Of the thousands of people who have come to our store or website, the second most common request is something that helps with sleep. The first is something to help with chronic pain. Interestingly, helping with the first request can often help with the second. Pain can make it difficult to get comfortable and cause tossing and turning during the night. However, this article will compare CBD vs melatonin, address the subject of sleep generally, and discuss the differences between CBD and melatonin in helping people fall asleep and stay asleep.
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Melatonin: What is it and how does it work?
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain as a response to darkness. It helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. This is the natural process of regulating hunger, sleep, and energy levels. Healthy humans with an effective circadian rhythm are sleepy at night, energetic in the morning and hungry at lunchtime. It is sometimes referred to as the “body clock.” When this rhythm is not functioning properly, we are tired in the middle of the day, wakeful at night and may be hungry all the time. If only fixing it were as simple as supplementing our melatonin levels!
Thousands of people supplement their melatonin levels in the hopes of improving their quality of sleep. Many people find it effective. I have never personally found it helpful. My personal experience, and that of many I have spoken to, is that supplementing with melatonin makes me feel exceptionally exhausted – like you feel after you have been up for 24 hours or spent the entire day moving furniture. However, I am unable to fall asleep. So, for me, melatonin makes me feel I bit like I’ve been run over by a truck and can only stare at the ceiling worrying that I will never sleep again. Consequently, I do not supplement with melatonin.
Research into the subject reveals that there are very few studies which indicate melatonin is effective as a longer-term remedy for assistance with sleep. And, it turns out, there are several concerns about using it regularly. Most studies and articles that recommend melatonin for sleep suggest it as a short term or “once in a while” supplement for certain situations. These include things like travel induced “jet lag,” major changes in schedule, and acute situations that may cause anxiety and sleeplessness. These include things like surgery, the death of a loved one etc.
Side Effects and Concerns About Melatonin:
Feeling Sleepy During the Day: Using too high a dose or taking a supplement at the wrong time can lead to sleepiness when it is not desirable.
Headaches: These are reported as a “common, but mild” side effect of melatonin use.
Dizziness / Nausea: This is rarer, but some people experience both.
Poor Sleep Quality: Even people who fall asleep better do not have improved quality of sleep while using melatonin.
Hidden Ingredients: Because Melatonin supplements are not well-regulated (also true of CBD), additional and undesirable ingredients can be found in them. One study found that 26% of samples tested had serotonin in them. Taking serotonin in combination with certain anti-anxiety medications (SSRIs) can cause serotonin syndrome, which is a serious and, in rare cases, a fatal condition. Make sure you are getting your supplements from a reputable and trustworthy source.
Medication Interactions: There is a fairly long list of drugs with potential interactions with melatonin supplements. None of these is listed as potentially fatal, but worsening of the symptoms treated by these prescription medications may occur. Some list excess drowsiness as the potential interaction, which is obviously not good during the day. The list published by the Mayo Clinic includes:
Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs
Blood pressure drugs
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants
Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates (Valium, Valtco, etc.)
Seizure threshold lowering drugs
Stopping Your Natural Melatonin Production: Last, but certainly not least of the concerns about melatonin is the fact that supplementation can interfere with your body's natural production of the hormone. If the body thinks it has enough of a substance it produces, your internal production can go down. The concerns about long term use are based on this fact - your body begins to rely on the supplement and this means if you stop supplementing, your natural melatonin levels will be even lower than they were before you began.
How CBD May Improve Sleep
CBD has been the most widely researched for its impact on pain and anxiety, but there is also good information about its use for sleep. I always like to start conversations about CBD for sleep with a little bit of wisdom we have developed from the hundreds of customers we have worked with. Then we can explore some of the science behind CBD and sleep.
The wisdom is this – CBD can potentially help with sleep. In our personal experience better sleep may require a bit of experimentation with method and dose. Cannabis is bi-phasic, which means that it can have opposite effects at high vs low dose. For CBD this means that many people find it helpful for energy at low dose and sleep at high dose. The trouble with this generality is that “high” or “low” dose can be very different for different people. What this means in practical terms is that experimentation with different doses may be necessary to find that “sweet spot” where CBD helps with sleep.
That said, we have had many people report that their sleep improves when they are using CBD regularly during the day for either pain or anxiety. I have had some customers who, after taking CBD for workout recovery, stress, arthritic pain etc. report that their electronic health tracker (Apple watch, Sleep Number bed) tells them their sleep has improved. They wondered if CBD was the cause – and yes, it may well be. Let’s explore how that happens.
Reducing Anxiety: If you are one of those people who stares at the ceiling worrying about everything on your to do list or thinking about all the reasons for stress in your life, your sleeplessness could simply be anxiety manifesting when you are tired. CBD has been shown in many studies and through countless anecdotal reports to reduce anxiety. So, supplementation with CBD may help you get a better night’s rest by reducing your stress levels.
