The endocannabinoid system is present in humans as well as other mammals. This system comprises neurotransmitters, which are known as endocannabinoids, and protein receptors. It is these receptors that react with plant-based cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, which are present in hemp products. THC is responsible for the psychoactive high when you use cannabis while CBD does not produce a high; rather it has a soothing and calming effect.
The endocannabinoid system is quite complex, but researchers know that it regulates several physiological and cognitive processes, including sleep, mood, pain, and appetite. In fact, the endocannabinoid system is essential for homeostasis in humans. Research is still ongoing to find out how the endocannabinoid system affects sleep cycles.
The Function of the Endocannabinoid System
Homeostasis means that the body is in total equilibrium – the physiological and cognitive processes in the body are functioning the way they should and hence, the body is completely in balance. When one or more of the physiological and cognitive processes are not balanced, the endocannabinoid system comes into play. It helps to restore the balance.
Based on this function of the system, you can say that the endocannabinoid system works to regulate the physiological and cognitive processes that are associated with homeostasis. These processes include sleep cycle, circadian rhythm, appetite, digestion, pain, responses to stress, body temperature, thermoregulation, fertility, pregnancy and pre- and post-natal development. In addition, the endocannabinoid system also regulates mood and controls motor learning and skills, and memory.
It is prudent to remember that the endocannabinoid system can regulate one process without having an effect on other physiological and cognitive processes. As a result, it helps the body attain homeostasis quicker.
In order to restore homeostasis, the endocannabinoid system interacts with receptors, enzymes, and hormones. Once the body attains homeostasis, the resultant byproducts are metabolized and degraded in the body. Hence, these molecules (byproducts) cannot affect other processes occurring in the body.
Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system consists of endocannabinoids, receptors that these cannabinoids bind to and enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids after they restore homeostasis. The two primary endocannabinoids in the body are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. The former plays a role in the generation of nerve cells in the brain and can also enhance mood and minimize anxiety. That is why it is known as the bliss molecule. Anandamide is also found in copious amounts in the body after performing strenuous exercise. On the other hand, 2-arachidonoylglycerol helps to regulate the circulatory system.
These endocannabinoids are difficult to study as they quickly get broken down by the endocannabinoid enzymes unlike other neurotransmitters, which tend to last longer in the blood or are stored for use later on.
When it comes to cannabis, the two most common cannabinoids in this plant is CBD and THC. These phytocannabinoids react with the same receptors that endocannabinoids react with, but this interaction is different. For instance, THC and anandamide bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors and produce a feeling of calm and relaxation. But, THC does not get broken down by the enzyme that metabolizes anandamide. Hence, it stays longer in the bloodstream, causing persistent high in people who consume it.
Endocannabinoids cannot function without the presence of cannabinoid receptors, and the most common receptors within the endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2. These two receptors were first discovered in the 1990s. The CB1 receptors, although present across the body, are mainly found in the CNS and the brain. The CB2 receptors are found in the immune system, digestive system, and peripheral nervous system.
The phytocannabinoids react with CB1 and CB2 receptors, but in a different manner. Hence, they produce different effects. Scientific studies show the CBD tends to produce therapeutic effects without the high that is associated with THC. Hence, it promotes a feeling of calm and relaxation without the person feeling high. It is this reaction to CBD that treats sleep issues, including insomnia.
Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase is the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. However, the enzyme decomposes quickly in the body to prevent over-activity from high levels of anandamide. When you consume CBD, it inhibits the Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase enzyme. As a result, the breakdown of anandamide occurs slowly. This increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the body, allowing the body to get relaxed. When the body is calm, without any feeling of anxiety and stress, a person can go to sleep more easily.
Anandamide is not the only receptor that the CBD binds with. According to researchers, it binds with receptors that are not even part of the endocannabinoid system. So, if you take full-spectrum CBD tincture or oil, it will contain many more cannabinoids other than CBD. Each of these cannabinoids will have their own reaction and health benefits.
Researchers are still trying to ascertain how the endocannabinoid system affects sleep and circadian rhythm. At the moment, do know that the system has a profound effect on different parts of the brain and the body which are essential to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Researchers also know that if a person has a deficiency of endocannabinoids in the body, it has an adverse effect on the person’s sleep and circadian rhythm.
The Bottom Line
The endocannabinoid system is relatively new to researchers and studies are ongoing to find out how it affects biological processes in the body. Nonetheless, researchers already know that the endocannabinoid system does impact sleep. If you are suffering from insomnia or you do not get a good night’s sleep, it may be prudent to use CBD oil that is organically grown and does not show signs of contaminants and pollutants. It will enable you to ensure that the CBD binds to the right receptors and promote a feeling of calm. When the biological processes are in the right balance, you will enjoy good sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and energized. You may want to consult your physician if you are taking any other medication before you begin using CBD oil, as it may have contraindications.
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