Are you considering using CBD oil for sleep? Do you have questions about safety, effectiveness, and especially, legality?
To start with, we’re assuming it’s legal where you’re from. If you need to double-check, feel free to consult our chart that gives a state-by-state run down or contact your local state or county to find out if it is legal in your area.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently about CBD and cannabis thanks to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp-based CBD with less than 0.3% THC at the federal level.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 14% of Americans say they personally use CBD-based products with 11% of them citing usage for sleep (40% for pain and 20% for anxiety).
As a nurse and health coach, I’ve been very intrigued by the growing research on this plant-based substance and recently decided to try it out myself. The results were very noticeable, and I was surprised by how quickly it took effect. Keep reading to get the full scoop on how to use CBD oil for sleep.
What Is It?
Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) is one of 80 known cannabinoids that is derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Unlike THC, this cannabinoid doesn’t produce the same psychoactive “high” that is acquainted with marijuana plants. In the United States, CBD as “hemp oil” is legal as long as it is derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC.
Cannabidiol is available as a crystalline isolate, meaning it has been purified to contain only CBD, or as a full-spectrum oil containing a variety of compounds including cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils.
It was previously thought that the isolate form was the best choice, but now researchers are investigating something called the “entourage effect” where it is believed that properties found within the whole plant work synergistically to create a compounding effect.
Walking into your local gas station or pet store, you’ll likely notice the wide range of hemp oil products available as pure oils, tinctures, gummies, vapors, and more. Quality and concentration can vary from product to product, so be sure to do your research before buying and check the label for the recommended dosage.
Looking to learn more? Check out our top rated cbd oil guide here.
What Do People Use CBD For?
CBD has a long history of use dating as far back as 1200 A.D. where an ancient Chinese medical text refers to its benefits for inducing sleep. Many other cultures have been using hemp and cannabis products for years to treat conditions like epilepsy, pain, anxiety, constipation, and more. More recently, a purified form of plant-based CBD called Epidiolex was approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy.
Let’s take a look at some of the other conditions people are using this oil for:
CBD for Pain
Chronic pain can be debilitating, impacting the quality of life, the ability to work, social interactions, and sleep. Many over-the-counter and prescription pain medications have a long list of potential side effects and run the risk of developing tolerance and dependency.
Certain types of pain including cancer-associated pain, neuropathic pain, and central pain states (associated with multiple sclerosis) are often difficult to treat with traditional opiates, anticonvulsant drugs, and antidepressants. Medical marijuana is available in some states with a prescription and is commonly used for treating chronic pain, back pain and several other conditions.
Recent research has supported the use of cannabis for treating pain from a variety of conditions, and one study of 177 cancer patients found that patients who used a combination of CBD/THC had a 30% greater reduction in pain compared to placebo, whereas those who used THC alone saw no effect.
Learn More: How to Cope With Pain and Sleep
CBD for Anxiety
Anxiety rates have been rising rapidly, and many people suffering from various forms of anxiety have turned to cannabis for relief. Unfortunately, anxiety may be a risk factor for dependency in some and the use of this psychoactive drug could also make users more likely to develop anxiety. Conversely, cannabidiol has been shown some promise in the treatment of anxiety.
Preclinical evidence has found that cannabidiol may be a safe and effective way to manage anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. A study conducted at a psychiatric clinic looking at the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep found a reduction in anxiety scores in 79.2% of patients and an improvement in sleep scores in 66.7% of patients within the first month of treatment.
Want to know more? Read our full guide for sleeping through anxiety.
CBD form Mental Health
Mental illness impacts people of every age, race, gender, and socioeconomic class. Treatment may involve the use of medications or non-pharmacological options. Some of these treatments may produce unwanted side effects, impact sleep, cause weight gain, or interact with other medications, and scientists are always looking for safer treatment alternatives.
A systematic review looking at a total of 1,629 patients with conditions including Alzheimer’s disorder/dementia, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, ADHD, Tourette’s disorder, substance use disorder, and others found that treatment with cannabis was associated with improvements in several symptoms of mental disorders, but not complete remission.
Some animal studies have found that CBD may interact with serotonin receptors in the brain with similar effects to antidepressants. More research is needed in humans, but preliminary evidence is promising. Sleep disorders are much more common in individuals suffering from mental health conditions, so it is possible that effectively treating one could improve the other.
How Does CBD Work to Make You Drowsy?
In the last 25 years, scientists have discovered the existence of a biochemical communication system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system. This complex network of cannabinoid receptors is found throughout the body and in the central nervous system, where sleep is primarily regulated.
We have also learned that the body can manufacture endogenous cannabinoids that act as chemical messengers, but using cannabis-based products has the same effect. Research has found that people may suffer from an endocannabinoid deficiency that results in many different symptoms, including difficulty with sleep.
