What is CBN? Effects, benefits, and more

Learn how this hemp compound is different from the rest.
What is CBN? Effects, benefits, and more
minute read

It’s easy to believe that 1 in 3 adults don't get enough sleep. Hustle culture has glorified long hours and constant busyness, leaving us burnt out, exhausted, and stuck in a relentless, sleep-deprived cycle. 

The average person spends 26 years of their life asleep and about 7 extra years trying to get to sleep. Our time in restoration is not just a mental, physical, and functional need — it’s a significant portion of our time here. 

To get proper rest, we shouldn't have to rely on sleep aids like melatonin and sleeping pills that leave us groggy, or depend on caffeine to stay awake during the day. Our bodies and minds deserve a more sustainable option.

One of Sunmed's many wellness goals is to use plant compounds to meet the essential and increasingly important need to sleep better. This means utilizing natural supplements to fall asleep easily, sleep peacefully, and wake up truly restored. 

CBN, a natural hemp compound, has promising results for regulating sleep and enhancing overall well-being. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is CBN? 

Cannabinol (CBN) is one of many cannabinoids, like CBD or THC. CBN is a minor cannabinoid, which means that it occurs less frequently or in smaller amounts in the hemp plant. 

CBN begins in the hemp plant as CBG, eventually degrading into THC. The hemp flower begins to break down even further through exposure to heat, air, and light, in a process called oxidation. Eventually, THC losses most of its psychoactive properties and gains interesting, sleep-inducing ones, converting into what we know as CBN. Basically, CBN is the byproduct of an aged hemp plant.

While this “sleepy” cannabinoid has certainly gained a powerful reputation as a nighttime supplement, there has been a surprising lack of peer-reviewed data supporting this customer experience (until our recent clinical trial with Radicle Science). What we do know is that hemp-derived cannabinoids have a powerful influence over the endocannabinoid system, which impacts how well we feel every day.  

There are several ways in which CBN may work to play a supportive role in the sleep process, but the experience will likely differ from person to person. There could be cases where CBN indirectly support better sleep; it may also be the combination of CBN and CBD working together to provide sleep-supporting benefits.*

How does CBN differ from CBD and THC?

Every cannabinoid is capable of interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system in a unique way, which means different cannabinoids can be responsible for producing different effects.*

Your endocannabinoid system contains receptors all throughout your body, embedded within many important organ systems and processes. Cannabinoids primarily interact with cannabinoid-specific receptors called CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors, but they may also be capable of interacting with similar non-cannabinoid-specific receptors throughout the body.*

When a cannabinoid interacts with these receptors, it can do so in one of three ways. The first is to stimulate a receptor without binding to it or changing how it works. The interaction provided by non-binding cannabinoids encourages receptors within your endocannabinoid system to perform their natural functions — which is how cannabidiol (CBD) works to provide support for your mind and body.*

The second and third methods of interaction are by binding with the receptor. Cannabinoids have something called a binding affinity — and some cannabinoids only have a binding affinity for one type of receptor, which limits or focuses their potential effects. Other cannabinoids have a binding affinity for both types of receptors, which increases the scope of their effects.*

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has a binding affinity for both types of receptors, but its binding affinity for CB1 receptors is much higher. When THC binds to CB1 receptors, it alters the receptor’s ability to send and receive messages via neurotransmitters. The disruption in delivery caused by THC leads to psychoactive, sometimes intoxicating effects.*

Cannabinol (CBN) can also loosely bind to both types of cannabinoid receptors, but it has a higher binding affinity for CB2 receptors

CB2 receptors play a role in the body’s ability to manage feelings of tension and discomfort. This could be a potential mechanism for why some people experience sleep-enhancing effects from CBN. You sleep much better when you’re comfortable — and if your body is tense, you’re likely to have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep.*

Some studies combine CBN with CBD and show promising results when the two cannabinoids are used together. CBN could be acting independently alongside CBD, or the two cannabinoids may have synergistic benefits, enhancing each other’s effects. Many cannabinoids may be able to work in unison to enhance or modulate each other’s effects, which is the basis for a popular theory called the entourage effect. The entourage effect makes the case for synergy between all compounds in the hemp plant, and it might be at play when you use full spectrum hemp products.

CBN is technically considered a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid due to its binding affinity — but most people who use CBN don’t report experiencing any psychoactive effects at modest amounts. While some people find that it makes them feel sleepy, others may feel less feelings of tension, reduced feelings of anxiousness, or a greater sense of peace and well-being.

How does CBN work?

