Why CBN Is Primed To Become the New Sleep Aid for Those Wanting Quality ZZZs

Photo: Getty Images/ Susanne Walstrom

CBD has been all the buzz in wellness for awhile now, but did you know that there are more than 100 other cannabinoids (the chemical compounds that give cannabis its healing properties)? While CBD and THC tend to steal the show, cannabinol (CBN) has been getting more attention of late due. Specifically people are interested in using CBN for sleep.

CBN is still relatively under the radar. The Global Drug Survey, the largest drug survey in the world, shared that only 2.5 percent of cannabis users reported having used it. Currently, there is limited research into the use and effectiveness of CBN as a medical treatment, and while there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBN has therapeutic potential, the limited number of studies that have been conducted have been either small or inconclusive.

Experts In This Article

So in many ways, the conversation around CBN right now feels very similar to talk of CBD six years ago when it was first beginning to trend in wellness. But with its potential uses including improving sleep, reducing inflammation, and managing pain, CBN is poised to rival its fellow cannabinoids for prime real estate in your supplements collection before long.

What CBN is and how it works

“CBN is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is naturally produced by the cannabis plant,” says sleep scientist Vanessa Hill, PhD. "While THC is psychoactive and CBD is good for treating pain and managing anxiety, CBN is a sedative, which is why it’s been linked to sleep.” CBN is formed at the end of the plant cycle, during the time THC begins to break down. Once extracted, it can be transformed into various products like tinctures, capsules, and gummies.

CBN was the first cannabinoid to be identified and isolated in research back in 1899 (!), and it was the first cannabinoid to be purified from cannabis in 1940. But it wasn’t until the ‘80s that researchers started to better understand its anti-inflammatory and sedative properties.

While the research was limited and rarely related to sleep, scientists have since returned to investigating CBN, despite the difficulties in doing so. “Cannabis research is very complex because there are a hundred different cannabinoids that are in cannabis,” explains Dr. Hill, who’s a spokesperson for the cannabis edibles company Kiva Confections. “Additionally, the research is often for a very specific group like people with PTSD or chronic pain.”

CBN works by suppressing the brain’s arousal system, Dr. Hill explains. “We have cannabinoid receptors in our brain, so CBN works with those receptors to make us feel sleepy,” she says.

How to use CBN for sleep

Dr. Hill says that the best way to reap the benefits from sedative CBN is to mix it with psychoactive THC, echoing the findings of a 2021 four-week clinical trial in which participants aged 25–70 with chronic insomnia took a combination of THC, CBN, and CBD under their tongues at a ratio of 20:2:1 each night before bed. The 24 participants were split into half with each either starting with the cannabinoid concoction for two weeks followed by two weeks of a placebo, or visa versa. Researchers found that insomnia symptoms significantly improved when taking the cannabinoid mix.

“We call this The Entourage Effect, the theory that certain combinations of cannabis compounds can boost the potential of benefits of THC while lessening side effects like memory impairment or being groggy in the morning," says Dr. Hill.

If you aren't comfortable consuming THC for any reason, or it's not legal where you live, then taking CBN for sleep isn't necessarily an option worth exploring, and you may have better luck with other natural sleep supplements like melatonin, 5-HTP, valerian root, L-theanine, hemp-derived CBD, and magnesium.

How to choose the right dose of CBN for you

The proper dose of CBN for sleep will vary from person to person, but Dr. Hill says the general rule of thumb when you're starting off is: “Go low and go slow.” Always start with the lowest dosage product you can get your hands on, she advises.

Dr. Hill also says that even with pre-dosed quantities of CBN, you don't have to start with the whole thing. Personally, she likes Petra Mints or Kiva Camino gummies because they can be split down the middle for an even lower dose.  After a few weeks, depending on how you feel, "you can try a higher dose if you’d like and work your way up from there," she says.

As with all things health related, consult your doctor before starting any new regimen, and know that you may need to try a combination of things to clean up your sleep hygiene before you start seeing results. CBN isn't a silver bullet to better sleep, but it's certainly worth exploring if you're cool with using cannabis.

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