The Endocannabinoid System or the ECS is an intricate system of cell-signaling within the human body. The cell-to-cell signaling facilitates the performance of a range of bodily activities. Proper functioning of the ECS is crucial for good sleep, memory, appetite, mood and reproduction.
Recent and ongoing studies are examining the effects of CBD on sleep. Studies suggest that CBD brings about a positive impact in people with sleep problems by influencing the body’s ECS. There is a need for more exhaustive studies to reach conclusive results.
Here, we examine the ECS in detail and what existing research suggests about the impact of CBD on ECS and sleep.
Key Elements of the Endocannabinoid System
- Enzymes – The function of Enzymes is to break down endocannabinoids after they complete their tasks (explained below). The 2 main types of enzymes are monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which targets 2-arachidonoylglycerol. The other enzyme is FAAH or fatty acid amide hydrolase, which targets anandamide receptor.
- Endocannabinoids – These are endogenous cannabinoids, similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa plant. Endogenous means they are produced by the body itself. The key endocannabinoids identified so far are Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol.
- Endocannabinoid Receptors – These receptors are present everywhere in the body. They serve as a binding site for endocannabinoids. This binding is essential to signal to the ECS that it needs to take specific action.
CB1 and CB2 are the two key receptors of the ECS. The CB1 receptor is predominant in specific locations of the central nervous system (CNS). Studies show that CNS areas such as hippocampus, cortex, brainstem, cerebellum and limbic system, contain the CB1 receptor.
The other receptor is CB2, which is found mostly in immune system cells.
Role of ECS in Sleep
The role of ECS in sleep regulation can be explained through the behavior of the endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
Endocannabinoids in the ECS can bind to either receptors. This interaction with specific receptors influences an individual’s sleep/ wake cycle. More research is underway to understand the nature of the receptor interaction.
CBD and Sleep
CBD or cannabidiol is a compound found in cannabis sativa plant, popularly known as marijuana. Cannabinoid is an exogenous cannabinoid, meaning it is produced outside the body, as against endogenous cannabinoids, which are produced inside the body.
CBD is known for its therapeutic properties for a range of medical conditions, including childhood epilepsy and chronic pain. CBD is different from another THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the most active ingredient of compound of cannabis sativa plant. THC causes an intoxicated state in users. CBD is not capable of causing a “high” or intoxicated state in people.
Research is still unclear about the interaction mechanism of CBD with ECS receptors. However; researchers do state that CBD interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS in a way that is different from that of THC.
Some researchers believe that CBD binds with an endocannabinoid receptor that is yet to be identified. Some are of the opinion that CBD interacts with the ECS by preventing the breaking down process of endocannabinoids. This interaction could be causing CBD to produce the sleep effects on the body.
A study carried in the Permanent Journal showed that CBD has a positive effect on people with anxiety and poor sleep patterns. This study involved 72 patients with sleep problems and anxiety. Sleep patterns and anxiety levels were recorded at the beginning of the study.
Participants were then administered with CBD of 25mg dosage. The medicine was given in capsule form. People with sleep issues were given CBD in the evenings. Others took CBD in the morning.
After a month of the study, 79% of patients with anxiety showed tremendous improvement. In 66% of people, there was substantial improvement in sleep patterns. The study specifically showed that CBD decreased sleep problems in many patients.
CBD and Sleep: CBD Promotes Sleep by Treating Underlying Conditions
Another way CBD could be promoting sleep is through its effect on medical conditions that make sleep difficult for some people. For example, it is proven that CBD treats insomnia efficiently.
Studies show that CBD intake helps people with insomnia to sleep, as well as stay asleep without intermittent waking.
Another study, published in the journal Medicines, also supported the finding that CBD helps address insomnia successfully. This study involved 409 insomnia patients with severity of insomnia ranging from 1 to 10 (score 10 indicated most severe symptoms of insomnia). The average score was at 6.6.
Treatment data was collected from patients over the period of June 2016 through May 2018. Results showed that consumption of CBD decreased insomnia symptom score to 2.2, on an average.
Other medical conditions such as chronic pain and anxiety can also affect the quality of sleep of patients. CBD can promote sleep by helping to address these underlying issues.
The role of Endocannabinoid System is vital in promoting good sleep. While researchers are able to associate the influence of CBD on ECS and in promoting good sleep, studies are still at a nascent stage. More research is essential to understand the extent to which CBD is responsible for the functioning of ECS.