Feeling anxious or struggling to get a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone, around 554 million people are affected by anxiety today. With all the pressures brought on by the COVID pandemic, even the calmest of us are feeling the impact on our anxiety levels and quality of sleep. Getting enough sleep is however crucial to maintaining a strong immune system and for our overall health and well being.
The relationship between Anxiety and Insomnia
Anxiety is an echo of our primitive ‘fight or flight’ survival instinct when confronted with danger. It can be caused by a host of factors: competitive work environments, finances, relationship pressures, global or political occurrences, hormonal changes, loneliness, social media and most recently the COVID pandemic.Though the causes of our anxieties have changed over the millennia, the physiological response remains the same. Adrenaline courses through our bodies and may cause anything from a slump in concentration, to heart palpitations and shortness of breath. It is no wonder that anxiety alone has become the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. Worst of all, anxiety cares not for day or night. After an exhausting day of worrying, craving the sweet release of sleep, our mind then decides to take up the trapeze like a maniac at night.
Cue insomnia. Whether you’re having difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking up every few minutes, or waking up every morning feeling as tired as you were a few long hours ago, insomnia takes all the credit. Sleep deprivation breeds anxiety disorders, and prolonged insomnia will worsen the symptoms of anxiety, as well as hinder your recovery. Apart from anxiety, other causes of insomnia many include (chronic) pain and hormonal imbalances, as experienced with PMS and during the Menopause.
Harvard Health Publishing has reported from various neurochemistry and neuroimaging trials that sufficient sleep is imperative for maintaining a healthy defence against anxiety (7-9 hours for adults). Thus, the initial treatment of insomnia has the potential to prevent further worsening of anxieties as well as prevent other diseases and promoting general well being.
Holistic approaches to combatting anxiety and insomnia focus around meditation and mindfulness, investigating a healthy work-life balance, exploring the nutritional inputs in our diet (reducing caffeine intake has proven particularly effective), yoga, exercise, and natural remedies including lavender, chamomile, and recently, Cannabidiol (CBD).
How CBD can help manage Anxiety and Sleep
CBD is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Whilst research on CBD is still in its infancy, some research and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD may help to manage anxiety, insomnia and stress, as well as correct hormonal balances, reduce inflammation, whilst reducing excessive daytime sleepiness and grogginess. This is due to the fact that cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system, which is the system that helps our body maintain a state of balance and stability, or homeostasis. And unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD isn’t psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t make you feel “high.” Instead, it has a range of medical health applications, such as reducing epileptic seizures and pain relief.
According to Senior Directory, CBD lengthens our deep sleep phases whilst shortening our light sleep phases, which explains why it helps many to sleep through the night and wake up feeling refreshed, where other sleeping aids fail. CBD also does not produce the same effect of drowsiness as traditional, potentially addictive sleeping pills.
CBD also reduces pain according to several studies including this study on cancer patients and helps calm anxiety, which may promote better rest indirectly as well. Another way in which CBD might further reduce anxiety is by directly increasing the levels of anandamide (the ‘bliss’ molecule) and oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) in the body, which explains the warm, fuzzy feeling reported by some users.
There is no 'one-size-fits-all' when it comes to determining the right CBD dosage for each individual’s needs. Unless you are a frequent CBD user, it might take a few trials before you find the right dosage for your purpose (commonly referred to as the 'sweet spot'). Refer to our article on dosage for more information.
Most clinical trials on CBD and sleep have involved giving subjects anywhere between 25 mg to 1,500 mg of CBD per day. However, it’s best to start with a low dosage, gradually increasing it until you find what works best for you. 3-5 drops of a 5% broad or full-spectrum CBD tincture (equivalent to approx. 2.5mg) 2-3 times during the day might be a good starting point for keeping anxiety levels low, whilst 3-5 drops of a 10% full-spectrum CBD tincture (approx. 5mg) taken sublingually (under the tongue) about 30 minutes before hitting the sack should help to promote better sleep.
Whilst most experience immediate results when it comes to improvement in their sleep, research on the effects of CBD on anxiety and sleep has shown that it takes about a month or so for the full effects to be felt, so patience and consistency are important. As with any new supplement or lifestyle change, be sure to consult your doctor or health practitioner before introducing CBD into your wellness routine.
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