Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently complain of having sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep abnormality. Cannabidiol (CBD), a psycho-inactive constituent of marijuana, reduces physiological non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM sleep in normal rats, in addition to generating its anxiolytic effect. However, the effects of CBD on anxiety-induced sleep disturbances remain unclear. Because anxiety progression is caused by persistent stress for a period of time, we employed the repeated combination tests (RCT) consisting of a 50-min open field (OF) and a subsequent 10-min elevated plus-maze (EPM) for four consecutive days to simulate the development of anxiety. Time spent in the centre arena of OF and during open arms of the EPM was substantially decreased in latter days of RCT, suggesting the habituation, which potentially lessens anxiety-mediated behavioural responses, was not observed in current tests. CBD microinjected into the central nucleus of amygdala (CeA) significantly enhanced time spent in centre arena of OF, increased time during the open arms and decreased frequency of entry to the enclosed arms of EPM, further confirming its anxiolytic effect. The decrease of NREM sleep during the first hour and the suppression of REM sleep during hours 4-10 after the RCT represent the similar clinical observations (e.g. insomnia and REM sleep interruption) in PTSD patients. CBD efficiently blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression, but had little effect on the alteration of NREM sleep. Conclusively, CBD may block anxiety-induced REM sleep alteration via its anxiolytic effect, rather than via sleep regulation per se. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.
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