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CBN, Sleep & Insomnia: Dream or Reality?

Posted by Daniel Gordon on

Not getting enough sleep (or not being able to fall asleep in the first place) is frequently cited as one of the biggest threats to our overall health. 

But what if there was a natural sleep aid, without psychoactive effects, that could help you get your full eight hours every night? You’d be excited, rightMany users are currently reporting cannabinol (CBN) - one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant - as just that. 

In this post, we’ll introduce CBN and its effects, then do a deep-dive into the current scientific research and anecdotal evidence for using CBN for sleep. 

What is CBN (cannabinol)?

To put it simply, cannabinol (CBN) is a byproduct that comes from old cannabis. Until recently it was seen as a waste product. As cannabis is exposed to heat and oxygen, THC is broken down and becomes CBN.

CBN is non-psychoactive, which means (unlike cannabis containing THC) you won’t get high from using it. But what is CBN oil good for? 

Users swear by its effectiveness for pain relief, reducing anxiety, limiting inflammation, increasing appetite, and - as we’ll explore later - a sleep aid for prolonging or inducing sleep.

It’s available as CBN oil, CBN isolate, or CBN distillate forms. Check out our CBN Isolate 101 if you’d like a more in-depth explanation.

With increasing interest and demand as a result of various research studies - and of course the popularity of CBD oil - hobbyists, researchers and manufacturers have developed extraction methods to explore the effects of this (possibly) unsung hero of the cannabinoid word. 

Does CBN make you feel tired? Is it a sedative?

It depends on who you ask. 

Promising user reports and reviews point to the fact that CBN results in falling to sleep much quicker than usual (1), (2), and attribute dosing before bed to a ‘heavy-eye feeling.’ Some users report a rapid onset of sleepiness that results in dropping off as soon as their “head hits the pillow.”

On the other hand, scientific research is not so clear cut...

Drugged, Drowsy, Drunk, and Dizzy?

One study from 1975 found that CBN had a significant effect on sleep in humans although suggested sedation only occurred in combination with THC. 

The study from 1975 showed that subjects felt more drugged, drowsy, drunk, and dizzy (the four D’s!) when taking oral doses of THC combined with CBN, compared to only using CBN alone.

While this study is very widely quoted and referenced when discussing CBN, the methodology of the research isn’t airtight. The main criticisms of the study are a small sample size, too many comparisons, and a lack of correlation between dosage and effects.

Of Mice, Not Men...

Another research paper from 1995 showed that the cannabinoid CBN was (in some cases) effective in prolonging sleep in mice.

Again, while the 1995 study is widely quoted when promoting CBN’s effects for sleep, there are also plenty of studies that contradict its findings. Studies from 1974 and 1971 show the complete opposite, in fact (1), (2).

Science: Maybe; Users: Yes

Just like cannabis and CBD, CBN is receiving huge attention for its health benefits, and effects on pain and sleep. 

While the research is currently inconclusive, it’s important to remember that many of these studies were last undertaken over 40 years ago. In the current environment of increasing cannabis legalization, we can expect cannabinoids like cannabinol to be studied much more. 

Just like CBD a few years ago, there was little evidence for its effectiveness in improving health and ameliorating various ailments. Fast forward five years and millions of users swear by it.

CBN could be the same. As the anecdotal evidence and positive testimonials from users increase, CBN should begin to receive more attention from consumers, media, and the scientific community alike. 

Is CBN or CBD better for sleep?

While both CBD and CBN share a lot of similar properties as purported effects, it’s widely reported that CBN is preferable to CBD for assisting in improving sleep. 

Neither of the substances produces intoxicating or psychoactive effects, but they do seem to affect your high when mixed with THC. When combining THC with CBD you’re likely to reduce the intensity of the high and reduce the likelihood of negative effects like paranoia. CBN on the other hand seems to produce a mildly sedative high conducive to better quality sleep. 

How much CBN should you take for sleep?

Finding the correct dosage for CBN will take some experimentation on your part. There is no standard dose. You should start off low, and work your way up to high levels as required. 

After a review of current best practices, you’ll find that users report getting their desired effects anywhere between 1-6 mg if vaped and 4-66 mg if taken orally. This is a huge range, so it’s worth stating again: start slowly and increase your dose by a small amount (say, 0.5 - 1mg) each time. 

If you're vaping, you should wait around 30 minutes before deciding whether you need to ‘top-up’ your dosage. Oral ingestion will always produce a much slower onset of effects, so it’s recommended that you wait two hours for it to fully manifest before determining your next dose. 

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