The National Institute of Health suggests that endocannabinoid system receptors in the forebrain and brainstem are involved in sleep induction, sleep modulation, and sleep cycle regulation. The theory is that when we take CBN, it binds to these receptors, signaling your internal processes that it is time to go to sleep. Users often note an easier time falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up with less grogginess.* 

Another theory is that when hemp degrades (or gets older), so does its terpenes. When THC converts into CBN, terpenes convert into terpenoids, like linalool (which is the key calming agent in calming herbs like lavender and valerian root). The idea is that terpenes may be the reason for CBN’s sleepy reputation. 

The answer to how CBN works is most likely a combination of these two ideas. But this knowledge just wasn't enough — there were still too many questions involving CBN's potential.

That’s why we partnered with Radicle Science to determine the most efficient formula of CBN for improving sleep.

Our historic clinical trial uncovered some of the first rigorous human data on how different servings of CBN impact sleep. We found that our proprietary CBN formula is not only proven to improves sleep quality, but also reduces anxiety and fatigue after 6 weeks of consistent use (plus, you can subscribe today and get your first jar 20% off!)

 

What kinds of CBN products exist?

CBN is available in every form CBD comes in. People who use cannabinoids for their wellness often prefer to use edibles like gummies or CBD oil tinctures. There are also cannabinoid vape products, but not much is known about the potential long-term effects of vapor products. 

Gummies

CBN gummies are an excellent choice for people who already use gummy supplements. If you take supplements throughout the day and keep them separated in an organizer, it’s easy to pop a CBN gummy into your nighttime compartment.

Some people find that CBN gummies are easier to measure appropriately. Tinctures require measurement — if you want to use a specific amount of CBN, you have to calculate the amount in milliliters. Each gummy has a specific amount of total cannabinoids, making it that much easier for you to get your daily wellness support. 

They’re also easier to travel with, and if you sleep away from home at least some of the time, you may feel better about traveling with a tub or pouch of gummies than you do about traveling with a small glass bottle. 

CBN gummies may take a little longer to work than other CBN delivery methods. The body needs to digest the gummy and metabolize the CBN before it’s able to reach your endocannabinoid system, and this process usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour for most people. Make sure to time your serving right so that your CBN will have enough time to reach your endocannabinoid system before bed.*

Tinctures

Tinctures are a tried and true way to use cannabinoids. You release the CBN drops under your tongue and hold them there for at least a minute. While you’re holding the drops in place, the cannabinoids begin to absorb through the soft tissue under your tongue before swallowing. This gives CBN a head start in reaching the endocannabinoid system, allowing some of the CBN to bypass your digestive system and potentially get to work sooner.*

Tinctures usually begin to produce effects within 30 to 45 minutes. They’ll already be working by the time your body finishes digesting the tincture that you swallowed.

Some people don’t use tinctures because they don’t like the taste; you have to hold a tincture in your mouth for at least a minute, and it’s not exactly easy to do that if you find the taste off-putting. But we’ve improved the experience with our blueberry CBN tincture. No icky taste here. 

We’ve enhanced our nighttime tincture with soothing linalool terpenes from lavender, which may help naturally induce relaxation. We’ve also included valerian root, a natural sleep supporter that may help prepare the mind and body for sweet dreams.

Does CBN have side effects?

Anything that impacts important systems within your body is capable of producing side effects. Side effects for cannabinoids like CBN are uncommon and usually mild if they occur. Any side effects may be more noticeable when you use higher concentrations of CBN.*

The potential side effects of CBN are usually much more mild than the side effects people may experience when they use over-the-counter sleep aids, or hormone supplements like melatonin. Some people experience drowsiness when they use CBN, but that may be the entire point. 

But unlike melatonin hormone supplements and over-the-counter sleep aids that leave consumers feeling completely sedated, many users also note that this is not the case with CBN. And according to our clinical trial results, over 75% of users noticed less morning fatigue and unwanted grogginess once incorporating a CBN supplement. 

The bottom line

CBN is a fascinating cannabinoid with major potential for natural sleep support. It could be the difference between a snoozed alarm and a natural, refreshed awakening — a feeling you deserve to experience every single day.

Although it isn’t exactly clear how CBN promotes better sleep, researchers have some theories as to why it works. Using CBN products that also contain CBD may also be more effective than using CBN products that don’t contain CBD, just like our clinically proven Sleep CBN Gummies

Cannabinoids can be used to support your mood, focus, and full-body relief throughout your everyday routine. Shop our full collection of cannabinoid wellness products here

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Sources:

Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults — United States, 2014 | MMWR | CDC

Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep and their Therapeutic Potential for Sleep Disorders | PubMed Central | National Institutes of Health

Our Life in Numbers: How Long We Sleep, Work & More | Dreams

100+ Sleep Statistics - Facts and Data About Sleep 2023 | Sleep Foundation

The Curious Case of CBN & Sleep | Project CBD

Cannabinol - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

An overview of the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor system and its therapeutic potential | PubMed Central | National Institutes of Health

Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects | NCBI