Sleep deprivation: an estimated one in three Americans are suffering from it and lack the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. More than slowing you down throughout your day, a chronic lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the immune system, libido, cognitive abilities, and lead to premature aging and disease. Redefining your ‘sleep hygiene’ — known as your nighttime schedule, pre-bedtime activities, food, and environment — is the first step to getting adequate rest. If tweaking our sleep hygiene doesn’t work, we often take our troubles to the doctor’s office for a prescription.
But a growing problem is that some common pharmaceutical sleep aids may actually be doing more harm than good, especially when the cause of sleep problems is not fully understood (or if sleep hygiene is not optimal). The New York Times reports that this past April, the FDA “added a boxed warning to the prescription insomnia drugs zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), zaleplon (Sonata) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) following reports of injury and death from sleepwalking, sleep-driving and engaging in other hazardous activities while not fully awake.”
Whether from a rising awareness that our dependence on these sleep aids may be costing us, or from a desire to take a more natural approach, many opt for sleep-focused supplements like melatonin for a solve. And with more Americans leaning in to the wellness conversation, it’s easier than ever to take a holistic approach to sleep.
Since the 2018 legalization of industrial hemp, hemp-derived CBD products for sleep are becoming more widely available, and the market is responding in kind: CBD brands have developed sleep-centric products in the form of tinctures, patches, capsules, and more. Though more robust clinical trials are ongoing about the use of cannabinoids for regulating sleep, there are published studies supporting its use, such as in the peer-review journal Medicines where a 2018 study of 490 patients found its use decreased symptoms of insomnia. Further, new clinical research reported in 2019 found that 66.7% of patients using CBD for sleep issues saw significant improvements after one month of treatment.
It’s worth noting that while people have long reported using cannabis to improve sleep, CBD in particular is not psychotropic, so you do not have the “high” feeling that can cause mental stimulation. Also making recent waves on the market is a sedative cannabinoid called cannabinol, or CBN for short. The Texas-based brand Mineral, whose formulas include crafted levels of cannabinoids and terpenes for targeted results, also incorporates the sedative terpene myrcene into their Sleep formula to amplify relaxation alongside cannabinoids like CBD and CBN.
If the root cause of your insomnia is from anxiety or pain, CBD’s signalling of the endocannabinoid system can target and level-set these issues related to a person’s sleep-wake cycle and pain processing, both of which are regulated by the ECS. While it can take some trial and error to find your standard dose for sleep, the general consensus for getting started is to start low, gradually increasing as needed after observing your results.
Other Natural and Plant-Based Remedies
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that helps your body prepare for darkness, and can be taken as a supplement to promote sleep and treat insomnia. Its use as a sleep aid is supported by robust evidence and it also has antioxidant effects. Magnesium is an essential mineral that can be used to promote sleep, and can be taken in through a diet rich in leafy greens, as a supplement, topical spray, or in the form of a restorative, relaxing salt bath. Magnesium can aid maintaining healthy levels of the neurotransmitter GABA that supports sleep.
There are also plenty of herbs that have been helping people fall asleep for thousands of years: Tea blends of chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and mint, can calm and soothe. Another ancient remedy valerian root, can be taken as a capsule or tincture, and can decrease symptoms of insomnia.
If you have been working to fine-tune or adjust your sleep patterns, integrating therapeutic herbs, healthy foods, and cannabinoids CBD and CBN could be helpful, with the best results likely coming in conjunction with good sleep hygiene habits such as consistent bedtimes, lowering your screen time, eating gut-friendly foods (and not too late in the day), and exercise. It’s always important to consult with your physician before adding or removing any components to your routine that may interact with your unique conditions.