In an effort to find a safer and more reliable method of getting a good night’s sleep, the medical community turned to melatonin, an natural hormone produced within our bodies. Melatonin, although safe, is not as effective in all cases of poor sleep and sleep disturbance.
A surge of interest in the medical and therapeutic potential has prompted investigation of it’s apparent varied applications in not only improving sleep quality but also many important aspects of mental health that contribute to rest and well being.
Are you wondering if CBD or Melatonin could be the answer to your sleep problems? Modern medicine may be improving with every year that passes but sleep remains a big issue. In fact, despite all our advancements, many of us are getting on average 2 hours less sleep per night than we were 40 years ago.
Whether it be lights at home, work or from our devices we are all more mentally stimulated than we used to be. Our world now runs 24 hours a day, with pressures on sleep getting worse rather than better.
Sleep however is not something that can be cut without cost. Getting enough good quality sleep is central to getting a whole host of benefits that are vital to our health.
Sleep has been shown to:
No wonder then that so many people want to not only increase the amount of sleep they get but the quality of their sleep as well. CBD and Melatonin are rising in popularity but first let’s take a look at what people have traditionally been relying upon.
With over a third of Americans reporting insomnia and poor sleep, pharmaceutical companies have rushed to provide whatever medical options have been available.
‘Sleeping pills’ as they are commonly known, are known in the medical community as ‘sedative hypnotics’. While there are a few different types, they were all originally designed to be used in the short term.
When they are used over the long term they have numerous significant side effects, including but not limited to addiction, memory, attention and mood disorders. Although there are newer and more gentle ‘sleep aids’, such as Ambien, these too can cause dependence over the long term.
Clearly a better solution was required than one that potentially makes users addicted.
It has become clear over the past few years that there are two effective and safe options on the market: CBD and Melatonin.
The way they work on the body and actually help you get to and stay in sleep differ. Below we detail the effects of each and their unique strengths.
You may have heard of the endocannabinoid system, but how does CBD affect our sleep?
While CBD attaches to different receptors within our endocannabinoid system, both CB1 and CB2 receptors seem to be involved in helping us nod off. However what we don’t truly know yet is how CBD is helping us get to sleep.
This is in part down to limited research surrounding CBD. In some cases, the whole cannabis plant is tested, so it is not possible to say if it is the CBD or another cannabinoid like THC which is causing a positive effect on sleep.
In other cases, it is clear that the CBD is effective at treating other symptoms like pain and anxiety. Improving these symptoms typically has the knock on effect of allowing people to have more and higher quality sleep.
What this means in real terms is that there is lots of indirect and secondary evidence that CBD is good at promoting sleep.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that occurs in your body and can be safely taken as a synthetic supplement. The main use cases for melatonin are helping you fall asleep faster, reducing the risk of waking up at night and improving sleep quality.
Your body already uses this hormone to regulate your sleep, which is released at night and isn’t secreted at all during the day.
Things like blue screens on phones and TVs hijack your body’s normal melatonin responses. Instead of melatonin decreasing in the morning with the rising of the sun, in modern times bright and blue light also artificially lowers our levels. This leaves us feeling awake and restless rather than ready for sleep.
The key difference in terms of the feeling or effect compared to ‘sleeping pills’ is that melatonin cannot ‘force’ you to fall asleep. This is because it is not a sedative and does not act on your central nervous system. Instead it is more of a signalling chemical that lets your body know that it’s time to go to sleep.
That’s why melatonin needs your help to work. If you are very stressed, excited or otherwise not in the mood to sleep it can be easy to decide to override the effects and stay awake.
As both of these sleep aids are gentle and don’t suppress your central nervous system (which controls your breathing) it is safe to take both.
Melatonin rises naturally with low light levels and CBD has not been shown to have any adverse effects based on time of day.
That being said, there is a difference between safe and desirable. While you are unlikely to experience excess grogginess the day after, something common with sleeping pills, everyone acts differently to different medications.
If you don’t have experience taking either then it is advisable to start with just one first and then work your way up to using both if one alone does not produce the desired result.
While there is limited research on CBD and sleep to draw a fair comparison we do know anecdotally that both are useful in helping those with sleep issues.
If you are unsure of which to try first and spend your money on then you should take an age based approach. This is because CBD is a treatment whereas Melatonin is more of a supplement that can be used to combat age related decline.
Melatonin supplementation becomes more useful as we age. This is because research has shown that melatonin production drops off rapidly after the age of 60. If you are in you 20s and suffer with sleep issues your melatonin is less likely to be the issue than when you are older.
Remember that both drugs will be given the best chance to work if you practice good sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene includes things like keeping a regular sleep routine – waking at the same time each day, including the weekends as well! Keeping up a moderate level of exercise also promotes a more restful night.
A dark bedroom is an obvious but easily forgotten part of sleep hygiene, with keeping things quiet and at a comfortable temperature is also important.
You should also ‘reset’ your melatonin into the right rhythm. Get outside into the light during the day and at night turn down lights and avoid blue light from screens. This will lower your melatonin during the day and bring it back up naturally at night.