Can CBN Really Help You Sleep? I Tested It to Find Out

Sleep-challenged writer Leah Rumack tested CBN—a non-intoxicating cannabis compound—to see if it helps with rest and relaxation.

By now you’ve probably heard about the two most popular cannabinoids found in cannabis: THC, which gets you high, and CBD, which doesn’t but is known for its relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. But have you heard about CBN? While it’s already popular in the U.S., CBN—available in everything from smokable flower to oils, gummies and vape pens—has only recently started to become more easily available in Canada. And I, for one, had been waiting for it.

That’s because CBN is loved by people who have trouble sleeping, a lousy club I’m a longtime member of. I’m always hoping that the latest “it” treatment will cure me for good, so I decided to put CBN to the test.

CBN is short for cannabinol. It’s an “oxidization product” of THC—when THC has been degraded by exposure to light, heat or oxygen, it turns into the less intoxicating, sleepy-making CBN. While there isn’t any peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that CBN helps with sleep, that hasn’t stopped gushing anecdotal reports from flooding the Internet.

I bought three CBN products from the Ontario Cannabis Store: Field Trip GO: Slumber 5:1 CBN Shot ($6.20 for one 60-millilitre bottle); Renew CBN Oil by Solei ($64.95 for 30 millilitres) and the perfunctorily named CBN 1:2 Night Formula Oil ($42.95 for 30 millilitres) from Medipharm Labs.

I started on a Monday by downing the Field Trip shot a couple hours before bedtime. Thanks to a base of chamomile and lavender, it tastes flowery and sweet. I had quite a good sleep that night, which seemed promising, so the next night I moved on to the Renew oil, which comes with a five-millilitre dropper. Now for the hard part.

Cannabis laws in Canada prohibit brands from suggesting dosages, since technically it’s not supposed to be used as medicine. Other than a general “start-low-and-go-slow” adage, there’s zero official guidance on the packaging or on company websites because it’s not allowed—which would be hilarious if it weren’t utterly unhelpful. So I do the most scientific thing I can think of, which is shrug and take the whole dropper (a teaspoon). They wouldn’t have included it if I wasn’t supposed to take the whole thing, right?

Wrong. CBN doesn’t get you high, but I failed to notice that both of the oils I got also contain THC (the letters on the label are so small!). Did I sleep well that night, you might ask? Who remembers?!

Since that ill-fated rendezvous, I’ve been dosing myself very carefully with only one to two milligrams about an hour before bed, toggling back and forth between the two oils, which have similar effects. This has been much more successful. While I still have bad nights, I’m falling asleep more quickly, slumbering more deeply and having less trouble falling back asleep. And while my favourite formulation was the shot—which has one milligram of THC and five milligrams of CBN—it’s too expensive to take every night.

As CBN gets more popular, new formats will start hitting the shelves. I’m currently more excited to try the Ace Valley CBN Dream gummies than I am for the next season of Succession. Consider me sold.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada