The term #insomnia is thrown around pretty freely, but it is actually a diagnosed condition affecting 6-10% of US adults.
Insomnia is defined as a “dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality” and is “associated with difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep [or] early-morning waking with the inability to return to sleep”.
While insomnia is a medical condition, many people that don’t have a formal diagnosis still go through periods where their inability to sleep or stay asleep affect their quality of life.
Adults need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night in order to function properly.
Lack of sleep is associated with poor cognitive ability, the inability to regulate emotions, and poor memory and performance.
There are a variety of reasons a person may be unable to sleep outside of insomnia.
Sleep can feel elusive to someone with anxiety or depression, experiencing high levels of stress, or coping with a major event such as a death or trauma.
Because sleep problems are so common, there are a variety of prescription and over the counter drugs to help combat the issue.
If a person is unable to get a prescription for Ambien (or a similar pharmaceutical drug) they may try something like Unisom, which can be purchased at the local drug store.
However, there are natural remedies that can help you get better sleep as well – such as CBD and THC which are found in cannabis.
What’s the difference?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is extracted from the hemp plant as an oil. It is often found in edibles, such as gummies, or in supplements.
CBD does not have a psychoactive side effect, which means it does not result in a “high.”
The use of CBD has been known to help conditions such as anxiety, depression, epilepsy, nausea, and migraines.
It offers a medicinal benefit without the euphoria typically associated with cannabis.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is what causes the infamous euphoric or “high” feeling when someone smokes marijuana.
It can also be found in edibles such as gummies and baked goods. When used for medicinal purposes, THC can help manage chronic pain, low appetite, nausea, glaucoma, and anxiety.
One of the biggest differences between CBD and THC, aside from the euphoria, are the side effects.
There are virtually no major side effects to CBD. However, THC is known to increase heart rate, or leave you with dry mouth, red eyes, and slower reaction.
CBD and Sleep
Because CBD doesn’t cause a “high” in those who use it, it doesn’t have a sedative effect either.
Still, CBD, and CBD oils in particular, can help those who suffer from sleep deprivation, but it is better suited for people whose problems are a result of another condition rather than the condition itself.
For people with chronic pain or inflammation, CBD can help keep them asleep because it’s a natural pain reliever.
If a person often wakes up at night in pain, CBD can help alleviate it.
Additionally, a 2018 study found that once a person is asleep, CBD it does not interrupt the sleep cycle so even if the effect wears off, the sleep cycle will continue (as long as the pain doesn’t return).
CBD oils have also been shown to help calm the brain during times of anxiety or stress.
It can be near-impossible for people to slow down enough to fall asleep, but CBD can help with that.
Additionally, if used during the day, a study found that CBD has a wakeful side effect, making a person more alert.
So if a person is feeling lethargic from a night of no sleep, CBD can help them get through the day.
THC and Sleep
THC not only has the euphoria side effect but it has the sedation side effect as well.
THC will make a person feel more drowsy and will lull them to sleep – making it the best option for people who are unable to actually fall asleep.
Additionally, a study that was published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics concluded that Stage 4 Sleep stage, the deepest stage of the REM cycle, slightly increased using a dug with TCH.
It also concluded that THC could be a “valuable tool in the elucidation of pharmacology and sleep”.
A caveat to THC is that if someone indulges in more than necessary, it can induce feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia which obviously don’t help in falling asleep.
Overindulgence combined with the side effects mentioned above (increased heart rate, dry mouth, etc) make THC less attractive for those people that may not know their limits or are inexperienced.
Which to Pick
If someone is experiencing trouble sleeping there are obvious benefits to both CBD and THC (one study even combined the two, which showed favorable results in sleep).
However, the reason for sleep loss is the core factor in deciding which form of cannabis is the right choice.
Someone suffering from pain, swelling, or general anxiety that is keeping them up at night would find CBD more beneficial.
Additionally, a person with depression who is sleeping too much may find the alertness and wakeful benefit of CBD, when used during the day, helpful.
Still, THC is best for people who are unable to fall asleep because of its sedative nature.
It causes drowsiness, which even some of the toughest anxiety will have a hard time fighting.
Additionally, it helps people stay asleep because it deepens the REM cycle. THC is optimal for those experiencing insomnia-like (diagnosed or not) symptoms.
THC and CBD are both safe, natural ways to fight pain, quiet a racing mind, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
However, while natural remedies are more favorable than prescription or over the counter medications, THC and CBD are not the best options for every person with every condition.
Any person that is suffering from deep deprivation should talk to a physician to ensure there isn’t a larger problem that can’t be treated with some quality shut-eye.
Additionally, people with certain conditions should avoid THC and CBD, so a doctor’s input is always advised.
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Author Bio: Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.