Written by: Dr. Diana Rangaves, Google Scholar, holds a Doctorate from the University of California, specializes in pharmacotherapy management, and founded ClinicalConsultantServices.com and DianaRangaves.com
The therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant are becoming common knowledge. Early studies of medicinal cannabis focused largely on the effects of THC, the most prominent compound in the plant.
More recently, studies have shifted to cannabis’ second-most prominent compound, cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has become popular in the science community because unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive, intoxicating side effects. This gives it greater potential as a medicine.
Now, as scientists have realized the cannabis plant has more than 100 active compounds, called cannabinoids, they have started to put the time into researching some of the others. As it turns out, the cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN) also appears to have therapeutic properties, including one that coincides with CBD: they both might have the power to help you sleep.
With millions of people around the world reported to have trouble sleeping, finding an effective way to treat their sleep issues is imperative. Perhaps CBD and CBN are the answer.
What are CBD and CBN?
The hype around the THC in cannabis has mostly overshadowed its other cannabinoids, but CBN was actually the first cannabinoid ever identified by researchers.
THC has been the most widely studied of any cannabinoid, but scientists have been less extensively looking into CBD and CBN for decades as well. Actually, CBN is directly related to THC in that it forms when THC degrades.
This evolution happens as cannabis is exposed to air, the chemical reaction leading to the production of CBN. Generally, the older cannabis flowers are, the more CBN they will contain. Additionally, the process of turning THC into CBN is sped up by UV light exposure.
All cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in modulating many of our physiological functions, such as pain perception, mood, appetite, and other cognitive functions. Depending on how a cannabinoid interacts with the ECS and other parts of the body, its effects will differ.
THC has many effects, some therapeutic and some psychoactive. CBD is not psychoactive, and neither is CBN, despite the fact that CBN was originally THC. However, preliminary research shows that CBD and CBN have numerous medicinal effects.
What is CBN oil? Much like CBD oil, it is the cannabinoid isolated from the plant so that it can be used for its individual effects. CBD oil is now easy to find in health stores and dispensaries. CBN oil is less common, but as more information about it is discovered, that will probably change.
What does the research say?
What are the effects of CBN and CBD? CBD and CBN have several overlapping effects, such as providing pain relief, decreasing inflammation, and improving sleep. Research into the therapeutic benefits of CBD is still early, which is even truer for CBN. Still, the more scientists learn about these cannabinoids, the more promising they appear for how they can help people sleep.
Research from Sleep Medicine Reviews published in 2020 reported that CBD showed great potential for treating many different kinds of sleep issues, including insomnia, sleep apnea, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, narcolepsy, and trouble sleeping caused by PTSD.
CBN has also shown signs of its potential use as a sedative. When it is used in combination with THC, CBN’s effects seem to be most potent. Research in mice has shown that CBN can help specifically to lengthen sleep.
Additional studies are warranted and needed to provide better evidence for the role of both CBD and CBN in sleep. In the meantime, the known side effects of CBD and CBN are not serious or common means that people have already widely begun using it as a natural sleep remedy. Because of how sleep disturbances negatively affects quality of life, the data and anecdotal evidence available currently on CBD and CBN is enough for many to trust it.
CBD and CBN vs. Melatonin
Many people turn to natural sleep remedies when they have trouble sleeping. This is largely because the pharmaceutical treatments available for sleep issues have limited efficacy, either being not that effective, having dangerous adverse effects, or both.
Melatonin is a common natural sleep remedy. The body naturally produces melatonin, which is involved in the sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, taking additional melatonin supplements has at times helped people in treating sleep disorders like insomnia. However, it is not effective for everyone, and its potency seems to diminish with repeated use. As such, the search for better sleep remedies has continued.
What does CBN do for sleep compared to melatonin? The verdict is still out on that. It might be a great way to help people get to sleep and stay asleep. Only more research will be able to confirm that. The studies on CBD’s impact on sleep are closer, though still a ways away from definitive data.
What is certain is that cannabis as a whole plant can act as a strong sedative. The sedating effects of cannabis seem to come mostly from the THC, though it is possible that CBN could be contributing and making THC’s effects more powerful.
For those that have a strong aversion to the intoxicating effects of THC, taking isolated CBN or CBD oil for sleep might be a better route.
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