The Science Behind CBN and Sleep

CBD 101
The Science Behind CBN and Sleep

Read Time: 7 Minutes

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our well-being, and if you're like many people, you might be here looking for natural remedies to improve your sleep. In recent years, interest in the potential benefits of cannabinoids like THC and CBD for sleep issues has grown significantly.  You may have also heard of cannabinol, or CBN, which has gained a lot of attention as a potentially sedative cannabinoid, but scientists are still on the fence about how effective it is for sleep. In this article, we will delve into the science behind CBN and look at a few relevant studies to help you better understand how it works. 

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It holds a special place in the world of cannabinoids as it was the first one to be isolated and identified back in the 19th century, though it wasn't studied seriously until years later.¹ CBN is one of the many naturally occurring chemicals in cannabis that interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis, or balance, within the body.²

CBN is a naturally occurring minor cannabinoid formed when tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary intoxicating compound in cannabis, oxidizes, or breaks down over time.³ CBN can also be found in low concentrations in most cannabis and hemp strains. Exposure to oxygen, light, and heat can convert THC into CBN, and as a result, aged cannabis or cannabis products that have been stored improperly may contain higher levels of CBN.

CBN interacts with the ECS by binding to cannabinoid receptors, primarily CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system. CBN has a weaker affinity for these receptors compared to THC. Instead of directly activating CB1 receptors, CBN may modulate the activity of these receptors and other signaling pathways more subtly.

Research on CBN is still limited compared to major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but it's believed that CBN's potential effects are influenced by its interaction with the ECS, albeit to a lesser extent than THC. 

Does CBN make you sleepy?  

The association between CBN and sleep can be traced back to anecdotal reports and observations within the cannabis community. As mentioned earlier, CBN is formed when THC oxidizes over time. Aged cannabis with higher levels of CBN is often called sleepy weed because many growers and users believe that the degradation of THC into CBN causes sedative effects. However, these claims are based on personal experiences and subjective accounts rather than rigorous scientific studies.

The notion of CBN as a sleep aid gained traction through word-of-mouth, online forums, and social media platforms. Many growers warned others to avoid letting their plants flower for too long as the THC would degrade and turn the flowers into sleep medicine. Some people started seeking products labeled as high in CBN content for potential sleep benefits. Scientists are still unsure whether CBN makes you sleepy. 

While personal experiences can provide valuable insights, they are subjective and not a substitute for scientific research, with that said, it's essential to approach these anecdotal claims cautiously. The limited research on CBN and sleep patterns in animal models suggests that its effects may be more complex and nuanced than simply promoting sedation.

Further scientific studies are necessary to better understand the potential relationship between CBN and sleep. Rigorous research can help separate fact from fiction and provide a more evidence-based understanding of how CBN may or may not contribute to sleep improvement.

CBN and Sleep: What Science Says 

Several studies have examined the effects of cannabinoids on sleep, although CBN specifically has received a lot less attention than major cannabinoids like THC and CBD. However, one study provided valuable insights into the potential role of CBN in sleep. 

In a study conducted on rats, researchers found that CBN and cannabidiol (CBD) exerted opposite effects on sleeping patterns.⁵ CBN was observed to increase wakefulness and decrease non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep duration. On the other hand, CBD increased NREM sleep duration and did not affect wakefulness significantly. With that in mind, evidence suggests that CBN might not be as effective in promoting sleep as other cannabinoids.⁶ 

That's not necessarily to say that CBN doesn't help with sleep, though. CBN's interactions with the ECS may affect the relationship between cannabinoids and sleep. For example, your ECS is crucial in balancing your sleeping and waking cycle.⁷ CBN may interact with the cannabinoid receptors within the ECS to potentially modulate neurotransmitter release and influence sleep-wake cycles.

