cannabis plants as a defense mechanism against herbivores and pests. It can induce hypnotic effects in humans and long-term use has been shown to induce a strong desire to sleep. The exact mechanisms by which CBD affects sleep is still being studied. However, what is already known is that specific receptors within the body can and do interact with CBD, affecting the way that the central and peripheral nervous system behaves.
Regardless of how CBD works, various clinical studies have established that it does work to treat sleep problems. One recent clinical review has determined that patients who have taken 160 mg of CBD per day had improved sleep duration and quality compared to a placebo and 5 mg of nitrazepam. The same review did not report any adverse side effects. Another study noted how CBD can treat insomnia by reacting with the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling sleep (Lafaye et al., 2018).
CBD’s demonstrated ability to extend sleep duration and improve the onset of sleep time shows how the use of CBD can have an advantageous impact on those who suffer from sleep disorders. Nevertheless, further and large-scale research is still needed to bolster these findings and refine our understanding of how CBD impacts patients’ sleep-wake cycle and how CBD influences the way our body naturally produces and releases melatonin and cortisol.
So far, medical literature has indicated how CBD and melatonin can be safe and effective ways for individuals to deal with their sleep deficiencies. Individual people may have different responses to CBD and exogenous melatonin, but research on these products’ potential would hopefully extend to identifying the optimal dose that could maximize these natural remedies’ therapeutic benefits.