The Benefits Of Terpenes For Sleep
When exploring the relaxing benefits of cannabis we often look to the active ingredients like CBD or CBN as the heavy hitters when it comes to managing pain or stress. However, these are just 2 of the hundreds of known compounds found in hemp and cannabis. Cannabinoids may have significant effects on the body, but it has been found that other components of the plant can be used as a sleep aid alternative.
Terpenes are one class of compounds that offers promise for restful sleep. Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes do not come with psychoactive effects, but can often enhance the effect of CBD or THC.
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What are terpenes?
Terpenes are small, volatile aromatic molecules that are responsible for the taste and smell of plants and fruits. They are found in abundance in products like essential oils, which are often used for aromatherapy and other herbal medicine practices.
Studies show that terpenes may offer a broad range of medicinal effects including:
- Pain reduction
- Increase relaxation and calmness
- Enhance cognitive performance
- Improve sleep by falling asleep sooner and staying asleep
Across the world, over 20,000 unique terpenes have been discovered that naturally occur in plants. Within the cannabis species there are roughly 200 known terpenes, many of which have beneficial impact on sleep and relaxation.
Terpenes Affect On The Body
When interpreting the effects of terpenes for sleep aid, we look at two categories of herbal effects: sedatives and hypnotics. Sedatives will naturally quiet the nervous system, promoting relaxation and drowsiness, helping to establish a healthy foundation to fall asleep. Hypnotics offer a slightly stronger effect and will directly induce sleep.
Within these two categories of effects, both sedative and hypnotic compounds will have a variety of anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and analgesic properties (anti-inflammatory, or pain reducing). This can often help with sleep in situations where stress, anxiety, or chronic pain have been making it challenging to rest at night.
It is likely that these effects stem from terpenes influence on activating the body’s GABA system. GABA, an amino acid produced naturally in the brain functions as a neurotransmitter, facilitating communication among brain cells.
GABA is one of the body’s most important inhibitory transmitters, meaning it lowers the activity of neural cells in the brain and central nervous system. This process shifts the brain and body to help initiate sleep, decrease mental or physical stress, reduces anxiety, and stabilizes moods.
Similar to terpenes, other sleep supplements such as valerian root, magnesium, or L-theanine all have an effect on the brain’s GABA activity.
Before deciding what kind of terpenes to try for sleep aid, it’s important to make sure you understand the exact challenge you face when trying to relax or sleep. Oftentimes sleep issues could stem from lifestyle or environmental factors. In order for terpenes to support you getting the sleep you need, you must first address the underlying issue behind your sleepless nights.
Do specific terpenes work better for sleep?
Though the effects of terpenes are subtle, there are a few that may distinctly cause energizing or sedative effects.
You may be familiar with the categories of cannabis strains – indica, sativa, and hybrid. When people refer to a strain having indica effects this is because it has a higher concentration of terpenes that cause sedative or hypnotic effects (along with often having higher percentages of cannabinoids).
All of these terpenes are found in flowers and fruits around the world, not just in cannabis varieties. It’s possible to find essential oils, teas, or tinctures that have higher concentration of sedative terpenes from plants like lavender, lemongrass, or even eucalyptus.
The most beneficial terpenes for sleep aid
To better understand what kind of terpene would work best for you, here are the five most abundant terpenes that offer support for sleep.
This floral, rich compound is famously known for its lavender aroma – found in hundreds of plants from lavender and mint, to cannabis. Studies have shown linalool lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can additionally act as a guard for the immune system against damage due to stress.
It is particularly interesting to note that linalool increases adenosine, a sedating hormone that helps you fall asleep naturally. This could be useful for anyone suffering from endocrine or neurological disorders that disrupt hormonal processes in the body necessary for sleep.
A popular terpene found in cannabis, myrcene is famous for its strong sedative effects. Myrcene can come from a wide array of fruits and herbs, including mangoes, basil, lemongrass, and even hops.
This compound can help reduce stress when taken in the evening before sleep, to help slow down an overactive mind and soothe the body from physical stressors.
Phytol may be a lesser known terpene, as it is often in lower concentrations, however it still packs a relaxing punch. Phytol has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects, and was even shown to decrease the time duration it takes to fall asleep in mice. It is another terpene that likely works via activation of the brain’s GABA system – offering a lot of promise as a sleep aid.
This spicy terpene is found in black pepper, cloves, and cannabis. Caryophyllene promotes better sleep via its anxiolytic and analgesic properties. It both soothes physical pain and inflammation while also offering anti-anxiety effects, making it a great option for relaxation after a long day.
A common aroma found in conifer and pine plants, pinene has been shown to increase non-REM sleep, while also reducing sleep latency (similar to phytol with its effect on the GABA system). Pinene provides relief from anxiety and can have additional benefits when paired with CBD or other anti-inflammatory cannabinoids.
A popular terpene found in abundance in cannabis, terpinolene may have sedative effects useful for relaxation and stress relief. It can be found in lavender, allspice, apples, and countless other plants.
As you can see terpenes are incredible compounds that hold the potential to truly impact our well-being. Hopefully this article helped you learn more about terpenes and how they impact sleep. If you’re looking for a CBD sleep aid, check out these CBD gummies for sleep.
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Any statements made in this post are not intended to replace advice from a medical professional. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any CBD product.