No one can contest the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Science has proven time and again that sleep dictates critical aspects of our overall well-being.
From improving memory to curbing obesity and stomping the growth of cancerous cells, sleep is at the heart of many important physiological functions. This is why lack of sleep, or its exaggerated cousin, insomnia, can lead to severe and sometimes lethal implications and also why The Center for Disease and Control has cited sleeplessness as a national health crisis.
The sleep debate also comes hitched to another one: ingestion of prescription pills. While prescription pills have helped many overcome resistant circadian rhythms, they have exposed users to certain adverse side effects. There has also been an increase in the use of natural sleep drugs like melatonin, which has become one of America’s most-loved sleep aids in recent years. In 2017 alone, Americans spent $408 million on the sleep-regulating hormone.
With the passing of the farm bill in 2018 and the subsequent legalization of certain cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, the sleep-aid market is gearing for another potent inclusion — CBN or cannabinol. CBN isn’t as mainstream as some other cannabis derivatives like THC and CBD, but it has caught the attention of entrepreneurs for its sleep-promoting qualities.
Here’s what we know about CBN and its medicinal potential as a sleep aid:
What Is CBN?
CBN, short of cannabinol, was one of the first cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant in 1896. At first, it was thought to produce the “cannabis high,” but later, researchers singled out THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, for this euphoric effect.
CBN is actually old THC; when THC is decomposed by heat and light, it transforms into CBN. Any cannabis extracts that have seen the inside of a refrigerator or a light source for too long will have higher cannabinol concentrations. This implies that environmental factors, not genetic components, regulate CBN levels in cannabis. Right now, the cannabis market doesn’t have CBN-dense strains of cannabis, but users can oxidize THC and CBD for longer periods to change this.
CBN isn’t known to cause intoxication in users. However, the research on this compound is dwindling. Most of the studies are based on animal models, therefore not necessarily translatable in humans.
THC produces a high by interacting with CB1 receptors, located in the body’s endocannabinoid system’s central nervous system. CBN also binds to these receptors, however, with only one-tenth of THC’s potency.
THC, CBD, and CBN: The Difference
Different cannabinoids have different chemical profiles and physiological effects. For many people, they mean the same thing — marijuana. However, there are important distinctions that you should keep in mind.
Although THC, CBD, and CBN, come from the same plant, they induce different effects. THC is the main psychoactive compound and alters consciousness. This is why the FDA has listed it as a psychotropic substance. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn’t cause a high. It’s legal in many states for recreational and medicinal use and available in various forms, from tinctures and oils to edibles and vapes. CBN is a relatively unknown entity in the cannabis world. Studies suggest that its psychoactive potency is insignificant enough to cause a high.
CBN for Sleep: What Does Science Say?
CBN science exploring the compound’s sedative properties is dwindling, murky, and questionable. The only study that advocates CBN’s use has garnered some solid criticism. The study results are highly debatable, considering it showed CBN’s sedation only when CBN was used in conjunction with THC.
Some researchers might believe this might be because of the entourage effect and not because of CBN in itself. The Entourage effect is a synergistic relationship between different compounds to produce the desired effect — in this case, drowsiness.
Why Does CBN Work for Sleep?
For now, the best way to treat insomnia or sleeplessness is cannabis. Experts say that the best way to use cannabis is to combine for sleep is to combine THC with other sedating elements like linalool. Cannabis works as a sleep aid, not because it induces drowsiness, but because it positively impacts anxiety, stress, and many other conditions known to bring down sleep quality.
Despite science not rotting for CBN as a sleep aid, why does the compound work great for some people? Many people may be taking CBN products with other additional undisclosed ingredients, such as sesquiterpenoids, that are contributing to the entourage effect.
However, this is only an assumption. Unless more light is shed on the link between CBN and sedation, nothing can be said for certain.
If you’re looking to incorporate CBN in your bedtime routine, you can set out your cannabis in the sun for a couple of hours. This will decompose the THC in the extract, leaving only CBN and sleep-inducing terpenoids for use.
Cannabis Is still A Great Sleep-Aid
It’s important to know the reason for keeping you awake. For example, if you’re always tired at the end of the day and your mind is all over the place, a good dose of CBD for anxiety may help before bedtime.
Because many studies show that CBD may also help with several sleep-preventing symptoms, it may act as a potent sleep aid. Animal studies have documented cannabinol’s ability to combat stress, relieve pain, and prevent seizures and strokes, pointing to the fact that the compound may play a role in inducing sleep.
In the end, it’s all about trial and error. Find out what’s preventing you from falling asleep, do some research, and experiment to find cannabis remedies that may work best for your body. Every person is different, and cannabis isn’t a one size fits all solution. Depending upon your unique circumstances, its use will vary.
As for CBN, we’ll still have to wait and see whether it has sedating superpowers or not. Existing research doesn’t paint a promising picture, but it doesn’t dismiss the compound’s sedating potential as well. So, the jury can swing either way.