Can CBD Oil Really Help You Sleep? All Your Questions, Answered
If you have difficulty sleeping, you’re not alone. In the United States, more than 3 million people are afflicted with issues sleeping, whether that’s trouble falling asleep initially, tossing and turning, difficulty staying asleep, or even a more severe sleep-related issue. Similarly, 80 percent of Americans say they have trouble sleeping at least once a week, according to Consumer Reports.
A lack of sleep can cause anxiety, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and so many more unpleasant symptoms, so it’s only natural that you’d want to check out your options. How can you fall asleep faster? Stay asleep better? Many people have been wondering if CBD oil for sleep is the best option.
Want to know if CBD oil for sleep is right for you? Keep reading!
Is CBD Safe?
First, let’s start with what we know about CBD. While CBD has been taking off ever since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, there is still a lot of confusion about what CBD actually is and what it does. Is CBD the same thing as hemp? Is it FDA-approved? Can it cause liver damage? Most importantly and universally: Is it safe?
The safety of CBD is currently up in the air, with not even the Food and Drug Administration understanding the full long-term effects of CBD oil. To glean more accurate data about the symptoms and long-term effects of CBD, we need longer-term studies. Only then will we understand more about its potential risks, side effects, and medical implications.
According to the FDA’s website, “CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it.” The site also states that CBD can cause liver injury, affect the metabolism of other drugs, and that use of CBD with alcohol or other depressants increases risk of sedation and drowsiness.
How Does CBD Impact Sleep?
In the meantime, people have still been turning to CBD as a catch-all for many different ailments, including anxiety, depression, and various sleep disorders. According to Consumer Reports, some recent research suggests that CBD can work efficiently as a sleep aid. You may have heard through the grapevine that cannabis has been used for centuries as a sleep aid; so, it stands to reason that since CBD is derived from cannabis, that it, too, could function similarly, promoting sleep.
Also known as cannabidiol, a recent Consumer Reports survey shows that 10 percent of Americans who tried CBD for sleep said it helped them. In fact, according to data from a very recent study, CBD can help people struggling with short-term sleep problems. Of course, research on the relationship between CBD and sleep is still lacking and more long-term studies are required, but for now, this is what the most recent study tells us.
Here’s how it (maybe) works: CBD has those cannabis-given properties that ease both anxiety and pain. (To get more technical for a second, the cannabinoid receptor — CBD1 — binds to serotonin receptors, which cause sleepiness. As they bind, CBD may block anything that causes anxiety, causing you to feel sleepy.)
When you’re calm, it’s more likely that you fall asleep easier and quicker than if you are experiencing pain or anxiety. Without the presence of anxiety and pain, it might be easier to fall and stay asleep.
According to the study, CBD interacts with receptors in the brain that influence the body’s sleep and wake cycle. It states, “Preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may decrease sleep latency but could impair sleep quality long-term.” Meaning that CBD might be even better for sleep than cannabis itself — at least in the long-term.
However, there’s still a lot of unknown information regarding timing, dosing, risk, and potential side effects when using CBD as a sleep aid.
Does CBD Oil Make You Sleepy?
While CBD can be used as a sleep aid in people who are struggling with sleep-related issues, CBD oil should not make you sleepy… At least not immediately. Unlike other sleep aids — like melatonin or say, Benadryl, which has a decorated track record of making people drowsy — CBD may help you fall asleep if you are in an environment that lends itself to sleep.
However, CBD is totally safe to take during the daytime; it should not make you drowsy unless you are ready for bed, it’s late, and you intend to use it as a sleep aid. You can operate heavy machinery while taking CBD and there is no legal limit for CBD levels.
Do CBD Pills Make You Sleepy?
Just as with CBD oil, CBD pills should not cause immediate drowsiness. If you are using CBD pills specifically as a sleep aid, then CBD might help you fall (and stay) asleep. However, you should be able to take CBD pills during the day, while operating heavy machinery, and not worry about accidentally falling asleep.
