Sleep problems are common. In a recent study, 48% of British adults stated that poor sleep has a negative impact on their mental health. For teenagers, this ratio is much higher-66%.
The large number of people with sleep problems creates an attractive market. Some companies have seized the opportunity to provide remedies, including several manufacturers of hemp products.
Many countries, including the United Kingdom, have changed the way in which cannabis is regulated. This has contributed to the prosperity of cannabis products, and more people have access to these types of products-even if the cannabis compounds available for sleep products Others are more limited. In the United States, marijuana is completely legal in many states. California-based Ganja Goddess reported that revenue from its cannabis sleep products increased more than sevenfold in the first year of the COVID pandemic.
But is there any evidence that cannabis products can help people get better sleep?
Marijuana and sleep
Sleep disorder is a common feature of marijuana withdrawal, which suggests that there is a likely relationship between marijuana use and sleep. But we still don’t have a clear understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in this relationship.
The effects of marijuana are due to a group of chemicals in the drug called cannabinoids. These include cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive substance in cannabis. CBN and CBD will not make you tall in the same way.
In the UK, CBD products can be purchased legally, provided that their THC content does not exceed 0.2%. Retailers and suppliers make various assertions about the benefits of CBD products, including how CBD can improve sleep. There is some evidence to support these claims, but this is mainly based on animal and human observational studies, not randomized controlled trials, which can be compared between CBD and placebo.
Although not legal in the UK, CBN is one of the main compounds contained in commercial cannabis sleep products, and more and more CBN formulations are entering the market. A recent review tried to find out whether CBN can actually improve sleep.
The review includes research dating back to the 1940s. These mainly involve administering CBN to people and comparing their self-reported sleep quality with control participants who did not receive the drug.
However, the author of the comment, Jamie Corroon, pointed out several problems with the research so far, including the fact that the participants are often male and white. This male-centered view is not unique to the Cannabis Institute. As we all know, this is a broader research question.
Corroon also criticized the lack of structured, evidence-based questionnaires used to assess sleep in the research. He concluded that there is not enough published evidence to support any claims that these products improve sleep, noting that: “Individuals seeking sleep aids derived from hemp should be skeptical of the sleep-promoting effects claimed by manufacturers.”
Read more: Does marijuana affect your sleep?
Other factors to consider
The review focused on sleep results related to pure medical-grade CBN. This does not necessarily reflect the way most people use cannabis or cannabis products. If they are using commercially available products, most people either smoke or ingest liquids or pills.
As we all know, the type, method of administration, and dosage of commercial products affect sleep. It is worth noting that the dose of CBN in many commercial products is lower than the dose tested in most of the studies in the review.
Although most commercial cannabis sleep products have THC content of less than 1% (if any), the cannabis combination will contain hundreds of compounds, including THC. The combination of THC and CBN is considered a sedative. Therefore, when consumed with THC, pure CBN will not produce the same effects as in real life.
Although the review found a lack of evidence to support the sedative properties of CBN, scientists have found that medicinal cannabis containing THC and CBD can improve sleep in patients with chronic pain. However, for people who regularly use these products, as their tolerance for medicinal cannabis increases, this benefit diminishes.
In addition, while it is useful to make a review that focuses on sleep and cannabis, it does not cover the various reasons why many people use cannabis or products containing cannabis. Many people use cannabis to treat physical problems, such as muscle and joint pain, or psychological problems such as anxiety or stress, rather than as a sleep aid. It is logical that alleviating these symptoms will improve sleep.
One example is people experiencing vivid nightmares due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid that has been shown to help suppress these types of nightmares, which can improve the sleep quality of this group of people with PTSD. So you can understand why it is difficult to unravel the effects of cannabis on sleep.
Read more: New research shows that we lose about 30 minutes of sleep every night at work every week
We need better research
Like many questions in research, there is no clear answer to how effective cannabis improves sleep. The way the drug is prepared, the way it is taken, and the patient’s expectations are just some of the important factors that may affect the results.
Moreover, as with all health products, there is a risk of side effects. For example, a recent review of medicinal cannabis products used for sleep found that the risk of dizziness increased significantly.
It is clear that when millions of people have sleep problems, there is a business incentive to make money by providing remedies. We need more rigorous research to investigate any link between cannabis and sleep, and whether these products are effective.