CBN has made headlines and claimed shelf space as the next best cannabinoid for sleep. These marketing claims are abundant, yet most of the evidence is anecdotal. But anecdotal doesn’t mean wrong; it simply means consumer feedback over scientific hypotheses.
MoreBetter, creators of the Releaf App, is using this real-world data (RWD) to push back against the claim that there’s no evidence that CBN can help people sleep. In 2021, MoreBetter used its web-based software to track over 350 people using a CBN tincture from CBDistillery. Participants were aware that the product they were using was CBN-based, and although this study was not a placebo-controlled double-blind, the results are still worth a look. Here’s what they found.
The MoreBetter & CBDistillery CBN study
CBN, or cannabinol, is a natural product of THC degradation; it can be found in aged, poorly stored cannabis plants and also in cannabis smoke. Like THC, CBN is a natural anti-inflammatory. It also has anticonvulsant properties like CBD, as well as antibiotic properties. It’s psychoactive, but generally won’t get you high unless you take a large dose. CBN acts like a weaker version of THC at CB1 receptors, causing very few of THC’s impairing effects, and also less side effects. CBN binds well with CB2 receptors and is thought to modulate immune function more than get you high. It also, allegedly, helps with sleep (more on that below).
Back to our study. In September 2021, MoreBetter hosted a self-reported data collection with this CBN tincture offered to participants free of charge from CBDistillery. Over 31 days, 388 people reported on their sleep before and after trialing the CBN product. The majority of participants never used a CBN product before and were aged 30-60, although ages ranged from 18-80. Interestingly, unlike many formal clinical studies, participants in this data collection skewed female, with 196 women and 87 men. This heavy weight towards women can likely be explained by the incidence of insomnia in women, who are nearly twice as likely to experience insomnia. 1
Participant responses were recorded every morning through questions sent via text. Participants were asked a series of questions about their sleep. Their responses were grouped into three timeframes; at enrollment, during a CBN-free control week, and while taking the CBN product nightly for about 3 weeks. These questions focused on sleep quality and duration, and included a 1-5 and 1-10 rating scale, yes/no questions, and rating satisfaction on a scale. The ratings were designed to eliminate as much participant bias as possible and gain a more objective understanding of the tincture’s impact over time (in this case 3 weeks).
Results from the MoreBetter & CBDistillery’s CBN study
The results were overwhelmingly positive, indicating CBDistillery’s CBN tincture had a positive impact on sleep. An astounding 81% of participants felt they achieved more quality sleep with this CBN tincture, and 78% reported that they would likely keep taking the product even after the experiment.
Overall, people reported more hours of sleep, an easier time falling asleep, and an improved quality of sleep. They also reported waking up fewer times during the night, but interestingly, appeared to have more challenges falling back asleep after waking up.
Other notable results included:
- 72% said the CBN tincture worked better than any other sleep aid
- Over half of the respondents (61%) said they felt more refreshed in the morning and 64% said they had increased energy levels
- 82% were likely to refer a friend to this CBN tincture
Additionally, 68% of respondents reported less day-to-day anxiety during the experiment and 72% agreed that they felt calmer. This speaks to the relationship between anxiety levels and sleep, as well as the complexity of the endocannabinoid system, and the ripple effect that thoughtful consumption can have.
What this means for CBN research
These results are, in a word, impressive. While this type of data collection has its limitations, there is no arguing with the overwhelmingly positive results that participants experienced. Almost 80% of respondents said this CBN tincture improved their overall quality of life – an incredible proportion when you consider the participants only consumed the tincture for 21 days.
Cannabis is often reported to help people reduce the number of pharmaceuticals they’re taking, and this trend continues in this study. Impressively, 46% of participants reported that this CBN tincture helped them reduce other sleep aids or medications.
Has CBN been proven to help with sleep?
While CBN is often marketed as “the sleep cannabinoid,” the reality is more complicated.
