As a scientist, father, and entrepreneur, trying to get a lot of work done without sacrificing sleep is impossible. And I am not alone, a lot of fathers, mothers, professionals, and pet parents struggle with balancing work, life, family, and sleep. Getting better sleep becomes a priority.
CBD and melatonin supplements are two popular options to help you sleep, both of which boast several perceived benefits when taken as supplements or incorporated into medicinal routines. While research studies have discovered diverse mechanisms behind how each can potentially impact our circadian rhythm, this guide aims to provide an unbiased exploration of whether either/or is more suitable for a restful slumber.
We will examine the scientific evidence alongside practical advice from sleep professionals, while also considering real-life needs and lifestyle options. The goal is to ultimately help you have an informed opinion on the similarities and differences between CBD and melatonin for sleep.
Understanding Sleep Disorders
Sleep issues can be sneaky and dangerous. They are a constant reminder that you need energy throughout the day just to function normally. Having a sleep disorder is like waking up every morning feeling like you've run a marathon (and I do love running!).
I have obstructive sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, in the middle of the night, my soft palate decides to block my airways so that it is impossible for me to breathe. This then lowers the oxygen levels in my brain, and the net result is that I feel like crap when I wake up. Thankfully with the help of a CPAP machine, I can sleep semi-normally, but it's still exhausting. The first time I realized something was wrong was almost ten years ago. I kept waking up exhausted. During the day I was always tired, I needed a ton of coffee (I love coffee btw) just to feel even more tired. It really made me feel less present, it was not a nice place to be.
According to a study by the American Sleep Association, millions suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia, where one struggles to fall or stay asleep, is a common complaint. Then there's Restless Leg Syndrome, a compelling urge to move the legs, especially at night. Narcolepsy, characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep, is another.
Sleep isn't a luxury; sleep is essential. And trying to get better quality sleep is a must. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that sleep helps with healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels in case of an injury. It is another reminder of how sleep is integral to our overall well-being.
Yet, understanding and managing sleep disorders is a challenge. The problem is that many people don't even know that they have it, or even worse, they don't realize that there is a potential treatment.
What is CBD?
What is CBD? CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the molecules that are extracted from hemp. CBD is different from THC, and one of the biggest differences is that while THC makes you feel high, CBD does not.
CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, an intricate network of receptors that is involved in regulating inflammation, pain, and anxiety in both humans and pets. In the United States, it's okay to sell CBD products if they come from hemp and the final product contains less than 0.3% THC, and nowadays you can find it pretty much anywhere.
They come as CBD gummies, CBD oil, CBD creams, CBD edibles, and more, so if you take CBD you probably know of a million plus one ways to use it.There are a lot of research studies where doctors and scientists investigate how CBD might help us, and may be a better choice than other drugs out there.
Some studies say it can be great to improve your quality of sleep, addressing sleep problems that make people act out their dreams or feel tired during the day. But it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.
In my case, aka for sleep apnea, CBD is not a unique solution since what causes my issue is a mechanical problem with my soft palate. Yet, it does help me sleep better and I feel that I fall asleep more easily and have more restful sleep.
Supporting my experience, a review study published in Neurotherapeutics in 2021 suggests that the calming effects of CBD can increase sleep quality (Kaul et al., 2021). However, most studies focus on the role of THC and its abuse as the cause of sleep problems, so more clinical work is needed to fully isolate the exact role of CBD in sleep.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is the key hormone for sleep regulation, it is produced by the pineal gland, a small neuronal complex buried in the middle of your brain. Melatonin works by telling your body when it's time to go to bed and wake up. Its production is heavily influenced by light. As the sun sets, melatonin production increases, reaching its peak in the evening, telling your body to go to sleep. On the contrary, exposure to light during the night, especially the blue light from screens, tricks our brains into thinking it's still daytime. As a consequence, less melatonin is produced, and your body doesn't think that it's time to go to bed or fall asleep.
As an interesting example, my grandma, always claimed that she came up with her best ideas right before falling asleep — and now I think that this is due to the melatonin's calming influence on the mind. However, modern lifestyles filled with screen lights, rush rush meetings and phone calls, and crazy work-family schedules, often interfere with this natural process. Excessive screen time and late-night work can disrupt our sleep patterns, creating a vicious cycle of fatigue and reliance on caffeine, exacerbating our sleep issues even further.
Various scientific studies investigated the use of melatonin supplementation as a way to help people with sleep disorders. While research has shown promising results in treating delayed sleep-wake phase disorder and jet lag, its effects on insomnia are still a subject of debate (Sletten et al., 2018; Costello et al., 2014). There is some growing interest in exploring melatonin's use in children. A study from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center enrolled 10 children with epilepsy and found that melatonin improved sleep efficiency by 6.25%, and helped with wakefulness after sleep onset (Jain et al., 2015).
Wei et al performed a cross-study review of the efficacy of melatonin in children and adolescents across seven clinical trials and a total of 387 participants. They concluded that the effects of melatonin were beneficial in the short term, yet, there is no evidence of the effects of the long-term use of melatonin as a sleep supplement in the young population (Wei et al. 2020), including its effect on puberty (Boafo et al., 2019).
