CBD and Sleep
We all know that a good night’s sleep is the most important thing, so why do so few of us get enough sleep? Sleep disorders are on the rise, with around a third of adults in the UK having problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep disorders can be caused by many factors, including environmental, physiological or mental health problems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this year has seen a sharp rise in stress-induced insomnia due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting blockages.
You have probably experienced some of the symptoms of insomnia, such as tiredness, irritability, headaches, lack of energy and slower reaction times, after a particularly restless night. Some of them recall the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, such as slurred speech and memory problems. Studies in schoolchildren have also found that lack of sleep leads to symptoms similar to those associated with ADHD, such as difficulty concentrating and retaining information.
However, these are only the short-term effects of a poor night’s sleep. Longer-term sleep disturbances can lead to hormonal imbalances that can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Prolonged insomnia can also cause high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate and a weakened immune system. If sleep is so vital, why isn’t it so easy?
The sleep cycle
The sleep cycle consists of four stages: one rapid eye movement (REM) stage and three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages. The entire cycle repeats about 5-6 times per night, with the first lasting between 70-100 minutes and the remaining cycles lasting about 90-120 minutes each.
NREM Stage 1 The first stage is also known as “relaxed wakefulness” and lasts only a few minutes. It is the state that occurs just before falling asleep, in which heartbeat, breathing, eye movements and brain waves begin to slow down and muscles relax.
NREM Stage 2 In this stage of light sleep, heartbeat and breathing slow down further and muscles relax even more. Brain wave activity also slows down, with brief bursts of electrical activity. Body temperature drops and eye movement stops completely.
NREM Stage 3 This is the most beneficial stage of sleep, when the body can grow and develop, repair muscle tissue and stimulate the immune system. It is difficult to awaken from this stage of deep sleep, as heartbeat, breathing and brain waves reach their slowest levels.
REM Stage 4 The sleep stage: this is when your mind processes the day and creates memories. During this stage, the eyes move rapidly back and forth behind the eyelids, and brain wave activity returns to near waking levels. Breathing becomes more rapid and irregular, and heart rate and blood pressure increase.
During REM sleep, the muscles in your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams. Studies have shown that CBD can prolong the NREM3 stage, giving the body more time to repair and protect itself, and generate energy so you can wake up feeling refreshed.
The Endocannabinoid System
We do not yet have a complete picture of the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS). What we do know is that it helps the body maintain its natural state, known as homeostasis. To do this, it manages almost every system in the body, including the sleep cycle.
The ECS is made up of three parts: endocannabinoids (similar to the cannabinoid compounds found in hemp and hemp plants, but produced naturally by the body), receptors and enzymes. When needed, endocannabinoids are created and sent to different parts of the body depending on their purpose, where they bind to a receptor to signal that an action is required. Once the action has been taken, enzymes break down the endocannabinoid.
So far, experts have identified two different types of endocannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Interestingly, AEA is present in the body at higher levels at night and 2-AG at higher levels during the day, suggesting that these endocannabinoids help maintain a healthy cycle of sleep at night and wakefulness during the day.
Many experts believe that the use of CBD prevents endocannabinoids from being degraded by enzymes, which means they can have a greater effect on the body. CBD has also been shown to increase the availability of endocannabinoids in the body.
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