Firefighters, CBD, and Sleep- My Personal Experience
I read an article online about CBD and I thought to myself
“I can’t take that, it’s cannabis”
and immediately discarded the idea of getting natural help.
But, I’ve learned more since then.
In my neck of the woods, most firefighters are also paramedics. We run a LOT of medical calls and it’s the accepted culture for us to be heavily
involved with EMS if not the primary EMS provider.
This means two things.
One: We get made fun of a lot by some of our big city brothers and sisters 🙂
Two: We don’t sleep much or at all while on shift.
In many departments you don’t need to run EMS to stay busy as hell, either. I have friends that work for the FDNY, Miami, Chicago and I know that they’re having the same sleep problems I’m having.
If you haven’t read this article yet, it’ll answer some questions you’ll probably end up having here.
Firefighters and CBD: Is it safe for us to use?
After a couple of years on the job I started getting my sleep at home interrupted. I would wake up between 2am and 3am and stay up for about an hour.
While I was awake, I didn’t feel groggy, I wasn’t half-asleep. I wanted to get up and go for a run or start my day. I felt like I was ready to go on a call, honestly.
I think it’s safe to assume that my screwed up sleep is due largely to the calls.
Sleep issues in the fire service
Physician’s weekly put this article out about sleep issues in firefighters. 1/3 of firefighters screened had sleep issues at home and 1/2 of the firefighters were reporting burnout.
This is affecting how much we love the job and ultimately our safety on the job.
I’m a pretty healthy guy, no health problems, no medication. I drink plenty of water and I eat pretty good. My engineer’s standard dinner recipe is bacon with a side of bacon drizzled with bacon bits and cheese and then he calls it “keto” and says it’s healthy…but other than his occasional cooking I eat pretty good.
But, I had this relentless sleep problem. I tried melatonin for a few nights and it didn’t stop that pattern. I thought about just taking benadryl every night but I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to sleep normally without medication.
By policy, we get randomly drug tested three times a year on my department. There’s no way I would risk my job and pension for some good sleep! I’ll stick to bang energy drinks and a ton of coffee like the rest of the fire service and power through 30 years or so (God willing) and hope for the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what I signed up for. If all we had to worry about in this job was sleep problems, I’d say we’re very lucky. But, can’t there be a natural way to fix it?
Why can I get a prescription for some heavy duty sleep med or depression med that’s used for sleep, but I can’t take CBD?
It doesn’t even get you high!
After doing a ton of research, I learned about the differences between full spectrum and isolate. But, even then it wasn’t until I started working in the industry (before I owned this company, but that’s another story) that I had the confidence to decide on what a quality product is.
When I started taking it, I didn’t notice an effect for a few days and then I was sleeping throughout the night every night.
I felt normal again
You don’t really know how crappy you feel until you start feeling normal again.
I didn’t need naps throughout the day, I didn’t need a constant caffeine drip to function. I still drink coffee, but that’s because I really enjoy it. Plus at the firehouse I feel like a weirdo if I’m at shift change without a mug.
How does it work?
There is a fair amount of research and CBD and sleep but, the results are pretty confusing. What we do know is that CBD’s effect on sleep is driven by dose.
Most research shows microdoses (measured in nanograms not milligrams) won’t help sleep and could even hurt it.
Larger doses (around 20mg per pound of body weight) will help overall sleep but decrease REM sleep.
The sweet spot can be anywhere from 25mg to 1500mg.
While the exact effects of CBD on sleep are unknown, researchers largely believe it’s because CBD can tackle underlying causes of poor sleep. Anxiety, pain, or an overactive mind at night can increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. And, seeing as how CBD can increase your REM states, the quality of sleep you’re getting is better.
Translation: studies suggest you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
But, it won’t work on everyone. That may be due to the dose chosen by any given study.
This is a case-by-case basis. I couldn’t mention what each department will or will not allow. But, Fire Engineering had me on their podcast “The Chaplain’s Corner” where Captain Jeremy Hurd and I spoke at length about it.
More recently Bobby Halton and others were speaking about CBD’s growing popularity in the fire service.
It’s coming around, folks. My suggestion is talk to your Union, your Chief, your City, or whomever to get decent answer on whether you’re allowed to take it. You won’t get a straight answer but you’ll get a decent answer maybe.
As far as passing a drug test, etc: see our articles
And please, leave some comments or let us know if you have any questions.
Reach me: JV@omnianaturals.com
Hope you enjoyed this! Share if you did, and let the guys and girls at the firehouse know about this stuff. We need good ideas and good conversation to make things like this common place.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/ University of Denver
Result: 79.2 percent of the patients reported lower anxiety levels and 66.7 percent reported better sleep.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23343597?dopt=Abstract U of Sao Paolo 2013
Dose: 2.5mg/kg 10mg/kg and 40mg/kg
Result: 10mg/kg was shorter REM latency and 40mg/kg increased REM latency
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4023456/ University of Anáhuac (Mexico) 2014
Dose: 40mg, 80mg, 160mg daily
Result: 160mg patients slept better
Absolutely. While a small percentage of people studied using CBD have showed somnolence (sleepiness) during the day, this is considered an untoward side effect and isn’t the norm.
Yes. In human and rat studies, CBD is shown to improve REM latency (the amount of time it takes to to get into REM sleep once you’re alseep)
The adverse effect of somnolence (drowsiness) can be felt sometimes, but not with most people and not in regular doses. While some of us are looking for a feeling of drowsiness to help us sleep, it’s a common misconception that this is standard for CBD. A few studies show CBD in small doses causes the feeling of alertness and wakefulness.
Everything from 25mg to 1600mg has been studied. Finding your sweet spot is a matter of starting with a low dose (25mg) and working your way up if needed. Anecdotally, most people don’t need large amounts of CBD to have their sleep quality improved.
Research shows that the majority of people find CBD helps them either fall asleep, stay asleep or both. This is according to Universities such as Harvard, Denver and Sao Paolo (Brazil)