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The Relationship Between CBD, Sleep, Pain, Anxiety and Other Mental Health Disorders

LXR’s Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, Dr Parveen Bhatarah, breaks down the science on CBD as a future potential lifestyle aid where sleep disorders, pain and mental health intertwine.

CBD anxiety, sleep and mental health

This article was originally published in Parveen’s “Ask the scientist” column in Cannavist Magazine.

Historical uses

The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 BC. The Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa.

In 1545, cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where the Spanish imported it to Chile for use as fibre. In North America, cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown on many plantations for use in rope, clothing and paper.

Modern times

CBD is now considered a 'Novel Food' by regulators. While many CBD products remain on the market, they have not been authorised by the authorities. CBD was placed on what is known as the Novel Foods Catalogue in January 2019, and this means that the ingredient requires pre-market authorisation.

We now know the endocannabinoid system is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function and reproductive function. Endocannabinoids are arguably one of the most widespread and versatile signalling molecules known to man.

Homeostasis

CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system; it helps to promote homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis is any self-regulating process of maintaining an internal balance in an ever-changing external environment. Recent research has highlighted the complexity of the endocannabinoid system and suggests it is involved in managing various homeostatic processes. What's unique about CBD, unlike its counterpart Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is how it interacts with the Endocannabinoid System.

Although claims of any health or medical nature are not permitted to be made about CBD, recent research highlights the benefits of using the cannabinoid. The Cannabis sativa plant has two well known components: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The latter gives users a 'high' due to its psychoactive properties. Unlike THC, cannabidiol is not psychoactive, Instead, users prefer using CBD because of the different health benefits such as:

  • Reduction of pain and inflammation caused by arthritis 
  • The possible shrinkage of cancerous tumours 
  • A reduction in cancer-related pain 
  • The prevention of migraines and headaches 
  • Relief from chronic pain 

Although research is only starting to rise, the results to date show a promising future for other health issues such as, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, epilepsy and possibly, helping a patient sleep better.

The relationship between CBD, sleep and anxiety

There are several reasons why people have a hard time sleeping. It may be due to mental issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or certain medicines. Or it could be continuous intake of caffeinated drinks or an outside factor such as noise. In some cases, episodes of insomnia may be due to anxiety.

Although CBD research still has a long way to go, the evidence to date suggests that it can help treat anxiety, which contributes to sleeplessness. A study conducted by Scott Shannon, MD et al. involved 72 patients, with 47 subjects reporting with anxiety while the remaining 25 said they experienced a difficult time sleeping.

The results showed that a 25mg CBD pill ingested in the first month significantly helped anxiety scores. 79.2% of all the participants said that CBD resulted in lower levels of anxiety, and 66.7% of all the participants said that CBD gave them a better sleep experience.

Another factor that can contribute to sleeplessness is pain, in any form. A study conducted by Frontiers in Pharmacology reported that CBD helps to decrease pain, which ultimately reduces the discomfort felt when sleeping.

In another study conducted in 2014 by researchers from University of São Paulo, Brazil, the subjects had Parkinson's Disease, which involved a disorder in the rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep. The patients had REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) wherein they act out in response to their dreams and have a hard time sleeping. With CBD use, the symptoms dramatically improved, In line with the study conducted with RBD, further research published in Springer Nature concluded that CBD intake might help treat the disorder, as well as daytime sleepiness.

Mood & Drug Dependence

Recent findings support the hypothesis that cannabinoid CB1 receptor blockade might be associated with antidepressant and anti-stress effects. A novel potential antidepressant drug class based on this mechanism is supported by the neuroanatomical localization of CB1 receptors and signal transduction pathways that are involved in emotional responses, together with the anti-depressant-like neurochemical and behavioural effects induced by CB1 receptor antagonists. 

Selective CB1 receptor antagonists are in development for the treatment of obesity and tobacco smoking and could be tested for antidepressant efficacy because recent results of clinical studies suggest that they would also treat comorbid symptoms of depression such as cognitive deficiencies, weight gain, impulsivity and dependence disorders.

CB1 receptor antagonism might constitute an integrated pharmacotherapeutic approach that impacts the affective, cognitive, appetitive and motivational neuronal networks involved in mood disorders. Ongoing CBD research shows that CBD has a great future. There is definitely a lot more research and education required but it is intriguing to see people are interested to try the product even though they might be confused and not sure where to get reliable information from.

Related: LXR's CBD tincture range

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