Scientists are still researching exactly how cannabinoids improve sleep, but initial findings suggest that it has to do with how endocannabinoids interact with proteins, receptors, and chemicals in the brain.
This signaling is thought to influence the activity of various hormones, neurotransmitters, and other cells that affect things like the sleep-wake cycle, emotional regulation, and pain.
Another possible contributor is a terpene called myrcene, which is found in high CBD strains. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in plants and fruits and are the basis of aromatherapy. Myrcene has been found to have sedative effects and is also found in high levels in the sleep-inducing herb, hops (the same flower found in beer).
Some medical professionals believe that CBD improves rest by reducing anxiety and pain, allowing individuals to relax so their natural mechanisms of sleep can properly function.
Can CBD Impact Sleep Quality?
The good news is that cannabidiol may improve the quality of rest by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increasing deep, restful sleep, and minimizing certain factors that interrupt sleep.
CBD may help by shifting your body from REM rest into deeper NREM sleep. Unfortunately, while THC does help some people fall asleep faster, it has been shown to decrease sleep quality long-term
Studies have found that cannabidiol may be beneficial for certain sleep disorders that impact REM cycles. Patients with Parkinson’s disease showed an improvement in symptoms related to REM sleep behavior disorder after being treated with CBD. One study found an improvement in anxiety and sleep disturbances related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a ten-year-old girl.
Can CBD Treat Insomnia?
The impact of cannabidiol on sleep may be dose-dependent according to the latest research. Studies have found that lower doses have a stimulating effect, increasing wakefulness, whereas higher doses have a sedative effect.
One study involving patients with insomnia found that a moderate dose of 160 mg/day increased the total amount of sleep time and decreased the number of awakenings during the night. Another retrospective study looking at two cannabis clinics found that patients with and without sleep as their primary concern noticed a significant decrease in the amount of time it took to fall asleep.
Short-term use of CBD may improve insomnia by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increasing NREM, slow-wave sleep. However, it is important to note that chronic use may lead to habituation and dependency, with sleep disruption being a primary withdrawal symptom.
Will CBD Stop Snoring?
Ask anyone who shares a bed with someone who snores and they will tell you that it has a huge impact on the quality of their rest. Individuals who snore may also have sleep disturbances is their snoring that is severe enough to impact their breathing and oxygenation to the brain.
Research has found that endocannabinoids may protect the brain from symptoms related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that causes abnormal patterns of breathing while asleep.
Initial research in animal models found that the cannabinoid system may help to suppress the serotonin-mediated symptoms of OSA and reduce the number of apneas during the night. Two additional studies in humans also showed a reduction in apneic episodes among adults with OSA.
Is CBD Safe?
Although CBD use is growing in popularity, there is still very little known about its safety, effectiveness, or optimal dosage. Until recently, this plant-based substance was classified in a way that made research difficult due to a lack of federal funding. Products are not regulated by the FDA, so despite labels and claims, it is difficult to know exactly what is in each bottle.
Issues with Regulation
Currently, the only FDA approved form of CBD is a prescription oil called Epidiolex used for the treatment of two types of epilepsy. Recently, a study of 84 online CBD products revealed that more than 1/4 of the products contained less cannabidiol than what is listed on the label and THC was found in 18 products.
Potential Danger to Employment
One of the most common side effects is drowsiness, which could impact job performance, safety, and impair driving to and from your place of work. Depending on the amount of THC in the product you choose, it is possible to fail drug testing that your employer may require.
Medical Side Effects of CBD
CBD may interact with other medications including blood thinners, antidepressants, and cholesterol-lowering statins. Other possible side effects include diarrhea, dry mouth, drowsiness, fatigue, and reduced appetite.
Long Term vs. Short Term Use
When it comes to sleep, CBD appears to work better for short-term use and in higher doses. Long-term use could lead to dependency and a diminished effect over time. The best results are usually seen in the first month of use and start to fade in subsequent months.
CBD Vs. Other Sleep Aids
Compared to other sleep aids, cannabidiol may be safer and more effective than prescription or over-the-counter options. If your sleeping difficulties are due to anxiety or pain, CBD may provide relief from your symptoms so you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Like many other natural sleep aids, more research is needed to know exactly which types of sleep disorders could benefit the most.
CBD vs. THC
Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids that have been shown to impact two different types of cell membrane receptors that function within the endocannabinoid system within the body and brain. These receptors are called CB1 and CB2 receptors.
THC mainly acts on CB1 receptors which are most abundant in the brain and impact things like sensory perception, emotion, and cognition. CB2 receptors are the primary site of interaction for CBD and are found mainly in the peripheral nervous system and organs.
