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Considering CBD or Melatonin for Sleep? What to Know

People going through treatment for cancer deal with several difficult physical and emotional symptoms, but the one that is especially frustrating is poor sleep. Not sleeping well leaves you with daytime fatigue, irritability and trouble concentrating long enough to get anything done, which is especially upsetting on days that you have off from medical appointments. Being awake in the middle of the night is psychologically difficult given that the quiet of night hours leave little to distract you from worries about your cancer experience and other life stressors.

Given the distress of not sleeping, of course people are going to look for relief. Just one Google search, conversation with a friend, or inquiry about insomnia at the pharmacy will likely bring up the suggestion of using CBD (cannabidiol) or melatonin. Both supplements are widely marketed and promise to help people rest well without the trouble of a prescription. They are both considered “natural” remedies, which appeals to people.

If you’re considering one of these options, the most important thing to know is that since supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration there is no quality control or oversight of these products. In fact, studies have shown that in a high percentage of cases, what is in the supplement is not exactly what is on the label. Supplement contamination with other sedatives or added chemicals to help with shelf life, smell, consistency, etc. may come serious side effects such a lung injury as the recent news about vaping harms demonstrated.В

CBD can legally be obtained from the hemp plant (a cousin of the marijuana plant) since the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018. However, regulation of the hemp growing industry is not widely done, and what is sold as CBD may actually have more THC (the psychoactive part of the marijuana plant) than you want, which could cause an abrupt change in thinking which is very anxiety provoking for some people (and not good for sleep!). The CBD products are so new to the market that we have almost no research into whether or not CBD helps insomnia in patients with cancer, or is safe during cancer treatment. Be sure to talk to your oncologist if you are planning to use a CBD supplement.

There has been more use of melatonin in medical care, primarily because it has always been legal, but also because there is research to support the use of melatonin to correct circadian rhythm disorders, situations when people have their days and nights reversed because of jet lag or night shift work. If melatonin is used for insomnia, the recommendation is to take it 2 hours before bed, because the goal is not to feel sleepy right away, but to reset your circadian rhythm, meaning the melatonin in your body gets released at the right time in the day night cycle.

Is it better to take one of these supplements than a prescription sleep aide like Ambien or Lunesta? Supplements still come with side effects (sedation, confusion, falls, and medication interactions), they may be more expensive than prescriptions (so no financial savings) and there is no guarantee “natural” is better. Actually, the best medicine for insomnia is not a medication or supplement at all, but a type of therapy called “cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia” (CBT-I). This therapy, backed by research, is administered by a professional therapist and emphasizes healthy sleep hygiene. If you do not have access to CBT-I therapy, you can still make changes to your sleep hygiene – and improve your sleep – on your own.

For better sleep, set up your daily schedule so that you are primed for restorative rest at night:

  • Get out of bed at the same time every single day (alarms are helpful), and let your eyes be exposed to morning light. The morning light will reset the melatonin already in your body.
  • If you drink any caffeine, only drink it at breakfast (the half-life is long, it will be in your system at night).
  • Get outside and walk daily – exercise is literally medicine for your sleep.
  • Schedule time to manage cancer (scheduling appointments, research, bills) early in the day, and no cancer talk after dinner (so you are not thinking about it when you try to sleep).
  • Put a paper and pen by the bed, and if you have a worry or question pop up, jot it down, better on the paper than in your head.
  • Sleep in a cave (a cold, dark, quiet room) and turn off all screens at least one hour before bed (the light will disrupt your day night cycle).

Talk to your doctor about your sleep and whether you might need an appointment with a specialist. If your sleep is disrupted by clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, then treating the mood and worry will be the appropriate sleep medicine.

Having cancer is hard enough, and then trying to manage sleep disturbances on top of that does not seem fair. However, the payoff for working on your sleep is so worth it! Feeling rested in the morning makes the day feel like something you can handle. Patients in survivorship have commented that the skills that they developed during cancer treatment are useful long after treatment ends. “I did not want to deal with cancer, but it taught me a lot about really taking care of myself,” “if I pay attention to my sleep habits, I my energy is so much better” and “there is no perfect pill for sleep, but I know I will eventually sleep, especially if my days are busy.”

Wendy Baer, MD, is the medical director of psychiatric oncology atВ the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityВ in Atlanta. Dr. Baer helps patients and their families deal with the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment. Her expertise in treating clinical depression and anxiety helps people manage emotions, behaviors and relationships during difficult times.

