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Cannabis, long associated with the psychoactive properties of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is experiencing renewed interest thanks to other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), as well as terpenes like linalool . These molecules appear to play an important role in modulating sleep quality. This article explores the physiology behind these effects, drawing on current knowledge of the mechanisms of action of these compounds.
- circadian rhythm presentation diagram
1. Sleep Physiology and the Endocannabinoid System
Sleep is regulated by circadian and homeostatic rhythms involving numerous neurotransmitters, neuromodulators and hormones such as melatonin and cortisol .
- change in cortisol levels, melatonin and body temperature during the day
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) also plays a crucial role in this process. Composed of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, synthesis and degradation enzymes, and endogenous ligands such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), the ECS regulates several biological functions, including sleep.
very simplified version of the endocannabinoid system
2. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Sleep
Unlike THC, CBD does not have a significant direct affinity for the CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, it influences their activity by modulating the amount of 2-AG available . Additionally, CBD acts on the serotonergic system , specifically on 5-HT1A receptors. Serotonin plays a key role in regulating mood, anxiety and sleep. The anxiolytic effects of CBD could therefore indirectly promote better quality sleep.
3. CBG, CBN and Sleep
CBG is a precursor to THC and CBD. It has low affinity for CB1 receptors, but can act as a 5-HT1A receptor antagonist, similar to CBD. Its potential role in sleep is not yet well defined, but its ability to modulate serotonin deserves particular attention.
CBN is a breakdown product of THC. Although it has a lower affinity for CB1 receptors compared to THC, it appears to have potential sedative properties, particularly when combined with other cannabinoids.
4. Terpenes: The Example of Linalool
Linalool, a terpene found in cannabis and other plants like lavender, has known sedative properties. Its mechanism of action may involve modulation of GABA_A receptors. In synergy with cannabinoids, linalool could accentuate the relaxing effects and improve the quality of sleep.
5. Optimal Consumption Methods for Sleep
Although the route of administration can influence the effects experienced, sublingual and inhaled methods appear to offer high bioavailability of cannabinoids. Full-spectrum oils , containing both cannabinoids and terpenes, could maximize beneficial effects through the entourage effect.
The ability of CBD-rich cannabis to improve sleep is supported by complex physiological mechanisms. The modulation of the ECS, combined with the action on other neurotransmitter systems and the effect of terpenes, makes this plant promising in sleep research. However, more clinical and experimental studies are needed to fully elucidate these mechanisms and to guide clinical recommendations.
Note that this article is a summary and is not exhaustive. For a true scientific publication, a more in-depth literature review would be necessary, as well as specific citations for each claim.