Why Women Suffer From Insomnia More Than Men and How CBD Can Help Them

Sleep is a basic need, as important for a healthy life as exercise and a nutritious diet. Sleep provides the foundation for a productive day ahead. Seven to nine hours of sleep are needed for most people to function efficiently throughout the day. However, according to a 1998 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), women aged 30-60 get less than 7 hours of sleep during the workweek.

A 2002 NSF Sleep in America poll revealed that more women suffer from insomnia symptoms than men. While the 2005 poll results reiterated that women have more trouble falling and remaining asleep. Although anyone of any age or sex can experience insomnia, statistics lean towards women as being the most likely to suffer from it. These statistics can be related to the biological conditions unique to women. A woman’s hormone levels fluctuate and change throughout a month and over her lifetime. These hormones, like progesterone and estrogen, have a great impact on sleep.

According to a 2007 National Sleep Foundation poll, 33% of women reported that they have sleep problems during their menstrual cycle. Insomnia before the start of a woman’s next period may be due to a drop in their progesterone levels. Progesterone is a sleep-promoting hormone, and abrupt withdrawal of it can lead to difficulty sleeping. Menopausal women are another group likely to experience insomnia.

According to Dr. Emsellem, M.D., director of The Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders, 35 to 40 percent of women going through menopause have sleep problems. Throughout the course of menopause, a woman’s ovaries will gradually decrease their production of progesterone and estrogen. These changing hormone levels can be unsettling and lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.

These hormonal changes are also associated with pregnancy. Dr. Emsellem has said that the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can impact sleep patterns as well. This is supported by the American Pregnancy Association. They claim that it is normal for pregnant women to have insomnia, as the condition affects approximately 78% of them. However, insomnia caused by pregnancy is not solely due to hormonal changes. A common cause of insomnia amongst pregnant women is the discomfort and pain caused by the increased size of their stomach. Other factors include heartburn, anxiety, excitement, and frequent urination interrupting their sleep.

Hormonal changes along with the unsettling processes of menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy, are all contributing factors to the high rate of insomnia amongst women. Recent research, however, shows that women may also have a higher genetic risk of developing insomnia than men. This is according to a study conducted on approximately 7, 500 adult female and male twins. Mackenzie Lind, one of the researchers on the study, said that she was not surprised by the result, as previous studies have shown women to be 1.4 times more likely than men to report insomnia. According to Lind, women don’t have to lose hope as even genetically-influenced insomnia is treatable.

CBD as a Treatment for Insomnia

Insomnia is a condition that can have many underlying causes. Sleeping tablets are a quick way to deal with insomnia, but these can have various side effects and not reach the root of insomnia. CBD, on the other hand, has no known adverse effects and can deal with many of the underlying causes directly. If you are unable to sleep because of anxiety, CBD can reduce the anxiety and increase your sleep quality.

If you have difficulty sleeping because the pain keeps you awake, CBD will soothe the pain so you can have a peaceful sleep. However, it is always important to note that like prescription medications, the effect of CBD will differ per person and per illness. For one person it might completely relieve pain, while for another it might provide a calming effect.

CBD reacts with various chemicals and receptors in the brain to relieve pain and inflammation and produce its calming effect. Your body already produces its own cannabinoids as part of the endocannabinoid system. This system works to regulate many physiological processes in the body. These include our mood and perception of pain. CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system and enhances its powerful effects on mood and pain.

As mentioned earlier, pregnant women are more likely to have insomnia because of the anxiety that they may be experiencing. The ability of CBD to regulate mood will help reduce their anxiety, which can be helpful in reducing their insomnia. CBD has further been shown to have anti-depression effects due to its effect on the brain’s serotonin receptors. Depression is a common cause of sleep difficulties and can lead to lack of sleep or excessive amounts.

Those who have trouble sleeping because of pain will also find relief by using CBD, which will improve their sleep quality. CBD can be therapeutic for various forms of pain. These include chronic pain and pain that is usually difficult to treat. These include pain caused by arthritis, multiple sclerosis, headaches, and migraine. CBD also helps insomniacs as it can reduce the common symptoms of daytime sleepiness and difficulty staying alert. CBD is often mistaken as sedating, when in fact, smaller doses of CBD have been shown to reduce daytime sleepiness and stimulate alertness. It does this by activating the same adenosine receptors as caffeine does. Staying awake during the day is important for maintaining the sleep-wake cycle and preventing insomnia at night.

In addition to its range of benefits and lack of dangers, CBD does not need a prescription like the majority of sleeping medications. To experience the sedating effects of CBD to help ease pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness, you should take a higher dose. It is recommended to take 20+ mg CBD oil 30 minutes before going to bed. The dosage required to aid sleep may vary from person to person. 20-40 mg has been shown to reduce anxiety to a point where falling asleep is easier for some patients, while others might require a higher dose. The best thing to do is to start at a low dose and increase it according to its effectiveness.


