Restful, regular sleep is very important as not having enough sleep can affect your body in many ways – mentally, physically and emotionally. Millions of people worldwide are suffering from sleeplessness and interest in sleep aids is skyrocketing.
People are always on the lookout for natural solutions – they would rather catch some shut-eye without feeling groggy in the morning or experiencing disturbing dreams. The option of using CBD to improve sleep with few to no side effects is causing a stir worldwide.
Global sleep problems
From stressed-out parents to night owls, millions of people all over the world feel they don’t get enough sleep. In an annual global sleep survey by Philips, 80% of people worldwide report wanting to improve the quality of their sleep, and 62% say they don’t sleep well. The survey was conducted among 11,006 adults in 12 different countries.
If you’ve ever lain awake till all hours of the night desperately trying to fall asleep while your thoughts go around in cycles, you’ll understand that desire to try anything that may work.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis plants. If you smoke a joint, you will be getting some CBD but it’s one of the other compounds, TCH (tetrahydrocannabinol) that gets you high. You won’t get high, laugh uncontrollably for no reason or develop the munchies when using CBD as these effects are caused by THC, not CBD.
CBD products made from hemp contain only trace elements of THC, which makes them legal. Devotees claim they have many of the benefits of cannabis without the drawbacks. They say CBD is “adaptogenic” – this is, a natural, non-toxic substance that regulates bodily systems – and it’s not hard to find people who will tell you it has helped them.
What do the studies say about CBD and sleep?
With all and sundry touting CBD products, this has given some the impression that it is all snake oil or witchcraft. However, initial research shows that CBD does have promise in improving insomnia. It may offer hope to those who have tried everything from prescription medication, meditation and regular exercise to melatonin and good sleep hygiene with little success.
There are two main reasons why CBD may help people to sleep. One is that it helps to relieve anxiety and pain, both of which can prevent people from falling and staying asleep. Another is that cannabis compounds interact with receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the human body. CBD attaches indirectly to these receptors that are responsible for various functions in the body – they help to regulate pain, appetite, mood, memory and sleep cycles.
Stress has reached serious proportions in society today and studies show that there are functional interactions between the endocannabinoid system and stress. CBD could possibly reduce insomnia by improving the brain’s capacity to respond to stress.
In research published in the journal Neurotherapeutics, findings were that CBD may help short-term in various cases of anxiety, such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety.
A study from The University of Montana found that CBD may attach itself to a serotonin 1A receptor in the brain, known to mediate anxiety.
A large case series published in January 2019 in The Permanente Journal concluded that CBD may hold benefits for anxiety-related disorders. This study was done at a psychiatric clinic and involved the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints as an adjunct to usual treatment.
A review in the journal Molecules showed that CBD has promise in enhancing drug treatment for chronic pain and inflammation. It may rather complement rather than replace drug treatment, and the effect depends on the preparation, formulation and dosage.
However, there haven’t been enough clinical studies conducted yet. Anecdotal evidence abounds, but research is still in its infancy. It does appear from the research already conducted that CBD reduces symptoms like anxiety, allowing people to relax and their natural sleep mechanism to take over.
What do individuals report about using CBD for sleep
One suspicion about CBD is that some people claim it makes them more relaxed, while others say it sharpens their mind. Can both be true? It appears that this may not be a contradiction but more of an indication that we don’t really know yet what it is capable of and how best to use it. The answer may be that instead of having a sedative effect like THC or sleeping pills, CBD combats insomnia at the source.
In a Consumer Reports survey on CBD, 10% of respondents said they were using CBD to help them sleep and most of them said that it worked.
The way CBD interacts with your body makes you feel pretty relaxed and calm, but not excessively so. “You won’t feel as though a zombie ate half your brain”, says Jake Gaines, who started using CBD to improve his sleep six months ago. He felt he would rather suffer from insomnia than take sleeping pills because of the effect they had on him but CBD has provided him with an alternative that works.
Hayley MacMillan writes in a Medium article why CBD oil is her sleep aid of choice. She says that she tried Ambien, Melatonin and more and that placebo or not, CBD works wonders for her. She says that if she took too much Ambien, it was as though she never woke up at all.
She would float around half-sentient and reanimate just in time for dinner. MacMillan was unmoved by the hype surrounding CBD until a sample of hemp oil extract crossed her desk at work and she began experimenting with it. She says the calming effect she felt was subtle, but noticeable and she found she was falling asleep more easily.
Mark Silberman said he was expecting CBD to work like a sleeping pill that put him to sleep almost immediately. He found it didn’t do this. While it didn’t have any wild effects on how long it took him to get to sleep, the quality of his pre-sleep time was way more relaxed and he didn’t lie awake thinking about deadlines and to-dos.
What form of CBD works best?
People use all forms of CBD – tinctures, capsules, edibles, vaping and topical products – to help them sleep. Personal preference usually dictates what they use. For example, some people prefer capsules because they don’t like the taste of the oil. They need to take a higher dose, however, as the CBD goes through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream.
Others prefer to vape because it offers quick relief. People who suffer from chronic pain find massaging the cream into painful areas brings relief and helps them sleep. For people who have no history of smoking or vaping, the preferred method for taking CBD oil in terms of bioavailability and absorption is to use CBD drops under the tongue.
Mitch Earlywine, Ph.D., professor of psychology, and member of the advisory board for a marijuana advocacy group, says vaping CBD works faster because it quickly gets the compound into your system but that using oils, pills and edibles may help you sleep longer because they release the CBD more slowly.
What is the right dosage?
Dosage varies depending upon various factors such as individual tolerance, weight, the quality of the product etc. CBD in general is said to be mildly stimulating in small doses whereas medium to high doses are considered to be sedating.
Some people suggest taking between 10 and 20mg in order to feel the effects and yet not suffer from side effects like nausea or diarrhea. Others say this is not enough to feel the effects and you need to take more. The best advice, as always, is to trust your body. It is best to start with a minimal dosage and then gradually increase it until you start feeling the effects.
You also need to remember that different methods of use offer varying levels of bioavailability. This means that if you switch from one way of taking CBD to another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dosage will remain the same.
When should you take it?
The ingestion method affects how long it takes to kick in. If you take it orally, it can take 30 to 90 minutes to kick in. If you put it under your tongue, it can take 5 to 20 minutes. If you inhale it, it takes only one to two minutes.
Typically, a good time to take CBD is 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed. If you take it orally, make it even earlier – edibles take at least 45 and potentially up to 90 minutes to absorb.
Is it safe?
CBD is a safe, natural product with very few side effects that provides an alternative solution to using prescription sleep aids. There is no standardized dosage recommendation as the concentration of CBD varies from product to product and some people may require more or less CBD to feel the effects. However, experts widely agree that you can’t overdose on CBD. A World Health Organization report says that CBD is safe and non-toxic.
Not all CBD is created equal
Anyone can sell CBD products and a lot of what people are taking in good faith may be having no effect at all. In a 2017 study in the U.S., it was found that in 84 samples of CBD liquids, tinctures and oils available, only 26 contained the amount of CBD they claimed to contain and 18 contained more THC than they said.
One of the most important caveats when taking CBD is to make sure you’re getting it from a reputable source. You want to buy a CBD product that has been tested by a third party and with published third-party results.
A final word
As research into the effects of CBD on sleep is in its infancy, we still have a lot to learn about the connection. However, many people have found relief from sleeplessness by using CBD and it is safe to use with few to no side effects. Instead of tossing and turning in your bed till the early morning hours, take some CBD, relax, and you may just find it works for you.