Sleep experts recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep. But we all know somebody who struggles to get the rest they need. Incidentally, many people have sleep problems. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that one in three Americans are sleep-deprived.
Since sleep is such an essential aspect of good health, it’s sensible to ensure we get enough of it routinely. However, this is easier said than done, especially if there are underlying reasons behind your sleeplessness.
While everybody is different, ideally, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Sleeping pills, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are popular ways to induce sleep. Herbal supplements are also staking a claim, as people increasingly integrate them into their nighttime routines to help with sleep.
These supplements are typically derived from plants and/or plant parts, e.g., roots, oils, seeds, berries, and flowers. Some herbal supplements possess sleep-promoting properties and may help with sleep.
Moreover, substantial research has gone into establishing the pharmacological value of herbal supplements, and their continued use since time immemorial suggests we may be onto something when we use them to aid with sleep.
So, let’s look at a class of natural plant compounds called terpenes and how they can help with sleep.
- Terpenes are aromatic compounds found mostly in plants. In cannabis, they are predominantly found in the trichomes of female plants.
- Research is ongoing, but there is evidence that terpenes might have wide-ranging pharmacological benefits, including improving sleep quality.
- Terpenes like caryophyllene have demonstrated an ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors, thereby activating the endocannabinoid system.
What are terpenes
Terpenes, terpenoids, or terps are chemical compounds occurring naturally in plants and animals. They have broad ecological functions in plants, like antimicrobials, insecticides, chemoattractants, and biochemical building blocks. They are also responsible for the diverse plant flavors, scents, and colors.
Plants are the most common source of terpenes, with cannabis and conifers noted to have these chemical compounds in abundance. If you’ve ever walked through a forest with pine trees, you have surely felt (and appreciated) the fresh pine scent as the wind blows past. That is the work of terpenes.
For cannabis lovers, the rich, pungent smell you’ve come to associate cannabis with is terpenes doing their thing! Cannabis is thought to have at least 120 terpenes, with myrcene being the most abundant.
Their pharmacological contribution to the medical and recreational effects of cannabis remains largely unknown. However, researchers contend that they could explain the “entourage effect,” where these compounds act together with other cannabis compounds to enhance their effects. Given the many pharmacological actions of terpenes, the “entourage effect” theory seems plausible.
But skeptics disagree, arguing that even the most abundant terpenes constitute less than 1 percent dry weight in commercial cannabis. As such, their effects, if any, are likely overhyped. Instead, the aroma and flavor they give to plants may have complex physiological effects.
According to a recent study, a combination of terpene trans-nerolidol and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) was linked to anxiolytic activity in specific cannabis strains. On the other hand, eucalyptol, 3-carene, guiaol, and gamma-terpinene induced anxiolytic effects in patients experiencing undue stress.
The extent to which terpenes may contribute to a physiological effect is unclear. Also not properly understood is the role played by additional factors, e.g., other phytocannabinoids and their respective contents in terpene activity.
Can terpenes help you relax?
Research shows that terpenes are cannabimimetic, i.e., they can mimic how cannabinoids interact with receptors in the body. As a result, they are capable of stimulating similar physiological reactions as cannabinoids, such as relaxation.
In other words, terpenes can activate certain cannabinoid receptors, thus triggering a response from the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids), enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors in our bodies that work together to maintain body balance.
The body’s internal environment can be affected by many things, leading to decreased functionality. For example, when you are stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol to, among other things, prepare you for the “fight-or-flight” response.
This triggers increased heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, supplying them with enough oxygen to respond to the stressor.
Once the stressful period is over, the cortisol levels typically revert to normal, resulting in opposite responses, e.g., reduced heart rate and blood flow to muscles. This is a basic idea of what the ECS does. If it fails, an over-accumulation of cortisol in the body can lead to disastrous health consequences.
Because they mimic cannabinoid activity, terpenes are thought to be able to stimulate relaxation like CBD or THC.
Best terpenes for sleep
Because terpenes exist in minute amounts even in commercial cannabis, you’ll likely find them in essential oils. In fact, they are the primary component of plant essential oils and are widely used for their medicinal and cosmetic (fragrance) value.
Terpenes are believed to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits. Even though their exact pharmacological effects vary, a good majority are stimulants and sedatives. So, if you’re looking for terpenes to help you sleep better, here is a list of potentials.
Also known as beta myrcene, this monoterpene is the most abundant cannabis terpene. It is also found in mangoes, basil, hops, lemongrass, and Myrcia sphaerocarpa – a native plant from Brazil used to treat diarrhea, among other conditions.
Among the many properties of myrcene include antioxidant, muscle relaxation, pain relief, and anti-inflammatory properties. Its most immediate effect is relaxation which is why it contributes to better sleep.
According to a study, myrcene produced sedation in mice comparable to phenobarbital when administered in large doses. This effect was enhanced significantly when co-administered with citral – a monoterpene aldehyde, thus supporting suggestions that terpenes facilitate the “entourage effect.”
Myrcene may also help with sore muscles and general stress, making it much easier to fall asleep.
