You look at the clock and it’s 1:30 a.m. You’ve been tossing and turning for hours and you still can’t get to sleep. You’ve cut back on caffeine, turned off your phone, taken a hot bath and even tried meditation. But the insomnia won’t go away.
It’s frustrating when you can’t fall asleep, especially when there are many things that may be causing you to be sleepless. Perhaps you are suffering from anxiety or you’re worried about something. Maybe it’s a medication you’re taking or some habit you’re having a hard time breaking, like eating late at night.
According to the Sleep Foundation, researchers view insomnia as your brain’s inability to stop being awake. In other words, your brain’s sleep/wake cycle may be disrupted. Sleeplessness can be a problem with either too much wake drive or too little sleep drive. What we know is, there are both medical and psychological causes of insomnia.
MEDICAL CAUSES OF INSOMNIA
There are a variety of medical symptoms that can cause insomnia. Some are serious and some aren’t, but it’s important to understand what they are. Some of these medical conditions cause mild discomfort and contribute to sleeplessness. Others are more serious. Here’s a list of some medical causes of insomnia:
- Nasal/sinus allergies
- Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
- Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Low back pain
If you have trouble falling asleep regularly, it’s a good idea to consult with your family physician. Your sleeplessness could be the result of an underlying medical condition, or it could be as simple as avoiding bright lighting, turning off the TV or computer, or not playing with your pets. Your family physician should be able to come up with ways to curb your insomnia and provide the help you need.
PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES OF INSOMNIA
Insomnia isn’t always caused by medical conditions. Psychological issues can play a big part in contributing to an individual’s sleeplessness, and may require treatment from a professional. Studies have shown that insomnia can trigger or worsen symptoms of depression. Two of the most common psychological contributors:
Studies show that the rate of insomnia is much higher in people who suffer from depression. Loss of interest or feelings of hopelessness, low energy, and loss of motivation are all symptoms of depression that can spark sleeplessness. One can also make the other worse so it is important to seek professional treatment, for these very treatable conditions. Feelings of anxiety that can lead to insomnia include excessive worrying, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling overstimulated. As with depression, the two conditions can feed off of each other.
HOW IS INSOMNIA RELATED TO THE ECS?
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is believed to control a broad array of bodily functions, including mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, body temperature, memory, immune function, pain sensation and reproduction. Communication in the ECS occurs through compounds called endocannabinoids, which are messengers (neurotransmitters) produced naturally by the body. They attach to special receptors.
Your brain controls your body’s reaction to stress and the ECS system can hit the brakes if things get crazy. But in some instances, the ECS can’t solve the problem on its own and conditions like stress get out of control. That’s when problems arise.
“Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally,” says Jay Winner, MD, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.”
Stress can cause or worsen conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. And chronic stress can lead to long-term, serious health conditions.
But all evidence shows that CBD can help!
DOES CBD HELP WITH SLEEP CYCLES?
Research indicates that the cannabinoids that are found naturally in CBD, which is derived from the hemp plant, can help encourage healthy sleep cycles. Studies indicate that CBD binds both to receptors in the brain and throughout the body, helping to address mental conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as physical problems such as muscle spasms, pain and swelling. When we take CBD, we are supplementing a naturally-occurring cannabinoid system.
The message is clear: CBD can definitely help you keep your sleep cycle in check.
Because CBD research is still in its infancy, there’s a lot more to learn. There’s some research pointing to the efficacy of CBD. According to the Sleep Association, studies indicate that that CBD may affect the sleep/wake cycle, another reason why CBD and THC are generally helpful in supporting the health of a number of body systems.
A study of 72 adults with anxiety and insomnia showed that 79 percent of them slept better after they took 25 mg of CBD daily. The results were published in the Permanente Journal, Another study showed that a 10-year-old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder slept better when she took 25 mg of CBD at night, and 6 to 12 mg of CBD in a spray during the day to calm her anxiety.
THE PROBLEM WITH OTC SLEEP AIDS
Two simple words sum up the biggest problem with over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids: side effects. In a worst-case scenario, sleep aids could interfere with normal breathing. That means people with lung conditions such as emphysema, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) need to be careful.
Most OTC sleep aids contain antihistamines, which your body becomes tolerant to over time. As a result, the more you use them, the less they help you sleep. Some also leave you feeling groggy and out of it, causing what is widely known as the “hangover effect.” OTC sleep aids may also interact with other medications you might be taking, so it is important to read all the medication warnings on the packaging.
Here’s the Mayo Clinic’s list of the most common OTC sleep aids and their side effects:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Aleve PM, others) Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine. Side effects might include daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and urinary retention.
- Doxylamine succinate (Unisom SleepTabs) Doxylamine is also a sedating antihistamine. Side effects are similar to those of diphenhydramine.
- Melatonin The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Side effects can include headaches and daytime sleepiness.
- Valerian Supplements made from this plant are sometimes taken as sleep aids. Although a few studies indicate some therapeutic benefit, other studies haven’t found the same benefits. Valerian generally doesn’t appear to cause side effects.
Store brands contain the same risks as the name brand products.
IF YOU IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP, WHAT ELSE IMPROVES?
When your body is rested, your mind is more likely to be clear and your reactions are sharp. Sound body, sound mind. They go together like baseball and Cracker Jacks. Sleep helps you process new ideas, have those “aha” moments of clarity and better process new information.
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Insufficient sleep can also affect your moods. One study showed that when you don’t sleep, you’re five times more likely to develop depression.
The probability of an anxiety or panic disorder occurring are also higher. A good night’s sleep also contributes to a healthier heart, makes it easier to lose weight, supports your immune system and provides essential time for muscle repair. That’s why therapeutic CBD products like those sold by Bespoke Extracts can be such a help.