Can CBD Cause Sleepwalking?
If you are worried about CBD causing sleepwalking, you shouldn’t be. In fact, the same 2017 review found that CBD could specifically help people with a REM sleep behavior disorder. These disorders are characterized by people moving, talking, or sleepwalking while fully asleep.
Does CBD Work for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea affects 1 in 5 American adults and what’s worse — there are currently no drugs on the market to treat sleep apnea effectively. Right now, the main “solution” for those struggling with sleep apnea is a CPAP machine, a bulky mask that has to be worn during sleep. However, CBD might be the golden ticket to peaceful sleeping for sleep apnea sufferers. According to that same review from 2017, CBD can help people with REM sleep behavior disorders — such as sleep apnea — both fall and stay asleep.
It states, “Novel studies investigating cannabinoids and obstructive sleep apnea suggest that synthetic cannabinoids such as nabilone and dronabinol may have short-term benefit for sleep apnea due to their modulatory effects on serotonin-mediated apneas.”
That’s not all CBD may be good for, though. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or night terrors, CBD might also be able to help with that, as well. And of course, we already know that many people who experience chronic pain have been hailing CBD for its healing properties, too. So, if chronic pain is keeping you up or waking you up at night, CBD could comfort you.
CBD may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness, while nabilone may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and may improve sleep among patients with chronic pain.”
Does CBD Worsen Sleep Apnea?
Again, CBD should not make sleep apnea worse, but there is limited research and data on the long-term side effects of taking CBD. According to the limited research available, CBD oil should help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea, rather than exacerbate them.
What Dose of CBD Should I Take for Sleep?
CBD comes in many different forms — vape concentrate, edibles, oils and tinctures, and pills and capsules. While there isn’t much verified information in the scientific community about the correct CBD dosage for sleep, dosing relies on several different factors, according to Healthline: your weight, sleeping issues you personally experience, and your body’s personal chemistry.
Can CBD Actually Help You Sleep Better?
We dug into the science to find out everything you should know if you’ve been wanting to try it.
You’ve gotten serious about not using your phone in bed and sticking with a set bedtime routine. And yet night after night, you’re still laying in the dark, counting sheep. Maybe you start wondering: Could CBD possibly help?
Plenty of people insist that taking the stuff—in the form of an oil, edible, or drink—helps them snooze better. But the science on cannabidiol as a sleep supplement is mixed, and not all experts are convinced that it’s worth taking.
That’s not to say it’s something you shouldn’t consider, though. Here’s what you need to know before giving it a try.
How does CBD work, anyway?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound derived from the cannabis plant, which is the same plant that contains the psychoactive THC. Unlike THC, however, it won’t get you high no matter how much you take. However, it still affects the body’s endocannabinoid system, a network of neuromodulators and receptors involved in maintaining vital functions like mood, pain, appetite, and—yup—sleep.
When cannabinoids are consumed, their molecules bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the nervous system, which can trigger different neurological effects. CBD, for instance, seems to signal the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, says medical marijuana expert Hervé Damas, MD.
And indeed, some studies suggest that CBD may help ease feelings of anxiety. It’s also been shown to have the potential to ease chronic pain and inflammation.
As for sleep? The endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm, Dr. Damas says. The thinking goes, then, that taking a cannabinoid such as CBD could potentially regulate the sleep/wake cycles of people with insomnia and help them sleep more soundly. (More on this soon!)
The research on CBD and sleep
Maybe your neighbor or coworker swears up and down that taking CBD helps her get a better night’s rest. There’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence hyping CBD’s effects on sleep—but what does the scientific evidence say?
The research at this point is pretty limited. One study from the 1980s found that people with insomnia who took 160 milligrams of CBD daily slept longer and woke less often. However, those researchers only looked at 15 people.
