Most of us have read about or perhaps even used cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis known as CBD. Products containing CBD have been shown to help reduce myriad stressors, including the inability to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. You may, however, not be as familiar with CBN for sleep.
“Sleep is a complex issue to manage,” notes Emma Chasen, a cannabis educator with Eminent Consulting. “This is due to the many underlying conditions that might be contributing to sleep issues such as pain and anxiety.” She notes that because cannabis compounds like CBD and CBN—short for cannabinol—have the ability to provide relief from pain, anxiety, and depression, they can be helpful in improving sleep.
Differences Between CBD and CBN
When considering the two cannabinoids, Chasen encourages people to begin with how each is made. “The cannabis plant makes CBD, whereas CBN is a byproduct of the oxidative degradation of THC,” she notes. (THC, of course, is the main active ingredient in cannabis and what produces the classic marijuana high.) Regarding physiological differences between CBD and CBN, in terms of each cannabinoid’s effects, Chasen notes that CBD has a larger range of therapeutic potential given its ability to engage different enzymes, neurotransmitters, and receptor channels. “Ultimately, CBD’s greatest therapeutic value is its ability to act as a homeostatic agent and work with the body to bring it back into a balanced state.”
[Read: “CBD Oil for Insomnia.”]
While CBN has therapeutic potential, she says its range is more limited. “CBN shows promise as an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic with special therapeutic interest in regards to MRSA,” which causes staph infections. There is also therapeutic interest in CBN as a treatment for psoriasis.
CBN for Sleep
Anna Symonds of East Fork Cultivars explains that CBN is formed by the breakdown of the THC molecule via aging, air, and light. “CBN is best known for promoting sleep through its sedative properties,” she says, “but also offers pain relief and other therapeutic qualities including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.” According to Hunter Neubauer of Oregrown, “Cannabinol has been phenomenal for people who don't want to take an Ambien that can make them feel groggy and disorientated in the morning.”
Regarding the sedative properties of CBN, Katie Stem of Peak Extracts reports that it’s “mildly intoxicating compared to its precursor THC, and many people report feeling sleepy when they take it.” In Chasen’s estimation, although “various scientific studies have looked at sedation potential of varying cannabinoids in animal models, there is little actual scientific evidence as to why CBN would be sedating.”
In talking with customers who have problems getting to sleep, Neubauer observes that many are specifically looking for relief of pain that prevents them from having a restful night. “We think with the combination of CBN, THC, and CBD, you've got the anti-inflammatory and pain reduction, plus the attributes of CBN that are really going to help people get through the night.”
[Read: “Healing Yourself With DIY CBD Topicals.”]
Chasen recommends people start with 5 mg CBN and consider consuming that with 2.5 mg THC and 2.5 mg CBD, as even a small amount will help regulate your sleep cycle. For those who like tinctures, Stem says it’s best to start with about ten drops and use up to 1 mL an hour or so before bedtime. Consider increasing the nightly dose slowly until you get the desired effect.
Edible and Aromatic CBN for Sleep
Eric Leslie at Cheeba Chews recommends edibles as an ideal way to deliver CBN to your body’s endocannabinoid system. “The metabolization process allows your body to absorb the various cannabis compounds, providing you appropriate time to relax and comfortably get to sleep.” He recommends finding products that provide clear documentation of their cannabinoid content and test results. “This will enable you to more accurately control the amount of CBN, with THC as an amplifier, that works best for you personally,” he says. “Always look for products that provide more than isolated CBN, so the other cannabinoids can work together to help provide an additional entourage of relief.”
In addition to cannabinoids, Chasen stresses how terpenes, the aromatic compounds in cannabis, have been shown to deliver sedative effects. In particular, linalool has been shown to be helpful in this regard. Other herbal and supplemental allies for sleep that are often available in conjunction with CBD/CBN include kava, passionflower, valerian, St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, L-tryptophan, and melatonin.
Entourage of Relief
the Hemp + Herbs Sleep Capsules are made by Gaia Herbs, using hemp from East Fork.
East Fork Cultivars' hemp and herb sleep capsules (made by Gaia Herbs using hemp from East Fork) include full-spectrum hemp extract and other beneficial sleep herbs including milky oat seed, California poppy, and vervain (all organic). “I used these back when COVID first hit and I couldn't sleep due to stress and worry,” says Anna Symonds. “They saved me.” Grön’s Snooze collection of vegan, handcrafted tinctures, chocolates, and fruit chews is formulated to help support the natural sleep cycle with broad-spectrum hemp CBD & CBN along with plant-powered adaptogens like valerian root, lavender, and tart cherry. And there are many more products designed to help you get to sleep.
As you begin this journey towards restful sleep, it’s key to remain attuned to your particular bodily rhythms. Maintaining a sleep journal can aid in determining those factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep. Record any natural supplements taken before bedtime along with any stressors that arise during a given day, as well as food and drink consumed. Over time, a pattern will evolve regarding the exact products that will produce the best results for your given body chemistry, as well as those daily impediments that inhibit your ability to have a restful night.
Don’t forget to add mindfulness-based techniques to help you fall asleep.