In recent years, interest in CBD for sleep and in general has grown significantly. Along with this public interest is an increase in research and high-quality studies into the effectiveness of CBD for various treatments.
At this time, the FDA has not approved CBD specifically for use as a sleep aid or in the treatment of sleeping disorders. However, recent studies and research indicate that this may be a promising tool in assisting with sleep disorders.
How exactly does CBD work to help with sleep?
The exact function of CBD involves the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is an internal structure that the body uses to manage certain neurotransmitters.
These transmitters, created within the body, are known as endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids6 (Lu & Mackie, 2015, 516-525). Endocannabinoids function very similarly to cannabinoids found in cannabis, including CBD and THC.
When these components are introduced into the body, they are able to coordinate with the endocannabinoid system and promote changes in the body’s hormone levels, physical state, and more. CBD in particular has been observed to reduce anxiety and stress7 (Grinspoon, 2020).
An important distinction must be made between CBD and THC. Both THC and CBD are derived from plants in the cannabis family and are being investigated for their potential uses as herbal remedies.
THC, however, is commonly known for its psychoactivity. THC is the component of cannabis that produces a euphoric “high” sensation. Therefore, it has been suggested that THC may in fact impair the quality of sleep on a long-term scale8 (Babson et al., 2017, 23).
CBD, on the other hand, is known for having a more calming effect on the body. Published research into the beneficial effects of CBD exclusively in the treatment of sleeping disorders is low but continues to grow.
That being said, CBD has more frequently been used to treat stress, PTSD, and epilepsy. In many of these studies, participants reported improved sleep9 (Kuhathasan et al., 2019, 383).
Although sleep is not always the primary outcome investigated in these studies, it is usually reported as a benefit associated with reduced stress, improved neurological functioning, or pain management.
One study focusing specifically on CBD for sleep was conducted recently involving 72 participants10 (Shannon et al., 2017, 23). In this study, all participants were provided with CBD as a treatment for anxiety and sleep disorders.
These participants ranged from 18-72 years of age and were mostly provided with CBD in capsule form at 25mg/d, with some provided with 50 or 75 mg/d. Dosages and continued use of CBD were closely monitored by doctors and adjusted as needed on a case-by-case basis.
As a group, overall anxiety and sleep disorder symptoms diminished over time through the use of CBD. After one month, about 66% of participants reported improvement in sleep due to CBD. A few participants noticed side effects and discontinued the use of CBD oil for sleep.
In another study, participant data was collected over a much larger sample size11 (Vigil et al., 2018, 75). In this study, intake methods of CBD were varied and included vaporizing, capsules, pipe, and more.
Insomnia symptoms were measured by user-reported data on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being little to no symptoms and 10 being the most severe intensity level. On average, users indicated a change of -4.5 on a scale of 1-10 (a 6/10 lowering to a 2.5/10, 9/10 lowering to a 4.5/10). While many noticed negative side effects while utilizing CBD and other cannabinoids, nearly all found some improvement as indicated by noting at least one positive side-effect.
This study, while sampling a larger group in a more natural environment, also allowed for a greater variation of the dosage, purity, and frequency of CBD usage, as well as the involvement of THC and other cannabinoids.
All in all, studies have indicated that there may be a reason to believe that CBD can be helpful as an herbal remedy for sleep. Like any medication or other supplement, individual reactions can vary.
Personal preference, lifestyle, body chemistry, adherence to the regimen, and interactions with medications or other supplements can all impact the effectiveness and side effects of taking CBD for sleep.
Even treatments that have worked in the past may not continue to work as the body continues to grow and adapt to circumstances.
However, further investigation must be done. In addition, as CBD products are not currently regulated by the FDA as medication, personal research into the quality and dosage is needed.
Always research any new supplements for sleep or other conditions thoroughly before trying them. This article is not intended to serve as a medical guide. Talk to your physician before beginning any new natural sleep remedies or supplements for sleep.
As with any supplement, side effects to CBD may be present. Some reported side effects include dose-related liver damage, overall sedation and lethargy, change in thoughts and behavior, and potentially more12 (Meissner & Cascella, 2020).
As research continues to grow, we will better understand the potential adverse effects of CBD and the mechanism by which we can avoid these. If you notice a change in one of these areas or others, talk to your doctor about your CBD use.