Bigger, newer studies are more mixed. A 2017 review concluded that CBD might have therapeutic potential for treating sleep problems, but only for people with REM sleep behavior disorder (a specific sleep disorder where people act out their dreams by moving, sleep talking, or sleepwalking). And it didn’t address how much CBD a person would need to take to reap the benefits.
Another study, published in 2018, found that consuming whole cannabis flowers (the flowering part of the cannabis plant as opposed to the leaves) was tied to a significant improvement in perceived insomnia symptoms.
The problem? The cannabis plant contains tons of different cannabinoids, so there’s no way of knowing whether the benefit came from CBD or something else. There was no control group, either. “Without a placebo arm, it’s impossible to tell whether cannabis or CBD is more effective or different than a placebo,” says cannabis therapeutics specialist Jordan M. Tischler, MD, who was not involved with the study.
Some research even suggests that CBD might make sleep more elusive. A 2014 review found that it seems to promote wakefulness, with the authors suggesting that CBD could have the potential to treat and manage sleepiness.
Can taking CBD help you sleep better?
The limited research seems to suggest that the answer is no. Experts like Dr. Tischler firmly believe that people who sleep better with the help of CBD are reaping the benefits of their own positive thinking. “They believe they’re getting treated. It makes a good placebo,” he says.
But others see more potential, especially for people whose sleeplessness stems from feeling anxious. “CBD has been shown to have anxiety-relieving effects, and anxiety disorders can be a cause of insomnia,” Dr. Damas says. If CBD can succeed in helping you feel calmer or less stressed, you just might have an easier time drifting off to dreamland.
If anxiety isn’t what’s at the root of your sleep struggles, it’s a bit harder to say if it will help. Research is mixed, and there’s still a lot we don’t know.
How to take CBD
If you want to try CBD to improve your sleep, it’s important to get the green light from your doctor first. CBD can react with certain medications and isn’t suitable or safe for everyone.
You might also want to consider seeing a sleep specialist before trying CBD. Taking a supplement to help you snooze may ease your insomnia, but it won’t address the root cause. Your doctor can check for any medical problems that might be messing with your sleep and help you put together a plan to improve your sleep hygiene. “That might do wonders before we go recommending supplements,” Dr. Greenburg says.
There are also a few other things to keep in mind if you want to try CBD for better sleep. Here are three important ones:
1.) Do your homework.
When you find a product you’re interested in buying, research the manufacturer to make sure what you’re buying is safe. CBD products, like all OTC supplements, aren’t regulated, so they might contain more or less CBD than what’s listed on the label, and potentially even harbor contaminants like heavy metals, mold, or pesticides.
The ingredients, nutritional information, lot number, and expiration date should all be clearly listed, and the price should be consistent with other similar products. “Anything that’s super cheap is likely poor quality and may not even contain CBD,” Dr. Damas cautions.
Reputable manufacturers also lab-test their products to ensure that they’re free of contaminants. They should be willing to share a certificate of analysis (sometimes called a COA) if you request it, he adds.
2.) Start with a small dose and track your progress.
There are no dosing guidelines for CBD, and everyone responds to it differently. Dr. Damas has found that a low dose—around 25 milligrams daily—in a sublingual (Latin for “under the tongue”) liquid format like CBD oil is a good starting point, but you might not notice much of a difference after just one night. (Liquid forms of CBD tend to be absorbed faster than solid forms like tablets.)
“Because CBD works by increasing the circulating levels of your endogenous cannabinoids, supplementing for at least a week is recommended,” he explains. Still not feeling it? Try increasing the dose by 5 milligrams every few nights until you’re up to 40 milligrams. “In my experience, most people start feeling the sleep-inducing effects at that dose,” he says
3.) Have realistic expectations.
Know that CBD probably isn’t going to fix your insomnia forever. Even if a sleep supplement helps you snooze better at first, it can start to lose its potency after a while. “No matter what you’re taking, you’ll get used to it,” says sleep expert Jonathan Greenburg, DDS. “Over time, the efficacy will decrease, and the amount you’ll need to take for that same initial effect will increase.”