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How cannabis has mainstream sleep aids counting sheep

2021 threatens to deliver another year of turmoil, characterized by further lockdowns, social distancing, and an ongoing threat to health, daily routines, and financial security on a global scale – any one of which would be ample cause to lose sleep. Dubbed by some as ‘Coronasomnia’, observers have found evidence of sleep disorders occurring around the world due to the pandemic. 

  • In the US in the first five months of 2020, 2.77 million Google searches for ‘insomnia’ occurred representing a 58% increase over the same period over the preceding three years.
  • A study from Sleep Standards in the US reported that 53% of Americans spent less time sleeping in lockdown than before the pandemic; 67% believed their sleep was healthier before the beginning of lockdown; 98% had developed new sleep problems post-lockdown and 68% felt stressed or found it hard to sleep, even after lockdown measures had been lifted.
  • The Sleep Judge found that more than one-quarter of consumers reported poor sleep due to the pandemic.
  • In the UK a 2020 study from the University of Southampton showed that incidence of insomnia had risen from one in six to one in four. 
  • In China, insomnia rates rose from 14.6% to 20% during peak lockdown. 
  • In Greece, nearly 40% of respondents were shown to have insomnia in the Spring of 2020.

Add this to the already established problems leaving consumers sleep-deprived  (the American Sleep Apnea Association estimates 20-30 million people in the US suffer from various intermittent sleep problems every year) and the extent of the problem becomes clear.

Last year saw mainstream brands launch new sleep aid products or, as with Pure Zzzs by Vicks, extensions with on-trend formulations.

Hardly surprising then that several market reports estimate the US sleeping aids to be worth in excess of $20 billion in 2020, with Nielsen data showing that consumers spent $825,559,397 on melatonin supplements in 2020, a 42.6% increase compared to 2019. Meanwhile, data from Express Scripts reported that the number of prescriptions filled for sleep disorders increased 14.8%, from February 16 to March 15, 2020. 

High Yield’s own data shows that 25% of CBD supplement users buy over-the-counter sleep aids and 15% use prescription remedies for their sleep disorders. 

However, with numerous studies casting doubts over the long-term safety of taking prescription sleep aids, and many consumers shunning synthetic or animal-derived hormones, the market for CBD supplements as a sleep and relaxation aid has been booming. For example, measuring the impact of adopting CBD on the use of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids shows a pronounced substitution effect.

Source: US CBD Consumer Insights 2021 – Supplements, High Yield Insights, February 2021

In a recent survey of 35,000+ US adults age 21 and over, High Yield found that:

  • 41% of CBD supplements users buy CBD to manage insomnia or sleeplessness, putting this in the top four conditions that US consumers use CBD to treat. 
  • High Yield data also finds that females (53%) and Seniors/Baby Boomers (58%) are the most likely to use CBD to treat a specific ailment such as sleep disorders (the average figure is 45% of all CBD supplement users). 
  • When broken down by product format we see that oils and gummies are the most prominent way of taking CBD as a sleeping aid (43% and 44% respectively), a trend that has been noted in the hospitality industry with several partnerships emerging between CBD wellness companies and hotel brands to create signature oils and gummies given to guests at check-in or available in the hotel spa.
Highline Wellness x Freehand Hotels CBD Night Gummies are available as an opt-in amenity at guest check-in at all four U.S. Freehand locations, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.

Other trends emerging in the rapidly evolving CBD industry that are geared to cater to the rising tide of sleep-deprived include the incorporation of functional ingredients associated with sedative effects such as melatonin, chamomile, lavender, and passionflower. Both the CBD- and THC-forward sides of the cannabis market have been exploring THC:CBD ratios in addition to the inclusion of other cannabinoids like CBN that hold promise to deliver on sedation.

As the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the US surpasses 450,000 and our understanding of the hidden mental health epidemic grows, there is reason to believe that while acute worries will lessen, the fallout may persist for years even for those not directly impacted by the virus. Further disruption to sleep is almost certainly in the cards for a large proportion of consumers in 2021, an issue any cannabis brand lacking a sleep or relaxation product should consider carefully. 

Mike Luce

Mike Luce

Prior to co-founding High Yield Insights, Mike Luce led multi-million dollar insights engagements with Fortune 100 consumer goods companies. Mike has nearly 20 years experience developing market insights for some of the world’s leading consumer brands, including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and General Mills, and retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger.

High Yield Insights applies best practices and capabilities drawn from that experience to the dynamic cannabis industry.

Mike can be reached directly at [email protected]

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