Updated: Mar 7

Black man in bed with black woman with his arm around her waist
Peaceful, loving sleep

Sleep and insomnia

Sleep is a complex process important to all of us. There's still a lot we don't know about the mysteries of sleep, but all of us have experienced how weary we may feel after a night of poor or no sleep.

Insomnia is the inability to fall and/or stay asleep. It can happen at the beginning, middle, or end of the night. Insomnia is highly prevalent and authorities have identified it as a public health concern. Despite that, sleep disorders including insomnia are under-recognized and under-treated.

Insomnia also comes with disruptive symptoms: fatigue, memory losses, mood disturbances, and inability to concentrate. It also brings dangers to operating machinery and driving.

The prevalence of insomnia increased 150% between 2006 and 2013, and 35 - 49 % of the US adult population have problems falling asleep or have daytime sleepiness. Insomnia is more common in women, middle-aged or older adults, and individuals with coexisting medical and psychiatric disorders.

Just as in other areas of health, African Americans suffer disproportionately from insomnia. This is related to socioeconomic status discrimination, as well as other factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain (especially untreated), and depression. Financial difficulty and struggling to make ends meet adds insult to injury.

The trouble with "pills"

While insomniacs might seek a medication as a solution to their lack of sleep, "sleeping pills" like benzodiazepines ("benzos") may have undesired effects. Sleeping pills make it easier to fall asleep, but they interfere with Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM is the stage of sleep during which our eyes move rapidly in different directions and we have our dreams. REM seems to be important to learning, memory, and mood and lack of REM sleep is associated with reduced coping skills and migraines. If drugs like benzodiazepines can affect REM sleep, it's obvious that they may not be the solution to insomnia and might make the situation worse.

What about CBD?

Roughly 10% of CBD consumers use CBD as a sleep aid. One study has shown that CBD has a beneficial effect on anxiety levels and sleep quality. Another study revealed better sleep in fifteen subjects taking a dose of 160 mg CBD. Lower doses like 40 mg and 80 mg did not have the same effect, but they appeared to help stave off the negative effects of insomnia such as grogginess and the inability to concentrate. During REM sleep, some people act out their dreams, e.g. kicking, arms flailing, jumping out of bed, and so on. This is called REM Sleep Disorder (RSD). CBD helps treat this condition in patients with Parkinson's disease.

Is CBD for you?

Although there is still a lot of research to be done on the effects of CBD on sleep, we know it increases mental and muscle relaxation and decreases acute pain. It can give you a calm feeling as you get ready for bed without your being "high." Nothing wrong with that! Unless advised against by their doctor, there is little or no reason why an insomnia sufferer shouldn't try CBD. In the end, everyone is an individual, and we all react differently to different agents, but the bottom line is that CBD is a far more natural substance than the drugs manufactured in a laboratory.

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