Overall, studies show that melatonin is a safe to-go supplement to get a good night's sleep in healthy individuals. Also, melatonin can be helpful in helping people with sleep disorders such as insomnia, and it can increase sleep quality in people of any age.
Differences Between CBD and Melatonin for Sleep
There are a few key differences and similarities between CBD and melatonin.
In terms of origins, melatonin and CBD are both natural compounds, although their are produced in very different ways. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain, while CBD is a compound isolated from the hemp plant.
In terms of life cycle, melatonin levels increase when the sun goes down, meaning it's time to go to sleep. On the other hand, CBD is not regulated by the circadian rhythm.
In terms of effectiveness, a study found that melatonin can help regulate sleep patterns, especially for those with jet lag or shift work sleep disorder. CBD, according to a research article, has shown promise in helping with sleep and reducing anxiety, a common sleep disruptor.
Regarding side effects, melatonin is generally safe for short-term use, but there are cases where it can cause headaches, dizziness, or nausea. CBD's side effects might include dry mouth, low blood pressure, or drowsiness, as previously described in a study from 2017 published in Cannabis Cannabinoid Research journal.
When considering cost and accessibility, melatonin supplements are widely available and relatively affordable, you can find them at your local grocery store or on Amazon for a few dollars. CBD products, due to legal complexities and production costs, can be pricier and less accessible, depending on the region.
User experiences vary. Some individuals swear by melatonin, while others like CBD better.
Can You Take CBD and Melatonin Together for Better Sleep Aid?
An interesting study was run by Radicle Science and Open Book Extracts (OBX) investigated the effects of combining CBD with melatonin as a natural sleep aid. The study, touted as the largest of its kind, compared the effects of various CBD products with melatonin, uncovering that participants had longer sleep duration and better quality when both were used in conjunction.
Dr. Jeff Chen, CEO of Radicle Science, highlighted that melatonin is a widely recognized non-prescription sleep supplement. And about the results of the study, Dr.Chen also says:
It was surprising that the sleep improvement on melatonin alone was not significantly different from most cannabinoid products studied. There were also some surprising preliminary signs in this study to suggest that some cannabinoid products may cause less grogginess than melatonin
The study involved 1,800 participants across the US, testing five products containing CBD, with some also including rare cannabinoids like CBN and cannabichromene. One product contained an extra 5 mg of melatonin. The results indicated that four out of five CBD products showed sleep improvement compared to using melatonin alone, with additional sleep ranging from 34 to 76 minutes per night.
While the combination of CBD and melatonin was promising, Dr. Chen advises caution for certain individuals, including heavy alcohol consumers, those with liver disease, and individuals on medications, due to CBD's effects on the Cytochrome P450 enzymes.
When taking any supplements or over-the-counter medicines, it is always suggested to keep an eye on dosage and interaction with other drugs. Yes, melatonin can help with sleep, and CBD can help too. CBD has been shown to be safe, and melatonin is safe too, but only when they are used correctly...but we are all different.
The amount of CBD, or melatonin, that you take is also really important. Taking high doses of either can make you extra sleepy and it can modulate the way in which your body metabolizes other drugs.
So, if you are in the category or people that is taking already prescription medicines and also want to take melatonin and CBD oil, make sure to consult your doctor first. Ensure that you are good to go before making some involuntary mix and match among medicines.
My Experience Shows That CBD for Sleep Is...?
I started using melatonin before bed way before using CBD. I took melatonin to help me get deeper REM sleep, in the hope that in the morning I would wake up more rested and ready for the day. Yet, while it did help improve sleep quality, I did not get consistent results. That may have been due to the amount of melatonin I was taking. I recently switched to a full pill before bed and it does seem to help.
I started taking CBD back in 2017, and since CBD can interact with certain pain receptors, it was very useful in mitigating my knee issues. I also noticed that it was helping me improve my poor sleep quality. One key aspect of that was the nagging back pain I was used to waking up with. Since melatonin has no effect on pain, I personally use CBD more often than melatonin.
Please remember that this is my own personal experience, not a guideline on how you should respond to taking either melatonin or CBD for sleep.
Conclusion: Is CBD or Melatonin Better for Sleep Aid?
In conclusion, here I tried to give a nice overview of CBD and melatonin helping with sleep issues.
CBD and melatonin work through different mechanisms of action, yet they offer similar benefits when it comes to sleep duration and other effects on sleep. Melatonin may be helpful when you only look for something limited to sleep aid, while CBD can also help with pain management, inflammation, and anxiety.
In conclusion, while CBD and melatonin are two compounds that can safely help your sleep, because of the extra few benefits that you get from CBD, I give a slight edge to CBD.
Seb has been a research scientist for the past two decades and is the founder and owner of My Blissful Pet. Seb grew up with cats and dogs and married his passion for science and animals with My Blissful Pet by wanting to help dogs and cats live healthier lives.
by Sebastiano BattagliaDecember 05, 202310 min read
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