In this article we’ll look at the effectiveness of CBD for insomnia and sleep. We’ll look at studies, the science and testimony to understand how and why it works and how best to use CBD oil in Canada and elsewhere it is available.
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CBD for sleep, a time-honored tradition!
The use of cannabis for sleep is not breaking news. In fact, human use of this natural medicine was recorded ages ago. Long before there were headlines, in 1200 AD, cannabis was already listed as a sleep aid in Chinese medical texts. The Hindus used it far earlier than that, writing about cannabis for sleep in the Atharvaveda—a text dating back roughly 3500 years to 1500 BC.
Everyone knows lack of sleep prevents us from functioning at our peak emotional, physical, and mental levels. When sleeplessness becomes chronic our health and productivity takes a big hit.
In the US, nearly 80 percent people report having trouble sleeping once a week. However, some of the main worries about prescription and over-the-counter drugs is that they are ineffective and addictive. Opioids and antidepressant drugs also reduce analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, increasing the chances of sleep disruptions from pain.
With CBD’s growing reputation as the “new” (but really 3500-plus-year-old) sleep aid, more people are turning to it as a safe, non-habit-forming alternative to pharmaceuticals.
What do the studies say so far?
In a study conducted by Scott Shannon, MD 72 patients were administered 25mg CBD pills over a period of months. Of those 72, 47 subjects suffered anxiety, while the other 25 experienced difficulty sleeping. The results showed the following:
- 79.2% of all the participants said that CBD resulted in lower levels of anxiety; and
- 66.7% of all the participants said that CBD gave them a better sleep experience.
In another study conducted in the University of São Paulo, Brazil, researchers gave CBD to subjects with Parkinson’s Disease and REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD)—a disorder in which people physically move in reaction to dreams. With CBD usage, their symptoms dramatically improved.
Pain is another leading cause of lost sleep. A 2018 review in Frontiers in Pharmacology found evidence that CBD improves sleep by soothing pain.
Another 2017 review investigating CBD’s applications for sleep also found it helpful in treating RBD, and noted that CBD had potential for treating excessive daytime sleepiness as well.
How does CBD work in the body to promote sleep?
Joseph Maroon, M.D., clinical professor and neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a seasoned researcher on how cannabis affects the brain, says that CBD appears to ease anxiety and pain, both of which can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.
For those who struggle with sleeplessness due to pain, CBD offers a promising alternative to pharmaceutical pain relievers. CBD has been show to reduce pain-induced sleeplessness by working on the symptoms themselves rather than providing a sedative effect like pharmaceutical drugs.
A 2017 review of sleep and cannabis in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports indicates CBD may also affect sleep directly by stimulating receptors in the brain that govern daily sleep/wake cycles.
We’re also learning that CBD reduces anxiety and stress by regulating cortisol—a stress hormone, which has a significant impact on non-REM sleep cycles. A large case series review found that CBD is beneficial for anxiety-related disorders and increases sleep quality.
CBD also relaxes muscles. Studies show that CBD is a promising treatment for movement disorders, helping to reduce tremors and hypermotility in Parkinson’s disease patients. By reducing muscle tremors, CBD helps insomnia in patients with movement disorders like Restless Leg, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
CBD has also been shown to have an impact on sleep disrupted by chronic nightmares. For those who suffer from REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD), in which sleep is disrupted by restlessness and increased nightmares, CBD can reduce those RBD side effects.
CBD can also improve sleep quality and wakefulness by regulating the body’s sleep/wake cycles. This promotes wakefulness during daytime and relaxation at night. Insomnia and daytime sleepiness can impact both daytime productivity and the ability to fall asleep at night. Administration of CBD during daylight hours can help to promote alertness, leading to more restful sleep at night.
Sleep disorders can also be the result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An increasing number of research studies bolster the view that CBD oil is effective for sleep issues related to PTSD. CBD helps to relieve anxiety related to PTSD, reducing anxiety-induced REM sleep disturbances.
CBD also increases sleep in the third phase, the “deep sleep” phase. It also decreases the duration of REM sleep, the phase of light sleep where dreams occur. As a result, memory may be improved, and symptoms of depression may be decreased.