Understanding more about the entourage effect of Cannabis

Curiosity about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis abounds and pharmaceutical companies are capitalizing by isolating and synthesizing cannabinoids, particularly CBD. However, this approach may be negating the effect of the combination of all of the plant’s components – the entourage effect.

Cannabis is a chemically rich plant and its buds are covered in a sticky resin that contains compounds called cannabinoids and terpenoids. These natural components of the plant are believed to interact to create a stronger effect than one component alone. The synergistic effect maximizes the potency and is known as the entourage effect.

A closer look at the compounds

THC and CBD (tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol)

Many of us are already familiar with the compounds THC and CBD found in the cannabis plant. The most common chemical found in cannabis is THC, the psychoactive element that produces the “high”.

THC has been created synthetically and used as a medication since the 1980s. One of these drugs, Marinol, is used to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. People often stop using Marinol because they say it is ineffective and has negative side effects, making them feel anxious. In the experience of many people, the effect of using synthetic THC on its own does not compare with using the whole plant.

CBD accounts for almost 40% of the cannabis extract. It’s plentiful and because it does not produce a “high”, it is now being used widely for medicinal purposes. Some scientists believe that the CBD modulates the effects of THC in the body by blocking some of the receptors.

In most countries, cannabis and THC are illegal while the legal status of CBD is rather unclear. CBD is technically illegal in the US because of its classification as a schedule 1 drug. However, the FDA recently cleared a pharmaceutical form of CBD to be tested on children with epilepsy.


In 2011, Ethen Russo, a psychopharmacologist, and researcher, studied the interactions between the cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis. His paper was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology and gave substance to the entourage idea.

Chemicals called Terpenes are found in a number of plants, including cannabis. These chemicals give cannabis its distinctive aroma. Over 200 of these terpenes have been identified and they interact with the THC and CBD.  A terpine called Myrcene enables beneficial chemicals to cross the blood-brain barrier more easily. A terpine called Pinene can counteract memory and cognition problems caused by THC.

The scientific literature on the entourage effect of the compounds found in the cannabis plant may be lacking but Russo is one of the scientists who firmly believe it exists.

Activating the chemicals

Dormant chemicals present in cannabis need to be activated. They can only be absorbed by the human body if they go through a process called decarboxylation. Heat is one of the many processes that are necessary for the cannabinoid acids to bind with receptors in the human body.

Without going through this process, the presence of carboxyl atoms would make this impossible. Both THC and CBD need to undergo a process to transform them from the raw state into one that is more available to humans. Once CBD has been through this process, it is usually mixed with a number of cannabis oils.

THC and CBD-only medicines

Medicines containing only CBD have become popular in recent years. When Charlotte’s Web, a particular strain of cannabis, was processed into a CBD oil and used effectively to treat epilepsy in a child, media coverage in the U.S. was extensive. Several states eventually adopted CBD-only laws, with THC-rich medication remaining illegal.

Therapeutic agents made from THC- and CBD-only medicines are used to treat patients with a wide variety of conditions and symptoms. These medicines usually offer patients some relief from pain and other symptoms, as well as increasing their appetite. These products have also pushed boundaries, opening individuals up to possible benefits and forcing changes in legislation.

Cannabis growers (often working illegally) have already experimented with crossing different plants to breed distinctive strains. They have been trying to use genetics to make the whole process more precise and to satisfy specific needs of recreational users. It is possible that  experiments like this may also produce plants or products that can be personalized to address the therapeutic needs of patients suffering from a wide range of conditions.

Clinical trials

Much of what is known about the efficacy of current products is anecdotal. Double-blind clinical trials still have to be conducted. However, anecdotal evidence has been enough to establish the idea of the entourage effect firmly in the cannabis industry and the minds of consumers.

Studies have been difficult because of the illegal status of cannabis. This has prevented many scientists from obtaining research licenses. However, more studies are currently being conducted and initial data appears to be very promising.

There is some concern about the fact that the value of using the CBD-only products may be overhyped, driven by marketing from those who want to make money. Results of tests done to show that it has an effect on pain and appetite but more studies are essential.

Therapeutic possibilities

While some patients are experiencing some benefit from using components of cannabis alone, anecdotal evidence and research are pointing out the value of using multiple cannabinoids together. Whole plant extracts, bred to contain similar amounts of THC and CBD as well as the other components, appears to be much more effective than medications made of single compounds.

This was the message promoted by media person and neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta when he changed his mind about cannabis as medicine. He began writing about the entourage effect and created more public awareness.

Scientific understanding of the medical possibilities of the cannabis plant is just beginning to grow. Researchers have an increased desire to study the plant and whole plant medicine options are being developed. This has exciting implications for the future.  Discovering all the synergistic possibilities of these components lies ahead and may just make a great difference in the lives of many people.


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