Sleep can be challenging at any age, but an estimated 40-70% of older adults have chronic sleep issues.1 Busy mind, fluctuating hormones, medical conditions, pain and stress may be to blame, and those suffering have usually tried an array of sleep aids, including me. 

My symptoms may sound familiar: night sweats, need to urinate, busy brain. I prefer natural products; however, valerian root and melatonin have not worked well. Magnesium does help, and I take 800mg of magnesium glycinate most nights, but sometimes I need more. 

In the medical marijuana field, there is a new star touted as a very effective sleep aid. It’s not CBD or THC, but CBN (cannabinol). 

 CBN is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, as are THC and CBD. These cannabinoids interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system and can influence the biochemical and physiological balance.2 While THC is known for its psychoactive properties, CBD and CBN are non-psychoactive and lauded for their therapeutic benefits. CBD has proven beneficial in treating anxiety, depression and pain and is FDA approved for use in treating epilepsy.3 Studies on CBN are in the infancy stage, but show promise in reducing symptoms of glaucoma, relieving muscle pain4 and inducing more restful sleep. A study published this year by the Salk Institute found that CBN also protects neurons from oxidative stress and cell death, demonstrating potential for treating age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.5

CBN forms when THC degrades due to exposure to heat, air and/or light,3 but it does not retain the properties of THC that get you high. “At this point, CBN is the most sedative, non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is currently in production,” says Declan Reilly, general manager of operations at Bulldog Cannabis. “CBN helps you get past the initial sleep stages (N1-N3) and into REM sleep where your body is repairing itself, and your relaxed mind is doing what it should to help you get the rest you need.” 

While there are products containing only CBN (most derived from hemp), the majority do contain some THC for effectiveness. “The benefit of taking any form of cannabinoid in correlation to THC is that the presence of the THC activates more of the cannabinoid receptors throughout your body,” explains Reilly. “This creates more open spaces active to receiving the CBN or CBD.”

CBN products include edibles, oils, tinctures and more, and Reilly says customers of all ages are seeking them. “Younger clients are usually looking for something to quiet their brain, while many older clients are looking for products that also help with pain which is keeping them awake.” For pain caused by arthritis or inflammation, he recommends products with CBD in addition to THC and CBN. 

Finding what works best for you sometimes requires experimentation. I found an effective CBN/THC product and started with 5mg working my way up to the recommended 10mg dose. Within 30 minutes it induces sleepiness and a one- glass-of-wine style buzz. I fall right to sleep and if I wake, go right back to sleep. No grogginess in the morning, only relief at my restful slumber. 

As always, we recommend checking with your health care practitioner before starting any new supplement or medication.

Lauren Del Sarto is founder/publisher of Desert Health and can be reached at [email protected].

References: 1); 2); 3); 4); 5)

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