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People going through treatment for cancer deal with several difficult physical and emotional symptoms, but the one that is especially …

Can You Take CBD and Melatonin Together?

Both CBD and melatonin are known for their relaxing effects on the body and mind and are used separately to treat various sleep disorders, including insomnia. But what if you could combine them and get a synergistic effect? Is this a really good idea or is it better to just let them do their job on their own? Let’s find out the answers to these questions.

  • What Is Melatonin, and How Does It Help?
  • How Does CBD Help in Sleeping?
  • What Is Common between Melatonin and CBD?
  • Can You Take CBD with Melatonin?
  • Useful Tips
  • The Best Products

What Is Melatonin, and How Does It Help?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain, which helps in regulating the sleep–wake cycle of the body. Its highest amounts are released at night, compared to the day, and these fluctuations in the natural melatonin levels manage your sleeping cycles, also called the circadian rhythms.

People resort to synthetic melatonin for treating their insomnia when their natural secretion is not enough. This dietary supplement activates special receptors in your brain called the MT1 and MT2 receptors to help you sleep. (1) Its advantage is that, unlike other sleeping pills, synthetic melatonin does not get you intoxicated, but simply tells your body that it is the time to fall asleep.

Since this hormone is naturally produced in your body, using synthetic product for the treatment of insomnia is called the melatonin replacement therapy. This therapy can come to your aid in several following ways:

  • treating insomnia,
  • decreasing latency of sleep,
  • overcoming jet lag,
  • decreasing wake-up time after sleep sets in,
  • increasing efficiency of sleep,
  • adjusting sleeping cycles for the individuals with partial or complete blindness.

How Does CBD Help in Sleeping?

Like all cannabinoids, CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors, which form an important part of the regulatory system of the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The reason why ECS is so important is that it maintains the balance of the body’s natural rhythms and regulates a lot of processes, including mood, stress, pain, appetite, memory, metabolism, immunity and of course sleep.

According to the numerous studies, the effect of CBD on sleep behavior depends on the dosage taken: a low dose can stimulate, while a high dose will induce sedation. The 2017 study has also found that CBD may help in the treatment of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), excessive daytime sleepiness and grogginess. (2)

What Is Common between Melatonin and CBD?

CBD helps your body in regulating the sleep patterns through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. They belong to the same group called GPCR (G protein-coupled receptors) as the aforementioned MT1 and MT2 receptors activated by melatonin. This means that CBD and melatonin have similar effect on body processes, which makes them natural allies in promoting better sleep.

Moreover, studies revealed the ability of CBD to interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. The neurotransmitter serotonin derived from the amino acid tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin. It regulates sleep, memory, mood, social behavior, and appetite. Although CBD doesn’t necessarily increase serotonin levels, it can mimic its effects by binding and activating the 5-HT1A and other serotonin receptors. (3)

Can You Take CBD with Melatonin?

Yes, since CBD and melatonin act in the similar way, they can be used as natural complements to each other. Moreover, when they are combined, they can be even more effective, because melatonin helps you fall asleep faster, while CBD improves sleep quality, which together leads to a long and restful sleep.

The best part is that, unlike the benzodiazepines, these two will not end up causing hangovers, addiction and other side effects. The only thing you need to keep in mind is to get the dose right. A good idea would be to use 10mg of melatonin and 20-25mg of CBD, which are the usual dosages taken by most adults, or buy CBD sleep products with the right dosages.

Useful Tips

There are two following ways to boost the efficiency of sleep supplements:

  • Use dim red lights before sleep. Studies have shown that blue light suppresses melatonin, whereas red light does not have such effect and even boosts natural melatonin secretion. (4)
  • Lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, that acts opposite to melatonin, which means that lowering its levels will increase the effect of melatonin supplements. Try meditation, gentle exercise, outdoor walking and eating healthy carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potato squash, or quinoa, before going to a bed.

The Best Products

CBD Gummies for Sleep with Melatonin

With 5mg of melatonin and 10mg of CBD per serving, these all-natural and vegan gummies are designed to help you sleep better at night and feel more refreshed in the morning.

CBD + Melatonin Dissolvable Sleep Tablets

These spearmint-flavored dissolvable tablets combine 10mg of melatonin with 25mg of cannabidiol to help you enjoy a faster and deeper night’s sleep.

Is combining CBD with melatonin really a good idea? Or, is it better to just let melatonin do its job? Let's find out the answers to these questions ]]>