Melatonin and CBD have emerged as preferred sleeping aids. But which is better? While the debate of CBD vs melatonin rages, SleepSherpa tries to shed some light on it. Discover the benefits and trade-offs of each, as well as a solution that combines both.
CBD vs. Melatonin – Which is a Better Alternative
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Sleep disorders have been on the rise since the past decade or so. It is hard to find people who experience healthy sleep every night or don’t resort to a sleep aid. Because sleep is vital to mental and physical health, the growing incidence of sleep disorders around the world is concerning. Sleep disorders are more common in the US than any other country; the reason why scientists and sleep experts are always trying to find out the causes behind it and possible solutions.
If you are one of those people who has failed to get a good night’s sleep in a long time, you are acutely aware of how sleep disorders can strip your life of joy and peace. When you are sleep deprived sleep deprived, everything becomes harder than usual. You lose your appetite, you are unmotivated to work out, your social and personal commitments suffer, and your productivity at work keeps dropping. In fact, the American economy suffers a loss of millions of dollars every year simply because of workers not getting enough sleep.
Don’t be surprised, because sleep disorders have far-reaching consequences. Sleep deficiency causes daytime sleepiness and drowsiness, causing accidents and injuries. Drowsy driving is one dangerous consequence of sleep deficiency and daytime sleepiness. It is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Of course, no person can go without sleep for a long time, and they all reach for some kind of sleep aid at some point. However, the recent FDA warning about conventional sleep medications has led people to look for natural solutions to sleep disorders.
Dangers of Sleep Medication
A large number of people depend on sleep medications for a good night’s rest. Older people have usually prescribed sleep medicines because they are unable to get proper sleep any longer. However, even though in the beginning the medications work as intended, they are harmful in the long run because the user starts to get dependent on them. Most sleeping pill users are unable to sleep again without taking the medication, and the dependence only keeps growing. Most doctors do not hesitate to increase the dosage, but this only adds to the danger.
The FDA has recently called out certain sleep medications for being dangerous and causing injuries and accidents. However, even without the FDA warning, most people have always known about the side effects of conventional sleep medications. They are quick to work, but the chemicals in them are harmful to health and often make sleep disorder worse. Increasing the dosage of the medicine only leads to sleeping pill abuse, some of the most common symptoms of which are:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty with coordination and focus
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Foggy memory
- Itching and swelling
- Lightheadedness or other vision changes
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Hoarseness of the throat
If sleep medications are continued for a long time, it can lead to other health complications and even death. These fears are not unwarranted because there are a large number of people suffering from the side effects of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills being available over the counter have also contributed to their overuse.
All these fears surrounding sleeping pills have led people to look for natural alternatives. At the moment, there are two natural sleep solutions, one of them proven and the other debatable. They are melatonin and cannabidiol.
Melatonin Supplements for Sleep
Melatonin is the sleep hormone produced by the brain in response to the dark. When the sun begins to set, the body clock tells the brain it’s time to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us relax, makes us feel drowsy and ultimately gets us to sleep. Melatonin is hindered by bright lights and triggered by darkness. That is the reason why sleeping in a dark room is the healthiest.
Imbalances in the production of melatonin are often responsible for sleep disorders. If shunning bright lights don’t work, then a possible remedy is melatonin supplement. This is a natural sleep remedy that has recently started to be administered to insomnia patients. The reason why melatonin supplement has become so popular is that it is not known to have any side effect for it simply replicates the natural melatonin produced by the brain. The melatonin supplement remedies any imbalance and helps the hormone function normally to bring about healthy sleep.
So far melatonin supplements have not been found to cause any adverse side effect. Because this hormone is already produced by the body, melatonin supplements simply aim to correct any shortage or imbalance of the hormone. However, because melatonin supplements tend to work very quickly, the dosage must be appropriate and timed right. Otherwise, the person can feel drowsy well into the next morning.
CBD Oil as Sleep Aid
Another popular sleep solution that is still controversial to some extent is cannabidiol. Also called CBD, this is a natural extract of the hemp plant, and has been hailed to be highly beneficial for a lot of health issues. One of the most popular uses of CBD is in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. Although the exact connection between CBD and sleep is not yet known sleep experts believe that CBD helps induce sleep by reducing anxiety and stress. If you have stress and anxiety related issues that prevent you from falling or staying asleep at night, CBD can be used as a natural alternative to conventional sleep medications.
However, if your sleep issues are caused by other health problems or hormonal imbalances, then CBD will not be effective. CBD is also highly controversial and not easily available everywhere. Unlike melatonin, CBD has not been proven to be beneficial for sleep disorders and should be consumed only after a consultation with a healthcare practitioner.
Before resorting to a sleep aid, it is recommended that you try making lifestyle changes to deal with sleep disorders. If all else fails, talk to your doctor to adopt the safest possible way to induce sleep and reduce sleep deprivation.
CBD vs Melatonin For Sleep
Of all the over-the-counter natural ingredients for better sleep, melatonin may be the most common. Recently, however, CBD has emerged as a promising solution for a good night’s sleep. Below, we explain the benefits and trade-offs of each, as well as a solution that combines both.
What is CBD?
In order to talk about CBD, we first have to zoom out to cannabinoids, which is a fancy word to describe some of the naturally-occurring, bioactive compounds found in cannabis, including:
- Cannabidiol (CBD): non-psychoactive compound derived from the hemp plant
- Cannabinol (CBN): derived from the oxidation and decomposition of THC from the hemp plant
- Cannabigerol (CBG): the first phytocannabinoid synthesized in the hemp plant that then converts into other cannabinoids
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the active compound in the cannabis plant responsible for its psychoactive effects (this is what gets you “high”)
Over 140 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, as well as in cloves, black pepper, echinacea, broccoli, among others.
