Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in the UK. According to data published in The Guardian in 2018, approximately 16% of all adults in the UK sleep for fewer than six hours per night. A further 19% only sleep for six to seven hours — less than the seven to nine hours every night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
Like many other potential benefits of CBD, research into CBD’s effects on sleep conditions such as insomnia is still in its early stages. However, the existing data suggests that CBD could be a helpful, safe treatment for preventing insomnia and improving sleep quality. For example, a 2014 study into cannabidiol (CBD) found that it reduces the frequency of events related to REM sleep (necessary for cognitive function) behaviour disorder, in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The four people given CBD during the study all showed measurable, substantial improvements. A review from 2017 had similar findings. The researchers noted that preliminary research into CBD “may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia” and that it may treat REM sleep behaviour disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Like many other scientific reviews of CBD, the researchers stated that the current data on the effects of cannabidiol and sleep is “in its infancy” and that additional research is required. Although most people associate the term “insomnia” with an entire night spent awake, struggling to fall asleep, the reality is that insomnia can range from mild to severe.
What about pain and sleep?
Evidence (Smith & Haythornwhite 2004) shows that those in pain do not sleep well, and those who do not sleep are prone to developing pain. When we sleep, our lymphatic system works hard to aid the clearance of waste. This process is more complex in our brains via the glymphatic system, which the New Scientist (2013) reports is up to 60% more effective at waste removal. It could be a reason why sleep deprivation causes an increase in pain sensitivity, and also makes us hypersensitive activities that don’t usually cause pain. This is partly confirmed by a study (Krause et al 2019) that showed the brains somatosensory cortex (a region associated with brain sensitivity) was hyperactive when participants had not slept enough. This confirmed the hypothesis that sleep deprivation would interfere with pain processing neural circuits. A surprise finding showed that the nucleus accumbens (an area that releases dopamine and reduces pain) showed lower activity after a sleepless night.