Insomnia is a widespread problem among the general population; in fact, the Sleep Heath Foundation estimates that at least one out of three people suffer from some degree of insomnia. While sufferers have access to a plethora of over-the-counter and prescription medications designed to help them sleep, relatively few provide the desired results. Further, doctors are in widespread agreement that even those sleeping pills that are effective become ineffective with prolonged use.
A New Hope
Increased research into the medicinal properties of cannabis-derived compounds has revealed information that recreational users have known for years: Cannabis is a powerful sedative.
While this may be helpful for those who don’t mind the intoxicating effects associated with raw cannabis, it is of little use for those who want a non-psychoactive sleep aid. Fortunately, it appears that the sedating effects of the plant primarily arise from a single active ingredient, or cannabinoid, in cannabis: Cannabinol (CBN).
To get a better grasp on the way cannabis – specifically cannabinol – sedates patients, you must learn a little bit about how cannabinoids work in the brain.
The human brain has something called an endocannabinoid system, which consists of specialized neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids and receptors that interact with these neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters alter the way in which messages are relayed in your brain. If you increase or reduce the number of endocannabinoids floating around in your brain, you can temporarily change the way it works.
Normally, this system picks up and responds to endocannabinoids that your brain has produced, so everything proceeds relatively normally. However, some chemicals are so similar to endocannabinoids that they do interact with the receptors, and elicit changes in the brain function. Some of these chemicals are produced by cannabis plants; they are called cannabinoids.
Therefore, if you ingest cannabis, the cannabinoids it contains will temporarily change the way your brain functions.
Cannabis contains a number of different cannabinoids, and each one appears to cause different effects.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most famous such cannabinoid, as it is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Another well-understood cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, and does not get users “high.” It does, however, provide a number of important medicinal benefits. For example, CBD is used to treat seizures and asthma.
Cannabinol (CBN) is another important cannabinoid, and as said above, the one responsible for the sedating effects of cannabis. While scientists do not yet understand the exact way in which cannabinol sedates users, they do know that it interacts with both types of cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Cannabinol Is Derived from THC
Cannabinol is only present in very small amounts of most raw cannabis samples. However, as cannabis ages, some of the THC present begins to degrade and convert to CBN. This is actually quite useful information for those who use medicinal cannabis to combat insomnia. While some strains contain higher amounts of cannabinol than others, you can increase the amount of cannabinol in almost any sample by simply allowing it to age a bit. This will allow more THC to degrade into CBN, thereby producing a superior sleep aid.