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It’s something you do every day, an integral part of your routine – so much so, that you may rarely think about it. After the sun goes down, you close your eyes simply because your body tells you to, then wake up the next day and go about your life, until it’s once again time to nod off. And so on and so forth. Sleeping can seem like a colossal waste of time, especially when there’s still work to get done, or a good book or TV show tempting you away from tucking under the covers. But as every health blog and doctor will tell you, you need sleep, and it’s vital that you sleep well.
Increasingly on the holistic health scene, there is buzz regarding a certain compound by the moniker of CBD, and its benefits in aiding good sleep. But what’s all the fuss about CBD, anyways? In this article, we’ll be breaking down what you need to know about sleep, CBD, and how this can help you get some quality shut-eye.
Sleep: the Art of Resting Well
Sleep is a highly complex and dynamic process that affects nearly all types of tissues and bodily systems, from vital organs like the brain and heart, to immune function, metabolism, mood, and more. We spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping, and getting it is as essential to our survival as food and water. However, scientists have only recently begun to understand just how central sleep is to our health and ability to function.
We characterise sleep by a state of altered consciousness where our sensory activity is relatively suppressed, our muscle activity is reduced, and our capacity to interact with our surroundings restricted. The state differs from a coma or a disorder of consciousness, as can be seen when comparing brain patterns. While there is a decreased ability to react to stimuli, your brain is still very much active during sleep. Another well-known sleep-related phenomenon is dreaming, a surreal experience that unfolds in narrative form, and is usually only distinguished as fantasy after it’s over and you’ve woken up.
Sleep is a time of respite and maintenance for the body, during which most of your systems renew and restore themselves after the long day. Sleeping is especially vital for maintaining mood, memory, and cognitive functions, as well as ensuring the smooth functioning of the endocrine and immune systems.
Sleep is split up in two distinct modes, with the body cycling between them in repeating periods. Each mode is linked with specific patterns of brain waves and neuronal activity, and you cycle through all of these stages several times during a single night.
First, we have non-REM sleep, which is split up into three different stages:
- Stage 1 is where you transition from wakefulness to sleep. This is a short period, only several minutes-long, where your sleep is relatively light and your heartbeat, breathing, eye movements, and brain patterns are slow.
- Stage 2 is the intermediate state of light sleep preceding deep sleep. Interestingly, people usually spend more of their sleep cycles in this stage than the others. Here, your breathing, heartbeat and body temperature drop even further than the previous stage. Your brainwaves also slow down more but are peppered by short bursts of electrical activity.
- Stage 3 is when you enter truly deep sleep, which you depend on in order to feel rejuvenated once sleep time is over. During this stage, brainwaves, heartbeat and breathing drop to their slowest and lowest points in the whole sleep cycle. It’s generally difficult to awaken sleepers from this stage, which also occurs in longer durations in the first half of the night.
REM sleep follows from these three stages, and typically first occurs around the 90-minute mark after you have fallen asleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement” - which refers to the way the eyes move quickly from side to side under your closed eyelids. REM is one of the distinctive features of this mode, which is further characterised by the virtual paralysis of the body and dreaming. During this phase, your brain activity picks back up to a mixed frequency resembling wakefulness, and your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. REM sleep periods get longer and deeper towards the morning.
Beyond the process of sleep itself, two important biological mechanisms work in tandem to mediate sleep and wakefulness - circadian rhythms, and homeostasis.
Circadian rhythms are what control the timing of your sleep cycles and dictate when you get sleepy as well as when you naturally wake in the morning. They also direct a whole array of other functions besides wakefulness, including metabolism, body temperature, and hormone release. The body’s biological clock is what controls circadian rhythms, which can synchronize according to cues from the environment such as light–but can also continue to work without these cues.
Sleep-wake homeostasis, meanwhile, is what helps keep track of your need and your urge for sleep, as well as to keep an equilibrium between your levels of wakefulness versus sleep. The homeostasis ‘sleep drive’ is what regulates the intensity and need for sleep, pushing the body after some time to get some rest. The longer a person stays awake, the stronger the sleep drive becomes, leading to longer and deeper sleep – particularly after a period of deprivation. A person’s sleep-wake needs may be further influenced by specific medical conditions, medications, amounts of stress, diet, and sleep environment – most notably, levels of light exposure.