Sleep is not often the focus of clinical trials on cannabis; rather it is often a secondary outcome. This limits the amount of sleep-focused studies, and the ones that are conducted are primarily focused on THC and CBD.
A 2021 review examined all 99 of the existing human research studies on CBN and found just eight studies that met stringent criteria for reliable results. The researchers found that most claims of CBN’s effects come from a small set of studies conducted between 1970 and 1980 that relied on “small sample sizes lacking diversity in sociodemographic characteristics.” 2
These studies were not large enough nor well-run enough to produce replicable results, and although most marketing claims for CBN products are based on these early findings, researchers concluded “there is insufficient published evidence to support sleep-related claims” and that consumers should be “skeptical of manufacturers’ claims of sleep-promoting effects.”
Meanwhile these products are on shelves across the country being marketed as sleep aids, which is exactly why we need more technologies and data like those delivered by MoreBetter.
What does MoreBetter do?
MoreBetter is a software, data, and contract research organization, which simplifies the process of collecting real world data, direct from consumers, on product use and performance for targeted use cases. This allows individuals to make better purchasing & consumption decisions with data, rather than reviews.
MoreBetter is the creator of the Releaf App: a patented mobile app that allows cannabis consumers to track and improve their use of cannabinoid based products. The app uses AI to analyze the products you consume and your reported experience to produce insight reports and help you create an evidence-based consumption routine.
The Releaf App was developed with community and crowd-sourcing knowledge in mind. Since the cannabis community was underground for so many years, consumers shared anecdotal reports of the relief they found and what worked for them.
MoreBetter also hosts data collection studies. Participants can opt-in to using certain products for a set time frame and are responsible for self-reporting their experiences. This self-reposted style of research allows participants to use the products as they would normally, giving a much more authentic experience and feedback. It does, however, remove some of the objectivity in reporting, since people are talking about their own experiences.
This direct access to consumers allows MoreBetter to conduct informal studies, collecting data from a set of participants with a selected product over a set amount of time. This CBN study is one such example.
The future of anecdotal evidence and data collection
Oftentimes, the distinction between anecdotal and scientific evidence is not as major as it appears. Anecdotal evidence may be not as bias free as research produced in a lab, but it is also more reflective of real world conditions. Cannabis consumers have been sharing the benefits of the plants with each for decades while cannabis research stood stagnant, and that shouldn’t be justification for limiting access or future research. 3
The studies MoreBetter is conducting are changing the way we view scientific studies, and how research is gathered. Respondents didn’t need to be in a centralized location, visit a lab, or get measured injections. They all used the same product in the comfort of their homes, which mimics much more closely the way people use cannabis in their daily lives.
Lab research is important; peer-reviewed, blinded, placebo controlled clinical trials are the backbone of our collective understanding of pharmacologic benefit. But it’s certainly not the only way to collect data; we also need to test real-world products in real-world settings with real-world patients.
There still needs to be further examination of CBN and its effects on sleep in placebo-controlled trials. But those studies take time and serious funding, and few companies have the resources to perform them. In the meantime, consumers across the country and indeed the world are using CBN, and apps like Releaf can help us turn this consumer into data supporting the medicinal use of cannabis.
- Zeng, L. N., Zong, Q. Q., Yang, Y., Zhang, L., Xiang, Y. F., Ng, C. H., Chen, L. G., & Xiang, Y. T. (2020). Gender Difference in the Prevalence of Insomnia: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 577429. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.577429
- Corroon J. Cannabinol and Sleep: Separating Fact from Fiction. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021 Oct;6(5):366-371. doi: 10.1089/can.2021.0006. Epub 2021 Aug 31. PMID: 34468204; PMCID: PMC8612407.
- Del Pozo, A., & Barker-Haliski, M. (2023). Cannabidiol reveals a disruptive strategy for 21st century epilepsy drug discovery. Experimental neurology, 360, 114288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2022.114288
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