Some researchers also speculate that CBN may have sedative effects due to its potential interaction with GABAergic neurotransmission.⁸ GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. CBN may enhance GABAergic signaling, leading to a calming effect that could aid in sleep induction.⁹ 

Further, CBN may offer a few potential therapeutic benefits that affect sleep. For example, chronic pain and inflammation may make it hard to get a good night's sleep. CBN, along with other cannabinoids like THC and CBD, may promote anti-inflammatory effects that may help minimize discomfort at bedtime, making it easier to get the rest you need.¹⁰

Similarly, anxiety and stress can disrupt sleep patterns and make it challenging to fall or stay asleep. Some evidence suggests that cannabinoids, including CBN, may have a soothing effect on the ECS, which may help reduce anxiety and create a more conducive environment for sleep.¹¹ 

It's just important to keep in mind that most scientific research on the relationship between cannabinoids and sleep utilizes multiple cannabinoids in full-spectrum cannabis oil. So it's hard to determine whether or not CBN itself is sedative or if it works in synergy with other cannabinoids and their potential effects to help promote sleep in an entourage effect. More research is still needed to fully understand its mechanisms and potential benefits in humans.

What are the best cannabinoids for sleep? 

If CBN isn't a bona fide sleep aid, can cannabis oils still help you get the rest you need? While there is limited scientific evidence specifically on CBN's effects on sleep, most sleep studies have focused on full-spectrum cannabis oils, including a combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and natural plant compounds that may promote various effects. Full-spectrum CBD products, which contain a variety of cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, and CBN, may offer a more comprehensive approach than taking CBN alone. 

For example, a study in mice investigated the effects of different cannabinoids, including THC, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and CBD, on sleep and wakefulness.¹² The findings suggested that THC significantly increased sleep duration, while CBDA and CBD had no significant effects. CBN was not included in this particular study, but cannabinoids still show promise for sleep. 

One significant advantage of full-spectrum products is the potential for the entourage effect. The entourage effect refers to the idea that cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds present in the cannabis plant work synergistically to enhance each other's therapeutic benefits.¹³ By using full-spectrum products, people may better enjoy the combined effects of THC, CBD, and CBN for sleep. 

CBD, for example, indirectly affects sleep by supporting a balanced ECS. CBD interacts with the ECS by modulating cannabinoid receptors and influencing the release of sleeping and waking hormones. CBD may help regulate sleep patterns and improve sleep quality by promoting balance within the ECS.¹⁴ 

Although known for its intoxicating properties, THC may offer relaxing effects that might facilitate sleep onset. Evidence suggests that it may have sedative properties, which might contribute to the overall calming effect of full-spectrum products.¹⁵ However, it's important to note that including THC in sleep products may not be suitable for everyone, especially for people sensitive to feeling high or people subject to drug testing.

Moreover, CBD and THC have been studied for their potential anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties, which might indirectly impact sleep.¹⁶ As we mentioned, anxiety and inflammation are common factors contributing to pain and restlessness, disrupting sleep patterns. By addressing these underlying issues, full-spectrum products may provide a more holistic approach to sleep improvement.

Further Research is Needed 

Evidence to support CBN as a sleep aid is limited, but available research indicates that full-spectrum products may offer a more well-rounded approach to sleep-related issues or insomnia than CBN alone. With that being said, if a company is selling CBN isolate as a sleep product, you don't want to buy it from them as they are peddling misinformation and an unsafe product. 

Recognizing the limited existing research on CBN and sleep, ongoing studies are essential for a more comprehensive understanding of its effects, but there is hope as researchers are just as curious as the public.  Currently, the University of Sydney is running a sleep study to take a more in-depth look at CBN and its relationship to sleep.¹⁷ 

Always talk to your doctor before incorporating new products into your sleep routine to rule out any potential interactions or complications. With patience, time, and continued scientific investigation, we may better understand the relationship between CBN and sleep, paving the way for effective natural solutions to promote restful nights.

Final Thoughts 

While CBN has garnered attention as a potential sleep aid, it's crucial to approach the topic with fact-based perspective and acknowledge the need for further research. The available studies on CBN and sleep provide limited conclusive evidence.  Ongoing research and exploration of full-spectrum products offer promising avenues for individuals seeking natural remedies to improve their sleep quality.

If you're looking to explore natural remedies for sleep, choosing reputable products from trustworthy brands is crucial. Lazarus Naturals offers a range of sleep-focused products, including sleep gummies and capsules formulated with full-spectrum hemp extract and other functional ingredients that work together to support balanced sleep. This holistic approach aligns with the growing understanding of the entourage effect and the potential synergy between cannabinoids, terpenes, and you.