A person’s sleep patterns and needs change as they grow up and age, but they also vary pretty widely across people of the same age. Newborns can sleep as much as 14 to 17 hours per day, which likely helps boost their growth and development. As you get older, the amount diminishes - school-age children need around 9 to 11 hours of sleep, while teenagers can do with 8 to 10 hours. Once you reach adulthood, you generally need around 7 to 9 hours of full, uninterrupted sleep per night. In practice, this is usually not the case, however, and people generally don’t get a healthy amount of sleep. This is largely due to work, as well as the increasing number of entertainment options and other activities that interfere with sleep.
The Impact of Sleep
Sleep comes to all of us, whether we want it or not, but why is it so crucial that we sleep in the first place? Multiple theories exist for why the body requires sleep. These are usually combined together, so it is helpful reviewing them all.
First and foremost is the inactivity theory. This is one of the earliest theories regarding sleep, and considers that sleeping at a particular time (e.g., at night) is an evolutionary adaptation for survival that keeps organisms from venturing out into danger at the times they would be most vulnerable. After all, while sleeping you are very unlikely to venture out and get into accidents, or pick up the attention of potential predators.
Another take is the energy conservation theory, which states that the main function of sleep is to reduce your own energy demand at night. The theory is backed up by looking at how our metabolic rate drops during sleep. Studies show that, during sleep, energy metabolism drops by as much as 10% in humans and even more so in other animals, with body temperature and caloric demand both decreasing as well. Some scientists argue that sleep is tied to keeping an individual from spending energy resources during the times when it’s least efficient to search for food - the theory is thus strongly linked to the inactivity theory, and the two typically go hand in hand.
The restorative theory is another prominent viewpoint surrounding sleep. This theory suggests that the body needs sleep in order to restore itself, allowing cells to repair and regrow. More recent studies in humans and animals have helped garner support for this theory - most notably, through evidence that animals undergoing complete sleep deprivation lose all immune functions and die within weeks. A great deal of major physiological processes and restorative functions take place while your body is asleep, including muscle repair, protein synthesis, tissue growth, and hormone release. Growth hormones, in particular, are released for the most part, and in some cases, exclusively, during sleep.
Lastly, a more recent, compelling line of thought is the brain plasticity theory, which regards sleep as crucial for brain and cognitive function. Current research suggests that during sleep, the brain’s lymphatic system clears out waste and toxic byproducts from the central nervous system, such as adenosine from the brain, which builds up during the day. Sleep also allows for neurons to reorganize, and is correlated to changes in the structure and organization of the brain - a phenomenon termed brain plasticity. This is particularly present in infants and young children, who spend over half the day sleeping. Even later in life, resting is key for enabling your brain to properly function, and lets you feel more alert, rejuvenated, and able to learn and perform tasks.
On top of all these theories, we know that a lack of good sleep comes with a range of concrete negative effects: from impairing cognitive functions such as learning and memorising information, to problem-solving skills, creativity, decision-making, focus, and concentration. Sleep, and the lack of sleep, also have a big impact on emotional wellbeing. During sleep, brain activity increases in those areas of the brain known to regulate emotion, including the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the medial prefrontal cortex. Sufficient sleep allows for these areas to react in an adaptive and controlled way. When lacking sleep, however, these areas are bound either to get over-stimulated or not function at optimal capacity.
Sleep also affects weight and metabolism, by way of regulating hunger hormones. Two of these important hormones are ghrelin and leptin, which increase appetite and satiation, respectively. When you sleep, your ghrelin levels naturally go down because you’re not using as much energy, and so don’t need to eat, but a lack of sleep elevates your ghrelin and suppresses your leptin, creating an imbalance. This creates hunger, which may cause you to eat more and risk gaining weight.
