Of the 100+ different cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are by far the most well understood. Research indicates that these cannabinoids have a range of medical applications and may be used to treat a variety of health conditions – including sleep issues. This will undoubtedly come as welcome news to the 40 percent of Canadians who live with some form of sleep disorder, according to a study by investigators from Université Laval.
Interestingly, a number of studies show that both THC and CBD can be effective in treating sleep issues. However, the effects can vary quite substantially between THC and CBD based sleep medicines, so it’s important that patients familiarize themselves with these differences before choosing a product.
Are you trying to decide between using CBD or THC as medication for your sleep disorder? We’ve rounded up everything you might need to know to make a more informed decision.
How Does THC Affect Sleep?
Perhaps the most important factor in choosing between CBD and THC is to understand how the two cannabinoids actually affect your sleep. While both can improve your ability to get some shut-eye, the way they achieve it is quite different. THC has strong sedative properties. The way it interacts with cell receptors in the brain has a profound effect on the body’s sleep/wake cycle, and oils and capsules that contain a high concentration of THC will typically make the user feel drowsy and ready for bed.
These anecdotal findings are backed by a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, in which investigators tested the effects of cannabis extracts on certain sleep elements. Researchers found that the use of 15 mg of THC was associated with reduced sleep latency and increased sleepiness. It was found that memory was impaired, sleep latency was reduced, and the subjects reported increased sleepiness and changes in mood.
How Does CBD Affect Sleep?
CBD affects sleep by decreasing stage three sleep but counteracting sleepiness the next day. Reaction time is better when a lower dose combination of CBD or THC is used. THC might produce a more pronounced sedative effect than other cannabinoids, but that certainly isn’t to say that CBD has no place in sleep treatment. Thanks to its soothing and pain-relieving properties, CBD is excellent for treating symptoms associated with other health conditions that may otherwise hinder your ability to fall asleep. Not only is CBD incredibly powerful at combating pain, alleviating inflammation and reducing anxiety, it can also help regulate your sleep patterns.
How? Well, research published in FEBS Letters led investigators to conclude that “CBD modulates waking via activation of neurons in the hypothalamus and DRD. Both regions are apparently involved in the generation of alertness.” In other words, CBD actually makes you more alert. This may seem like a counterproductive attribute for a sleep medication, but its ability to prevent excessive somnolence makes CBD a great tool for anyone who needs to sleep less or those attempting to transition to a healthier sleeping schedule.
Understanding the Psychoactive Effects
As we’ve learned, THC is superior to CBD when it comes to directly inducing sleep. However, THC is also a psychoactive compound and is the cannabinoid largely responsible for the high associated with cannabis use. This means there is always going to be a bit of a risk with using THC-heavy medication, as it’s possible – particularly for inexperienced users – to over medicate. This may result in feelings of anxiety, paranoia and more – none of which are conducive to getting a good night’s sleep.
In contrast, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it produces no high whatsoever and has little or no discernible impact on your day to day bodily functions. This allows patients to reap many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without being subjected to its psychoactive effects, which can be distracting or even dangerous in some situations.
CBD or THC: Which is Right for You?
There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Whether you should opt for a CBD or THC-based medicine really depends on your own unique circumstances. The absence of psychoactive effects makes CBD a reliable and widely available option, particularly if you don’t want to experience a high when using your medicine. On the other hand, if you require medication that can directly induce sleepiness and you’re confident of handling the high, THC might be the better choice for you. As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new medication.
Each patient is unique and should always consult a healthcare professional concerning any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment options.