While the presence of CBD does appear to mitigate some of the psychoactive properties of THC, higher concentrations of the latter are associated with the “high” that people experience from using marijuana. THC does appear to help people fall asleep faster, but it is known to decrease overall sleep quality with repeated use. When it comes to sleep, research seems in favor of cannabidiol as a short-term solution for sleep-related issues.
Get More Info: Marijuana and Sleep
Ask your Doctor about CBD
Can it work for my sleep disorder?
If you are considering using a CBD-based product for your sleep disorder, speak with your physician about whether there is any research about its effectiveness for treating your condition.
How much CBD should I use for sleep?
Research on the most effective dosage for sleep has varied, but most studies have agreed that higher doses seem to work better. Unfortunately, there are still no accepted guidelines on the most optimal dosage for sleep, and concentrations can vary widely between products. Many authorities say dosing should be based on body weight, so speak to your doctor about what dosage may be best for you.
Can it interfere with my prescriptions?
Highly concentrated CBD oils may impact certain liver enzymes responsible for the metabolism of medications and could cause interactions with pharmaceutical drugs, either by increasing or decreasing their effectiveness. It is important to speak with your physician if you are currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Is there a better alternative?
Because research is still in its infancy, there may be other solutions that have been well studied for the treatment of sleep-related difficulties that work better for you. Your doctor may recommend things like cognitive behavioral therapy, improving sleep hygiene, or investigating the underlying cause of your troubles with sleep.
Natural Alternatives to CBD
After doing your own research and speaking with your doctor, you may decide to pass on CBD. If it’s not right for you, there are some other natural alternatives for sleep that you can try. Keep in mind that the effectiveness of any natural or pharmaceutical treatment will depend on the reason you are struggling with poor sleep, to begin with.
Melatonin is a natural hormone is produced in the brain in response to sunlight and darkness and helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Research has found that supplementing with melatonin may help to improve sleep, especially for shift workers or those suffering from jet lag.
Many herbs have been researched for their safety and effectiveness as natural sleep remedies. Some of the most popular and widely used herbs known for their sedative effects include valerian, chamomile, passionflower, St. John’s Wort, Ginkgo Biloba, lemon balm, and kava.
Homeopathic remedies use a process of sequential dilution and succussion (shaking) and work on the principle of “like treats like.” This treatment involves taking a substance that causes symptoms of disease in a healthy individual and using it to treat similar symptoms in sick individuals. Homeopathic remedies come in different ratios of dilution such as 200x or 400x and can be found as single remedies or blends that target certain symptoms.
The use of essential oils has been increasing in popularity, especially for sleep. Many people use essential oils like lavender, chamomile, blue tansy, and cedarwood to help them fall asleep. Essential oils can be used by inhaling directly from the bottle, placing a few drops on a pillow, or using an aromatherapy diffuser.
This natural mineral may help to boost certain levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that influence sleep. Magnesium is well-known for its calming properties and is lacking in the diet of most Americans. Magnesium can be taken as an oral supplement or be used topically in a lotion or cream.
Explore the Best Magnesium Supplements for Sleep
Getting moderate exercise on a daily basis may help to improve sleep. Vigorous activities tend to have a stimulating effect and are best done in the morning hours so they don’t interfere with falling asleep at night. Yoga and light stretching are calming and can be performed in the evening hours.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is an often overlooked remedy that can be extremely helpful for many people. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day may help to establish regular patterns and regulate the circadian rhythm. Performing a calming bedtime routine is also a great way to signal the body and brain that it is time for rest.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of treatment that involves working with a therapist to focus on changing behaviors that may be negatively impacting sleep. Therapists can also help to uncover any psychological factors and suggest certain techniques that may be helpful.
The Bottom Line
If you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from lack of sleep, you may be desperate for a solution that works. While CBD appears to be a safe and effective remedy that could help some people get the rest they need, there is still a lot we don’t know about its safety and long-term use.
Before using any natural remedy, be sure to speak with your physician about your particular situation and any current medications you may be taking. Like many other natural sleep remedies, CBD appears to be the most effective for short-term use.
The jury is still out on what the best form and dosage is for sleep, so for now, follow the recommended guidelines on the bottle you are taking and be sure to confirm that the type you are using is legal in your area. If you do decide to give CBD a try, be sure to take it 30-60 minutes before bed so it has time to take effect. Fingers crossed that you can give those sheep a well-deserved night off!
RN, RHN, Certified Health Coach
Raina Cordell is a Registered Nurse, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and Certified Health Coach, but her true passion in life is helping others live well through her website, www.holfamily.com. Her holistic approach focuses on the whole person, honing the physical body and spiritual and emotional well-being.