Although it’s all grouped under the umbrella of “cannabis,” not all products contain significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Who CBD is best for
If you’re finding it difficult to fall or stay asleep due to stress and anxiety (that usually manifests as a racing mind), CBD may be a great alternative to traditional sleep aids.
Different forms of CBD + how to take it
Benefit: Easy to incorporate as part of your wellness supplement routine—and ideal if you’re looking for CBD sleep support.
What to look for: High-quality supplements formulated without added fillers or binders, as well as supplements tested for potency and purity. You should also be able to access the certificate of analysis.
What to look for: CBD products with high-quality hemp extraction methods, which offer the cleanest and most pure ingredients (and thus preserve the cannabinoids and terpenes). Also, make sure your product is infused with CBD rather than simply coated with a CBD isolate/sugar mixture.
What to look for: CBD tinctures that are third-party tested for safety and contain no fillers or isolated plant compounds.
Does CBD help support sleep?
Research on the benefits of CBD is emerging, which means studies are still in progress and information is constantly evolving. But what we know to date is promising.
Insomnia + CBD
Although the term “insomnia” is thrown around quite a bit, by clinical standards it’s defined as trouble falling or staying asleep at least three nights/week for at least one month. CBD may help by addressing the root causes of insomnia, including anxiety and pain.
Anxiety + CBD
Stress and anxiety elevate cortisol levels, which impact melatonin levels, which disrupt our sleep-wake cycle. CBD may work to calm the nervous system and, in a recent study, (1) 80% of participants reported lower anxiety and 65% reported improved sleep.
Also, because insomnia affects daytime wakefulness, concentration, and mood, it can also lead to anxiety come nighttime about getting inadequate sleep—a vicious cycle that CBD may help ease.
Physical Discomfort + CBD
There is evidence (2) showing that CBD may significantly reduce physical discomfort by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters from nerve endings, modulating neuron excitability, and reducing neural inflammation. Because physical discomfort is a significant culprit of various sleep disorders, researchers conclude that, by reducing discomfort, CBD also supports sleep.
How to select CBD supplements
It’s important to look for CBD supplements with a Certificate of Analysis, which is a document from an accredited third-party or internal cGMP-certified laboratory verifying the cannabinoid quantity in each specific product batch and ensuring labeling accuracy with regards to THC content. Refer to our guide to COAs for more on where to find them, how to read them, and red flags to look out for.
Other things to look for include:
- Hemp sourced from a responsible, vertically-integrated supplier for seed-to-shelf quality control and traceability
- Supplements that are THC-free (this is the substance that gets you “high”)
- Supplements with clinically-studied, non-hemp ingredients at dosage levels proven to promote quality sleep
- Tested for purity and verified free of heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides
- U.S. manufactured and produced in an FDA-approved, “Good Manufacturing Practices”-compliant facility
Side effects of CBD
Outside of drowsiness and fatigue (which some believe is related to the dosage), no notable side effects have been observed, leading researchers to conclude that CBD is well-tolerated among adults.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, then released into the bloodstream. Quantities naturally increase as the sun goes down and decrease during daytime hours and exposure to bright light, thus regulating the sleep-wake cycle (aka circadian rhythm).
When it’s produced within our bodies, it goes by the name endogenous melatonin; however, some also choose to supplement their natural levels as a way to effectively adjust and regulate their body’s internal clock.
Who melatonin is best for
Melatonin is best for those suffering from circadian rhythm sleep disorders such as:
Officially known as “Rapid Time Zone Change Syndrome,” jet lag messes with your sleep times and wake times as you cross into new time zones, especially when traveling east.
Does melatonin work?
As is the case with all natural sleep supplements, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your sleep and overall health must be evaluated holistically to help you understand and solve the issue(s) at hand.
That being said, there is research supporting the efficacy of melatonin. One meta-analysis in particular, (3) which compared melatonin against placebo in improving sleep parameters for patients with primary sleep disorders, showed that the supplement reduced sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) by 7.06 minutes and increased total sleep time by 8.25 minutes. Also promising was the fact that trials with a longer duration and higher doses of melatonin demonstrated greater effects on decreasing sleep latency and increasing total sleep time.
How to select melatonin supplements
It’s important to do your research to ensure your supplement of choice contains what it says it does and is not contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides. Here’s what to look for when selecting a melatonin supplement for short-term or longer-term use:
- Third-party tested for purity and verified free of heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides
- U.S. manufactured and produced in a Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, “Good Manufacturing Practices”-compliant facility
- If the supplement has other ingredients or botanicals, ensure they are standardized to guarantee consistent purity, potency, and efficacy
- Free of artificial colors or binders
- Non-GMO and, if it’s important to you, vegan, gluten/dairy/sugar-free
Side effects of melatonin
A small percentage of melatonin users have been found to experience daytime drowsiness, sleepiness, headaches, and dizziness; however, there is no evidence of a risk for serious, clinically significant adverse events (AEs). (4) As a precautionary measure, it’s recommended that users not drive or use machinery for four to five hours after taking melatonin.
Melatonin + CBD are not mutually exclusive
While it’s important to understand the differences between melatonin and CBD as sleep aids, it’s equally as important to recognize that there are supplements containing both, such as Proper’s Sleep + Restore with CBD formulation which, unlike other CBD supplements, was specifically designed to support sleep.
We started with our Core Sleep foundation of four key clinically-studied ingredients at dosage levels proven to promote sleep: Sensoril® Ashwagandha, GABA, Venetron®, and valerian root extract. From there, we added both standard and MicroActive® extended-release melatonin in order to provide sleep support throughout the night. And finally, we added THC-free broad spectrum hemp extract (CBD), omega-3 oil, and terpenes, which emerging science shows may reduce stress and anxiety to further improve sleep quality.