A Great Option for Stress Relief:
Managing Pain: Sleeping on an aching back, throbbing shoulder, or other unpleasant pain is difficult at best. Many customers observe that controlling their aches and pains helps them sleep better. We have even had many customers say that using a topical in the evening can help them sleep better. Topicals only work where they are applied but have the advantage of ease of use.
A Lovely Topical for Joint Pain – with soothing lavender:
For widespread, systemic pain, or more severe pain, ingestion may be a better option. Consistent use twice a day is usually better for inflammation reduction. However, some people find that a single nighttime dose a few hours before bed works as well.
A Great Option for Systemic Inflammatory Discomfort:
CBD Just for Sleep
If you are one of those lucky people who does not suffer pain or anxiety and you want to try CBD just for sleep, here are a few recommendations:
Be willing to try different doses: The “start low, go slow” method works for sleep just like it does for other concerns. However, there is one caution - the training we received suggests using low dose CBD during the day first. This is as a precaution in case you find it energizing.
Time your dose properly: Depending on the method you want to use, timing may vary.
Capsules and Gummies take the longest for onset, so 2 hours is suggested. Oils take 30-45 minutes, which means they can be taken a bit later. Inhalable options take only 5-10 minutes and can be used just before retiring. Keep in mind that rapid in = rapid out. This means that the faster onset time also equates to a shorter duration of effects. The translation is that gummies and capsules are best for staying asleep because they are in your system the longest.
Be patient: Some people require up to 150mg of CBD to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. This means you may need to increase your dose many times before you see results. The idea is not to burn through a huge amount of CBD. The idea is to discover at what dose CBD is effective for you. If it is very high, we can discuss high dose options that may be best for you in the long run. For anyone thinking – why not just jump right to a very high dose – I have an answer. In addition to being bi-phasic, cannabis has a therapeutic curve. This means that results can decline if you blow right past whatever your therapeutic dose is.
Choose a product with additional relaxing ingredients: CBD does most of the work, but lavender, passionflower, chamomile, CBN, or an Indica terpene profile can all help give it a boost of relaxation.
Consider a CBG or CBGA: Some people, who find CBD helpul, but not perfect may find benefit in CBG or CBGA.
If this all seems like too much hassle, consider first how valuable good sleep is. However, you can certainly just pick a moderate dose option and just try it. A few of our best sellers for sleep:
Side Effects and Concerns About CBD for Sleep
The side effect profile for CBD is extremely low, which means that there are typically not many and that they are usually mild. However, there are rare exceptions, so a few things bear mentioning:
Dry Mouth: This is common with any cannabis or cannabis derivative. Typically increasing hydration helps, but drinking a bunch before bed is not ideal for obvious reasons.
Stomach Upset: This is very rare, but some people experience minor GI distress (gurgly tummy) when they first start using CBD. This usually resolves within 3-5 days. If you experience severe symptoms or it does not resolve, please discontinue use. Note that often people will react to the added ingredients rather than the CBD itself.
Medication Contraindications: If you have been advised not to eat grapefruit, speak to your physician about using CBD. The blood thinners coumadin and warfarin use the same liver pathway as CBD, which could result in your blood being too thin. It is always a good idea if you are on prescription medications to discuss CBD with your doctor.
Tolerance: Unlike melatonin, your body will not stop producing anything it needs if you take CBD. However, you can get “used to” CBD, which can make it less effective over time. Your options are to increase your dose, try a different method, or abstain for a short period to reset your tolerance.
Regulation and Quality: Like other supplements, including melatonin, CBD is not regulated by the FDA the same way prescription medications are. This means you need to be sure to source your CBD from a reputable and trustworthy organization. We vet all of our vendors for product quality and safety and can proudly tell you that we would be willing to use any of our products (and do use many). Our family and friends rely on them too!
The Bottom Line: CBD vs. Melatonin
Melatonin has one advantage over CBD – it is multiple times cheaper. However, if it doesn’t work or creates long-term problems, you may wish to invest in a good CBD product. Melatonin is perfectly fine for most people to use on an occasional basis as noted above. I always tell people in these situations that if melatonin works for you, by all means, use it (occasionally).
CBD has a few advantages over melatonin. For one, because it does not interfere with the body’s chemical production, discontinuing use does not leave you with any more problems than you had before you began. Your symptoms may return, but they won’t be worse. Another advantage is that CBD is useful for a lot more than just sleep. Almost no one exists without any pain or stress in their lives and CBD may help you with both. It also shows promise potentially helping the immune response, thus boosting overall wellness!
We hope you enjoy peaceful and restorative sleep no matter how you find it! As always, please reach out with any questions. You can reach us through chat right here on this page, by phone at 407-235-0653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org