Linalool has a floral, citrusy aroma and is found in over 200 plant species. Essential oils rich in this terpene are known to have diverse biological activities such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. Further, its antinociceptive effects have also been demonstrated in multiple animal studies.
Its most noticeable effects are sedation and relaxation, which is why its use is common among people with stress and insomnia. This is mainly done through aromatherapy, whereby linalool-rich essential oils are used to manage stress.
Animal studies involving linalool also support its anti-stress properties. For example, linalool vapor was shown to reduce stress in mice.
In human studies exploring the therapeutic benefits of lavender essential oil, in which linalool is a major compound, the participants registered much lower stress levels.
Perhaps the most noteworthy quality of linalool vis-à-vis sleep is its ability to enhance the effects of sedatives like pentobarbital. Its muscle-relaxing and pain-relieving effects make it a potential remedy for sleeplessness.
Pinene’s potential benefits include pain relief and memory function.
Its most notable effects are creativity, gentle euphoria, and full-body relaxation. Like myrcene, pinene is also a major ingredient in essential oils used in aromatherapy.
Researchers investigating the effects of pinene on stress and social behavior in mice noted increased social interaction and reduced aggression. When inhaled, it demonstrated anxiolytic effects, strengthening suggestions that linalool may be a valuable means of counteracting stress and attaining relaxation.
This is one of the minor terpenes, but their effects rarely go unnoticed even in small amounts. Besides cannabis, terpinolene is also found in nutmeg, apples, tea tree oil, lilac, and cumin. Its floral scent is tinged with refreshing piney notes.
Terpinolene has many properties, including sleep promotion. So, if you struggle with sleep due to a hyperactive mind, this may be the terpene for you.
This terpene belongs to the sub-class of sesquiterpenes. It is found in many herbs, including black pepper, rosemary, hops, cloves and copaiba, and is a first of its kind. Besides CBD, THC, and CBN, caryophyllene is the first non-cannabinoid compound shown to bind directly with endocannabinoid receptors, specifically, CB2 receptors.
Caryophyllene may help with sleep in many ways. For starters, it exhibits pain-relieving properties in murine models. Other studies indicate it possesses anxiolytic properties and thus may be of therapeutic value for people with stress.
Research also shows that this unique terpene is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. These qualities are useful when dealing with painful inflammatory diseases like knee inflammation or arthritis.
Although caryophyllene may not directly sedate, it may be valuable in mitigating the effects of sleep distractors like general pain and stress.
You may know it as penetrol or peruvial, but nerolidol is a sesquiterpene that naturally occurs in several plants like ginger, jasmine, lavender, tea tree, cannabis, and neroli, among others.
Its woody aroma is predominantly used for its calming effect, making it a good bet when trying to sleep better. Other studies indicate it exerts an anxiolytic effect on the brain without affecting other functions like motor coordination.
Other scientific studies have shown that nerolidol’s sedative effects compare to diazepam – a medication used to treat stress and muscle spasms among other conditions. It’s no surprise this terpene has a rich history as herbal sleep medicine.
Why is good quality sleep important?
The importance of good quality sleep cannot be overstated – it is probably as important as the food you eat. A sure way to appreciate the incredible benefits of sleep is by depriving yourself of sleep.
Good sleep underpins every essential process that happens in your body. There are so many reasons why good quality sleep is one thing you shouldn’t compromise on, but we’ll sum them into these three:
- Brain performance
- Vibrant health
- Upbeat mood
Sleep supports growth and development in children and teenagers, explaining why the younger we are, the more we sleep. That’s why newborns sleep 14 to 17 hours a day. As they grow older, the hours spent in sleep gradually decrease.
Though scientists don’t exactly know why sleep decreases with age, a hypothesis is that as we age, so do our internal systems, like the circadian rhythm. This reduces their effectiveness in regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycle, thus making it much harder to fall or stay asleep longer.
Others theorize that as we age, we become burdened with health issues that ultimately affect our sleep ability. No one is really sure why sleep reduces with age.
The good news is that with the help of natural sleep-supporting supplements and behavioral modifications, we can regain our ability to sleep more and deeply.
What is the best natural sleep aid?
Deciding to go natural in your quest to improve sleep is probably one of the best decisions you can make about your health. Good for you; we have an array of CBD products designed to make falling and staying asleep a breeze.
Our FOCL Night Capsules are infused with premium hemp CBD and soothing herbal extracts like valerian, ashwagandha, and hops to help relax the mind and body, creating a conducive environment for deeper, restorative sleep.
You can also try our Premium Full Spectrum Gummies enriched with CBD and CBN to promote more restful sleep. What’s more, these gummies taste super lovely, making chewing so much fun!
If you’re the type that prefers a no-frills approach to life, these Sleep Drops are your go-to. Simple, clean, and effective, this CBD oil packs organic CBD, CBN, and MCT oil to ensure a perfect night’s sleep. It also has herbal extracts like peppermint and lavender to enhance the effects of cannabinoids.
Check out the video below to learn more about cannabis strains that may help with a lack of sleep.