One of the most popular uses for CBD is to help improve sleep. But does it really work? And how? In this article, we look at some of the research and science that explains how CBD helps address sleep and insomnia problems.
Human have been using CBD for sleep for a very long time.
“CBD for sleep” sounds like some new trend—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. CBD is extracted from cannabis plants, and is especially prevalent in the male “hemp” plant. Humanity’s relationship with cannabis goes back thousands of years. The Chinese had already listed cannabis as a sleep aid in medical texts as far back as 1200AD. Even earlier than that, Hindus had written about cannabis-as-sleep-aid in the Atharvaveda, roughly 3500 years ago.
Lack of sleep is an alarmingly regular occurrence in the US. In that country, 80% of people report experiencing lack of sleep at least once a week. The big challenge for those experiencing sleeplessness regularly is that natural remedies aren’t quite effective. On the other hand, over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be ineffective or addictive. Those already on medications such as opioids and anti-depressants might also experience more sleep disruption.
This is probably why CBD is rapidly gaining popularity. Many consider it comparable or superior to pharmaceuticals and natural remedies, but has the added benefits of being non-addictive and non-toxic. CBD’s big advantage is that it is generally quite effective and a very safe alternative for sleep.
Does the research back CBD for sleep?
Unfortunately, as CBD was only legalized in the US and Canada in 2018, there hasn’t been that much research done yet. That’s changing now, and there are large numbers of studies being done on CBD and cannabis medicine in general. However, it’ll be some time before we fully understand how these medicines work and how to use them effectively. That being said, there are a few studies out there that provide interesting insights.
One University of São Paulo study showed that CBD dramatically improved the symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and Parkinson’s Disease. The subjects in this study were prone to reacting physically to dreams by moving, which disrupted their sleep. These disruptive movements, and other symptoms, were reduced after CBD was administered.
Another study on 72 patients suffering anxiety and difficulty sleeping conducted by Scott Shannon, MD, involved giving patients 25mg CBD pills over a one-month period. 47 of these patients reported suffering from anxiety, whereas the other 25 had difficulty sleeping. At the end of the study, the patients were interviewed with the following results:
- 79.2% participants said CBD lowered their anxiety
- 66.7% of participants said they experienced better sleep with CBD.
Another big reason people lose sleep is because of pain. This 2018 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that CBD can improve sleep by diminishing pain.
There are other studies out there that bolster the idea that CBD is good for sleep, but at the moment the science is insufficient for health authorities to approve CBD as a sleep medicine. We’ll have to wait for more research to come online before we have that kind of certitude.
How does CBD promote good sleep?
According to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center professor and neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, M.D., CBD works because it reduces two major obstacles to good sleep: pain and anxiety.
Some studies show that CBD can reduce pain-induced sleeplessness. Rather than create a powerful numbing or sedative effect like some pharmaceuticals, CBD addresses the symptoms that prevent us falling and staying asleep.
Additionally, a 2017 review in Current Psychiatry Reports showed another way CBD might be influencing the quality of our sleep is by stimulating parts of our brains involved in the our daily sleep/wake cycles.
Another way CBD may reduce sleep-ruining anxiety and stress is by regulating the release of the stress hormone cortisol. A large-scale review showed that CBD increased sleep quality by reducing the symptoms of anxiety-related disorders.
Furthermore, there are other studios out there showing that CBD may help with movement disorders. For patients suffering from insomnia due to movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Restless Leg and Huntington’s disease, CBD’s muscle-relaxing and muscle-tremor-reducing qualities help ensure better quality rest.
Another condition that can be a major contributor to loss of sleep is PTSD. CBD is thought to help relieve PTSD-related sleep issues thanks to its anti-anxiety properties. Ever-increasing numbers of research studies bolster the idea CBD improves sleep by diminishing anxiety-induced REM sleep (in other words: vivid, panic-inducing nightmares). The result appears to be fewer dreams that disturb sleep.
Another way CBD is thought to improve sleep quality is by decreasing the duration of REM sleep and increasing the “deep sleep” phase. Indications are that this improved sleep quality results in improved memory and reduced depression.
With improved sleep quality comes greater sleep recovery. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. A dose before sleep may improve sleep recovery by reducing inflammation, oxidative damage and pain.
That’s largely the reason why CBD’s been endorsed by so many pro athletes. The list includes Olympic gold medalists, UFC Champions, and some of the greatest golf champs of all time, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Nate Diaz, Megan Rapinoe and many, many others.
How much CBD should I use for sleep?
At this point, the answer is we don’t know. We don’t have the understanding yet to know how to prescribe particular doses of CBD and other cannabinoids for individuals and their conditions. More research is necessary.
So, there are no recommended dosages, but the good news is, there is a very safe process of experimentation that will allow you to discover the dose that works best for you. To learn more about that read our article on CBD oil dosage.
CBD is biphasic, like alcohol, the effects you feel are different depending on how much you’ve had. With CBD, if you take less, it generally makes you more wakeful and focused. If you take more, it generally makes people more sleepy. CBD does work a bit differently on each of us, but generally speaking, that is how it affects people.
There are general guidelines for dosage out there. As the article on dosage mentions, if you’re trying to find your ideal dose yourself, you should follow the “Start Low, Go Slow” approach.
To improve wakefulness and your sleep schedule, start with 20-25mg in the morning. To reduce anxiety, pain, inflammation and others, and improve sleep recovery; take 30-160mg an hour before sleep.
A few additional resources:
One of the best ways to to improve sleep is through routine. Developing habits and a routine will improve your chances of getting a good nights sleep.
Have a look at How to Fall Asleep the Natural Way it’s a great resource if you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep without drugs.
This information does not constitute medical advice and it should not be relied upon as such. Consult with your doctor before modifying your regular medical regime.