To understand how CBD could help you sleep, you need to know the difference between CBD and cannabis. And it may get a little confusing because they’re the same…but not.
Cannabis – the stuff commonly referred to as “weed” or “pot” – contains cannabinoids. The two main ones being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC produces the intoxicating psychoactive effects – a.k.a. the “high” you feel when you use marijuana, while CBD does not.
CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS). FYI: we all have an ECS whether we use cannabis or not. While the system isn’t fully understood yet, it appears to play a role in regulating functions like mood, sleep, memory, and appetite.
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What the research says about CBD for sleep
Studies on CBD and sleep are lacking, so it’s not entirely understood exactly how CBD helps with sleep – just that it appears to.
One older crossover study, for instance, compared various doses of CBD with placebo and nitrazepam. It found that CBD significantly increased sleep duration in people with insomnia.
Some other older research linked CBD to lower cortisol levels at night. Cortisol – the stress hormone – typically peaks in the morning, but it may be higher at night in people with insomnia. This can cause you to wake up throughout the night. The results of one study found that taking 300-to-600 mg of CBD significantly lowered cortisol levels, suggesting a sedative effect.
Most recent evidence points to CBD’s calming effect on the central nervous system for improving sleeplessness caused by external factors.
These Sleep Inhibiting Factors Include:
- anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
- medical conditions, such as chronic pain and restless leg syndrome
- medications that affect your sleep-wake cycle
- too much caffeine
- a poor sleep environment
So, what this means is if your sleep issues are caused by any of these, CBD may help you get the shuteye you need.
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A closer look at the evidence for CBD and sleep
There’s a good amount of evidence that CBD can help manage anxiety. Not surprisingly, anxiety often interferes with sleep and is associated with insomnia.
A 2019 study examined CBD’s effect on asleep and anxiety. It measured 72 participants, including 47 with anxiety and 25 experiencing poor sleep. Participants were given a 25 milligram CBD capsule daily. Within the first month, over 79 percent reported lower anxiety and over 66 percent reported better sleep.
CBD is also helpful for treating different types of pain, which can also interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Research shows that CBD can inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of pain to treat.
Based on reviews of some smaller studies, CBD appears to suppress REM behavior disorder. Which means it can improve grogginess and daytime sleepiness.
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How to use CBD for better sleep
It’s hard to say exactly how much CBD you should use to help you sleep. For starters, everyone is different and what works for some won’t necessarily work for others. That’s because several factors play into how CBD will affect a person.
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These factors include things like:
- your body weight
- your body chemistry
- the concentration of CBD in the product
- how you take it (vaping, eating, sublingually, etc.)
- the cause of your sleep troubles
Plus, cannabis may not be new, but CBD products still are. There isn’t much to go on yet in the way of evidence-based dosing guidelines.
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Most of the research available around CBD and sleep suggests that a medium-to-high dose helps with sleep. Again, there’s not a lot to go on and everyone is different.
As a general rule of thumb, you should start with the lowest dose. Gradually work your way up until you find a dose that works for you.
Tips for using CBD for sleep
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when using CBD for sleep:
- How you take it matters. There are different ways to use CBD. Each form is absorbed differently by your body, which impacts how it affects you and how quickly. Vaping generally kicks in faster because it enters the bloodstream quickly through your lungs. Sprays and tinctures are quicker-acting than edibles, pills, and capsules, which need to be processed by your digestive system first.
- Read the label. Doses vary from product to product so always read the label. It’s important to see exactly how much CBD you’re getting when trying a new product. A standard dose in CBD gummies is around 5 mg while oils and tinctures usually contain 1 mg per drop. CBD is generally well tolerated, but taking too much can sometimes result in tummy issues. Symptoms such as diarrhea and cramps, and changes in appetite can appear.
- Give it time to work. Resist the urge to re-dose too soon. This is a common reason why people end up taking too much of any substance. Depending on how you take it, CBD can kick in within a few minutes to a couple of hours. Getting the results you want may also take a few days. Which is why most experts recommend sticking with a low dose for a week before increasing it.
- Talk to your doctor. Everyone has trouble falling asleep occasionally. But if it’s happening on the regular and interfering with your mood or ability to function, speak to your doctor. He or she can rule out any underlying medical conditions. Same goes if you’re currently on medication for insomnia or any other medical condition for that matter.
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In conclusion, CBD can help with sleep in some cases and research into its effects on sleep is ongoing. Since it’s generally considered safe, starting low and going slow may help you get some quality sleep.
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Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance health and lifestyle writer that has written for Healthline, Medical News Today and Verily Magazine just to name a few.