The immune system is also hugely dependent on sleep to work at its optimum level. During sleep, the body produces cytokines, which are proteins that combat inflammation and infection, as well as certain antibodies and immune cells. Moreover, sleep is crucial for proper insulin function, muscle repair, and disease resistance. Research shows that poor quality sleep, or a chronic lack of sleep, increases an individual’s risk of getting a whole host of disorders, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.
What is CBD?
CBD, otherwise known by its full name of cannabidiol, is one of at least 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (Cannabis Sativa). These compounds are responsible for the plant’s many and intricate effects.
Humans have known and cultivated cannabis for millennia, taking advantage of its unique and useful properties for medicinal, recreational, and practical purposes. Though cannabis has long been known to have therapeutic, intoxicating, and soothing effects on both mind and body, it is only in fairly modern times that scientists have begun penetrating the mysteries of this ancient plant. While evidence in favour of its positive benefits grows, cannabis has also been enjoying a rapid surge in mainstream popularity.
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant and has, as such, recently been in the limelight. Another reason why CBD is getting so much of the spotlight is that this cannabinoid is proving to hold a whole range of therapeutic effects for individuals suffering from such conditions as anxiety, skin conditions, chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, as well as musculoskeletal and movement disorders Moreover, unlike its more notorious fellow cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-neurotropic and non-toxic. As such, while a dose of CBD will affect your brain and mental faculties, it will not induce the specific altered state of euphoria and sensory perception that typically comes with cannabis.
CBD and our Body
CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the body by way of a complex biological cell-signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The titular endocannabinoids that act as the messengers of this network are structurally similar to plant-produced cannabinoids, like CBD (known as ‘phytocannabinoids’). This means that CBD and other phytocannabinoids work with the cannabinoid receptors found naturally on tissues and organs throughout the body, by triggering biological pathways or modulating signals from the brain.
Though we tend to associate the endocannabinoid system with the action of cannabis, the ECS is a key player in controlling and regulating a wide range of different bodily functions, including sleep, metabolism, mood, pain sensation, immunity, muscle and heart function, and a great deal more.
The way that CBD interacts with the ECS is a little unconventional when compared to other cannabinoids, and the exact mechanisms and interactions at play have yet to be fully understood. What we do know, is that CBD has low affinity for cannabinoid receptors, and thus doesn’t actually directly bind to them. Instead, CBD has the ability to ‘antagonise’ compounds that would activate cannabinoid receptors, thus interfering with receptor functioning. Interestingly, this fact is what may lie behind CBD’s non-neurotropic nature. CB1, one of the two major types of cannabinoid receptor, is mostly expressed in the brain and central nervous system, and activating this receptor is thought to govern cannabis’ psychotropic effects.
CBD is also known to mitigate the adverse side effects and boost the therapeutic effects of other cannabinoids when taken in combination with them, most notably THC. Scientists call this synergic process "Entourage Effect". It encompasses all cannabinoids and cannabinoid usage, and points to the way cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds–like terpenes–can work better together, than alone.
How Does CBD Help You Rest?
Now that we’ve looked into the science behind sleep and CBD, it is time to consider just how CBD can aid you in better sleep. Research into this particular field is still emerging, and many studies are still preliminary or small in scale. However, their results and the reports of consumer experiences are promising.
One of the reasons why CBD boasts such an array of health benefits is its ability to alter serotonin signals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood and mental health, and low serotonin levels are linked with depression and anxiety. CBD has the ability to increase serotonin levels, and thus help deal with the symptoms of these disorders. Recent studies have analyzed whether CBD could improve sleep or reduce anxiety, showing how over one month of daily taking CBD, 79.2% of patients reported lower anxiety levels and 66.7% reported better sleep.
CBD has also proved successful for managing chronic pain, which when untreated can also hinder sleeping patterns. CBD is effective in alleviating various types of pain of different origins, from muscle aches and neuropathic pains to thorny conditions like fibromyalgia. By helping to reduce pain, CBD can improve quality of life and sleep for patients. CBD is also turning out to be an effective muscle relaxant, as shown by its successful applications in managing epilepsy and other conditions involving frequent muscle spasms, seizures, and convulsions.
