While sleep is absolutely essential to a person’s health, it remains a fact that millions of Americans still face daily issues with their sleeping patterns, with as much as a third of US adults reporting that they usually get less than the recommended amount of 7-8 hours sleep per night.
It may seem somewhat obvious, but sleep is considered essential in helping us to rejuvenate and energise ahead of our next day of activity. It also helps us to both process and store the events of the previous day, allowing us to use those memories and experiences in our lives going forward.
Indeed, some studies have indicated that sleep is actually the specific tool used by the brain in it’s rejuvenation process with sleep primarily devoted to the critical activities of repair and reorganization in the brain, and that this probably includes both learning and memory.
The Effects of Poor Sleep
We can all attest that on occasion, we have a bad night’s sleep. When that happens, a whole wave of effects are easily detectable (especially to our friends and family!): Irritability, inability to focus and drowsiness are just some of the common effects of a short-term lack of sleep, but the effects of long-term sleep deprivation are much more serious and potentially life threatening.
Long-term sleep deprivation is said to be at the root of many chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Meanwhile, a short-term lack of sleep is one of the main contributors to both vehicle crashes and work-related accidents.
It has been reported that the average American now sleeps just 6.8 hours per night, a full hour less than in 1942. And while our lifestyles have shifted dramatically over the past 70 years, our own biology and evolution has struggled to keep pace with this significant change in our sleeping patterns.
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Understanding Sleep Cycles and Sleep Stages
A typical sleep cycle usually lasts for about 90 minutes and during that time, we move through five different stages of sleep. Having an understanding of these stages is helpful in our use of CBD as a potential treatment for sleep related issues.
This first stage, known as non-REM sleep, is the changeover from being awake to sleeping. During this short period of light sleep (usually no more than seven minutes in length), your breathing, heartbeat and eye movements slow down, and your muscles begin to relax with occasional twitches.
At this early point, you are in a period of light sleep which means that you’re partially alert and are easily disturbed or woken.
Your heartbeat and breathing continue to reduce as your muscles relax even further, while your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity also decreases, but is marked by short bursts of electrical activity.
You actually spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep compared with the other stages of sleep.
Stages Three & Four
This is the start of deep sleep as the brain begins to produce slower delta waves. At this point, you are less easily woken because your body becomes less responsive to external stimuli.
The brain produces even more delta waves and you move towards an even deeper, more restorative stage of sleep. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up your energy for the next day.
Stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep
REM sleep usually occurs about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep, and each REM stage can last as much as an hour.
The average person will usually experience between five and six REM cycles in one night of sleep and it is during this final phase of sleep that your brain becomes more active. It is at this point when dreams are most likely to occur.
Your eyes will move quickly in different directions, heart rate and blood pressure increases, and breathing becomes faster, irregular and shallow.
REM sleep is known to play a vital role in learning and memory function, as this is the phase when your brain consolidates and processes information from the previous day, so that it can then be stored in your long-term memory.
During this particular phase of sleep, blood flows directly to the muscles which gives the brain an opportunity to relax and reset itself back to optimal levels. As such, having little or no REM sleep would certainly have a negative impact on your health.
Ultimately, REM sleep is considered to be such an important part of sleep, because it plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being.
CBD and REM Sleep
Using CBD for sleep has shown to hold potentially significant benefits, with findings suggesting CBD to have powerful anxiolytic effects in both animal and human test subjects, while further studies have also found that CBD can actually help us to obtain a better quality of REM Sleep.
Published in 2012, this study showed that CBD was used effectively in regulating REM sleep in mice by reducing their anxiety levels. The studies indicated that CBD helped alleviate anxiousness within the mice and as a result were able to sleep better and enter REM stage.
Anxiety is said to be one of the major factors in people who suffer with insomnia and a lack of high-quality sleep. As our awareness of these issues has grown in recent years, so too must our understanding of potential solutions for both anxiety and insomnia.
With CBD having the potential to calm the body, allowing for a better and higher quality of REM stage sleep, there remains hope that there may well be a solution for the many millions of people, who continue to suffer with sleep-related health issues today.