CBD is also known to have powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that can improve sleep recovery overall by reducing pain, oxidative damage and inflammation. This might explain why CBD is becoming so popular with sports professional like pro golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, NASM certified personal trainers like Tara Laferrara, and even mixed martial artists like Nate Diaz.
There are testimonials galore!
The internet is literally awash in testimonials by customers reviewing CBD products as sleeping aids. A quick google search for “CBD sleep testimonial” yields hundred of thousands of links. Here are just a few of the testimonials we found:
“Both my wife and I were regular users of marijuana, helping us to reach sleep easier in these stressful times, but she stopped abruptly just more than a year ago when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Here thinking was that a lively mind would almost certainly cause her to dwell on her condition, and bring more paranoia than relief. After careful review of all the CBD choices available in a field crowded with profiteers and charlatans, Royal CBD stood out with solid testimonials and your obvious attention to science and manufacturing standards. It has proven to work splendidly, helping her sleep through the night and wean herself off high dosages of opioids. I’m ordering more today!” R.A.
“This has helped with my fibromyalgia a lot! Hands wrists feet and ankles used to keep me up nights but this is really minimizing the pain.” Laura S
“Not so much for chronic back pain, but a wonderful surprise in the prostate dept. No longer waking at 0300, 0400, 0700. Etc…to fake urinate,!!! It’s like being 19 again and normal again. Actually sleeping 6 to 8 hours straight, and great rest! Thanks guys. What a great surprise… telling all my friends!!” Ran M
How do you take CBD for sleep?
Though much more science needs to be done, research to date seems to suggest that at higher doses, CBD has a calming effect, but at lower doses has a stimulating effect. Each person responds differently to CBD and there are no recommended dosage guidelines. For those trying CBD for the first time, a little experimentation is necessary.
Most clinical trials on CBD and sleep involved giving subjects anywhere between 25 mg to 1,500 mg of CBD per day. It’s best to start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find something that works for you. If you’re trying to improve your wakefulness and sleep routine, something like 20-25mg in the morning might be helpful. If you are trying to reduce anxiety, pain and other symptoms and improve sleep recovery, a dose of 30-160mg an hour before sleep might be beneficial.
There are different ways to get CBD into your system, so it’s important to choose the right form of delivery for your needs. If you want to feel the effects quickly, the most highly recommended way it to put drops of pure CBD oil or full spectrum CBD oil under your tongue and hold it for 30-90 seconds before swallowing.
Many studies indicated that both THC and CBD can help with sleep. For those that want to combine the sedative effects of both THC and CBD there are blended tinctures with varying ratios of CBD to THC such as 4:1 CBD/THC tinctures, 20:1 CBD/THC tinctures and 1:1 CBD/THC tinctures. Interestingly, CBD actually inhibits THC from making you feel “high” so a blended tincture will reduce the THC “high” and emphasize its medicinal qualities.
You can also consume CBD in the form of CBD capsules, and CBD edibles. In this form, CBD must go through the digestive tract and is released more slowly, which might help you sleep longer. However, the liver is good at removing CBD from the bloodstream. So when you consume it, less of the dose actually gets to your endocannabinoid system. Experiment and adjust your dose accordingly.
In Canada, CBD oil is getting increasingly popular, but it can also be combined with other herbal remedies. Some people like to combine CBD with other sleep aids or supplements such as Sleepytime or chamomile tea, melatonin, valerian root, magnesium, lavender, passion flower, glycine and more. Some brands have even created CBD oils formulated for sleep that include melatonin, vitamin B6, valerian root and more!
A few additional resources:
To learn more about how to use CBD see How do I Use CBD? What’s the Proper CBD Oil Dosage?
Remember that the best way to improve sleep is to cultivate habits and routines that improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest. Check out How to Fall Asleep the Natural Way for a guide on the best ways to get a good night’s sleep without drugs.
For an in-depth guide on CBD and sleep, check out the article below byClinical Psychologist; Board Certified Sleep Specialist:
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.