Preliminary studies show that CBD might help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and REM behaviour disorders. During normal REM sleep, the limb muscles become temporarily paralysed; people affected by these disorders, however, are able to flail and move during the REM stage, thus acting out their dreams and nightmares. What these studies indicate, is that CBD might be able to help these patients with their poor and agitated sleep. Furthermore, high doses of CBD have been reported to successfully help a pediatric PTSD patient with his insomnia–one in a long list of anecdotes testifying to this cannabinoid’s many marvels.
If you are instead suffering from excessive sleepiness or conditions such as narcolepsy, you may be happy to learn that CBD might help there, too. Indeed, CBD seems to aid in keeping people awake, without altering their sleep cycles. Grogginess, which is a symptom of insomnia, is also potentially countered through CBD usage. In order to get through school or work, people may usually turn to things like coffee and caffeinated drinks, and other methods to stay awake which negatively affect your circadian rhythms and your sleep in the long-term. Instead, CBD may help people stay awake during daylight hours, while still letting them get a full and healthy amount of sleep when night falls.
CBD Vaping for Good Dreams
One way to administer CBD that stands out from all those currently available out there is CBD vaping. While vaping is still a young industry, there’s no denying that this novel practice has exploded in popularity and usage, and is by now entrenched in the public consciousness. For a product marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, the jump from cannabis usage to cannabis vaping and CBD vaping is a natural progression.
In order to vape, you use a device called a vaporizer, also known as a vape pen or an e-cigarette. Vape liquid from a cartridge gets heated up by an atomizer, producing the iconic vapour, which is then smoothly and easily inhaled by the user. The vape liquid must meet a certain viscosity level in order for the device to properly vaporize it, so manufacturers may add different compounds and additives such as thinning agents, depending on the main ingredient. Where CBD is meant as the primary component, this required threshold of viscosity can influence which ingredients you consume alongside your CBD, as well as the methods by which the vape liquid is extracted and manufactured.
Most CBD vape cartridges on the market will contain CBD in the form of vape oil, also called vape distillate or juice. This liquid is pure isolated CBD. It has a high potency, but this also means that thinning agents and other compounds will likely have been added in order to reach the correct amount of viscosity. At Amphora, our vape cartridges come in 0.3ml and 0.7ml sizes and contain only 100% organically grown hemp-based CBD distillate and flavoured and unflavoured terpenes, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting only the best!
What makes vaping CBD such an effective method is primarily its mechanism of delivery. By vaporising and inhaling CBD, it makes contact with the lining of the lungs and is thus absorbed near-immediately into the bloodstream, where it can travel all over the body and act within minutes of entry. With each subsequent breath of vapour, more and more CBD is absorbed in this efficient manner, which provides a consumer with a steady dose of CBD with quick-acting effects. Compared to other methods like CBD-infused foods, tinctures or balms, vaping has the best speed and efficacy. On the other hand, CBD vaping has relatively short-lasting effects, leaving the bloodstream quickly too, so provides only a short boost. At the same time, you can quickly and easily top up your CBD levels by vaping again.
For conditions where CBD needs to travel all over the body and act on a systemic scale, it’s also important that the amount of circulating CBD be at high enough levels. This is what we call bioavailability - the amount of a substance that actually makes it to your bloodstream as compared to the initial amount consumed. CBD taken by way of vaping has a bioavailability of around 34 to 46%, which is easily the highest out of its competitors.
If you’re interested in using CBD to try and assist with your sleep habits, we highly recommend CBD vaping as your choice.
A Blend Before Bed
For a vape experience designed to bring you sweet dreams, we at Amphora are proud to offer a CBD Vape Pen Cartridge made specifically with that purpose in mind. With hints of juniper and lemon, the ‘ZZZ Cartridge’ is a peaceful and soothing blend that washes over you like a gentle wave, carrying you out with the tides and lulling you into a deep and rejuvenating rest.
This blend is just one out of Amphora’s collection of Vape Cartridges, all of which come with something different to cater for every need and preference all certified THC-free and verified with thorough third-party testing. Our innovative concoctions are sure to add that extra push to any part of your daily routine, letting you tuck into bed feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.