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How do CBD and THC affect sleep?



CBD is known to help aid sleep, but what about THC?

A good night’s sleep leaves us feeling rested and refreshed, ready to face the day ahead. But, for too many people, that’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

Insomnia is increasingly common, and, while it is often assumed to be a short-term response to stress or external factors, around 30 per cent of sufferers display chronic symptoms.

Chronic insomnia is characterised by sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or inability to return to sleep on waking, happening at least three nights per week and for at least three months. Such disturbances are often coupled with significant daytime impairments in social life, function levels and educational achievement; indeed, it is often the effects of the sleeplessness on daily life that prompt a sufferer to seek treatment.  

While there are steps we can all take to improve our sleep, such as regular exercise, reducing stress and good sleep hygiene, sometimes sufferers turn to over-the-counter medications to help them drift off. However, these have a number of significant side effects, and are not seen as a sustainable solution.

Meanwhile, a growing body of research has found that CBD can have a positive effect on sleep, both by aiding relaxation and also by stimulating CBD receptors in the part of the brain responsible for maintaining sleep cycles.

However, most of the previous studies have focused on CBD as a standalone compound – until now…

A recent ongoing study reported in the British Medical Journal is investigating the effects of both CBD and THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis) on sleep and the resulting function levels the following morning. 

The research aims to test the safety and efficacy of an oral oil solution containing 10mg of THC and 200mg CBD, and will use 20 participants diagnosed with chronic insomnia disorder. 

The participants, who are all aged between 35 and 60, were recruited over an 18-month period and

each received both the active drug and matched placebo during two overnight study assessment visits. 

The researchers’ primary aim is to assess total sleep time and wake after sleep onset assessed via polysomnography. 

In addition, they will use MRI technology to examine the brain activation of the participants during sleep and wake periods, comparing the effects of CBD/THC versus the placebo. 

Next-day cognitive function, alertness and simulated driving performance will also be investigated.

The study authors said: “Insomnia is a highly prevalent and costly condition that is associated with increased health risks and healthcare utilisation. 

“Anecdotally, cannabis use is frequently reported by consumers to promote sleep. However, there is limited research on the effects of cannabis on sleep and daytime function in people with insomnia disorder using objective measures. 

“This proof-of-concept study will evaluate the effects of a single dose of an oral cannabis-based medicine on sleep and daytime function in participants with chronic insomnia disorder.”

As we have seen, previous studies have appeared to show a positive effect of CBD on sleep, and, while further research such as the above is needed, there is certainly an appetite amongst consumers for a natural, effective sleep aid.

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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