By Lisa Egan
As more people seek safe, natural remedies for health concerns – and as more states legalize medical cannabis – interest in cannabidiol (commonly known as “CBD”) is growing. Yet another issue that CBD may help with is sleep disorders, ranging from insomnia to sleep apnea and more.
Here’s how CBD works.
In case you don’t know much about CBD and how it works, here’s a brief overview.
CBD is one of over 100 naturally-occurring compounds called cannabinoids which are found in cannabis plants. Hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis sativa plants, but there are significant differences between them.
- Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae.
- Cannabis refers to a plant family that includes hemp and marijuana (and many other plants).
- Hemp is a variety of cannabis that is used for many purposes and contains very low levels of THC. Hemp does not produce a “high.”
- Marijuana is a variety of cannabis that contains high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, or “The High Causer”), the cannabinoid most known for its psychoactive properties
CBD is the same whether it is sourced from hemp or from marijuana.
Our bodies are hard-wired for CBD.
Cannabinoids are a diverse set of chemical compounds that bind to special receptors in the human body that make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a biological system which plays many important roles in the human body. It is responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis.
We recommend Organica Naturals CBD products (which are made from hemp) for their consistently high quality.
The list of conditions CBD has been shown to benefit is extensive and continues to grow as more research is conducted. To learn about promising research on the use of CBD for a few of them please click here: Chronic Pain, Arthritis, Anxiety, Depression, or Alzheimer’s? Science Says CBD May Help.
Both OTC and prescription sleep medications are risky.
Millions of people have chronic sleep difficulty, but most sleep medications are risky.
Desperate for a good night’s sleep and better daily functioning, many people turn to medications for help. Unfortunately, many “sleeping pills” can cause very serious side effects.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, possible side effects include oversleeping, being too drowsy to drive or perform other tasks the following day, allergic reactions, and facial swelling. In addition, a particularly disturbing side effect is possible:
With some prescription sleeping pills, doing potentially dangerous activities such as eating, walking, leaving your house, having sex, making phone calls, carrying on conversations, or driving while you are not fully awake. You may not even be aware of these activities as you are doing them in your sleep. (source)
Long-term use of sleeping pills can lead to dependence and addiction. Overuse can cause serious health consequences, including memory problems, mental and behavioral disorders, learning problems, and worse insomnia (beyond the initial baseline) once use has stopped.
Can’t sleep? CBD may help.
If you are among the millions of people who experience sleep difficulty, CBD may be just the thing to help you stop tossing and turning.
A growing body of research suggests CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties and antidepressant-like effects and may reduce inflammation and pain, so if any of those things are interfering with your sleep, CBD may help.
A 2017 research review reported that studies on cannabis and insomnia suggest that “CBD may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia”, and that it “may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.”
Other studies have found that CBD may increase overall sleep amounts. It has been shown to reduce insomnia in people who suffer from chronic pain. In smaller doses, CBD stimulates alertness and reduces daytime sleepiness, which is important for daytime performance and for the strength and consistency of the sleep-wake cycle.
CBD is promising for many types of sleep-related problems.
According to a recent report published by Project CBD, “CBD and other plant cannabinoids show promise for treating insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep-related disorders.”
Here are some highlights from that report:
Our ability to be awake, fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested is part of an internal biological process regulated by circadian rhythms and the endocannabinoid system.
As the primary homeostatic regulator of human physiology, the ECS plays a major role in the sleep-wake cycle and other circadian processes.
Italian scientist Vicenzo DiMarzo summarized the broad regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system in the phrase “Eat, sleep, relax, protect and forget.” (source)
What is particularly fascinating about CBD is that it can be alerting or sedating depending on dosage. Project CBD explains:
The association between low-dose cannabidiol and increased wakefulness underscores CBD’s potential as a treatment for narcolepsy and other variants of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Curiously, CBD can help people fall asleep as well as stay awake. An insomnia study indicated that the administration of 160 mgs of CBD decreased nighttime sleep interruptions and increased total sleep time, suggesting that high-dose CBD therapy can improve the quality and duration of sleep. (source)
According to a report from The Sleep Doctor, CBD may help reduce REM behavior disorder in people with Parkinson’s disease:
REM behavior disorder is a condition that causes people to act out physically during dreaming and REM sleep. Typically, during REM, the body is largely paralyzed, a state known as REM atonia. This immobilization keeps sleepers from reacting physically to their dreams. In REM behavior disorder, this paralysis doesn’t occur, leaving people free to move—which can lead to disruptive sleep and to injuring themselves or their sleeping partners. Cannabis may also work to reduce pain and improve sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s disease. (source)
A study published in 2018 investigated the effects of CBD and other cannabis compounds on insomnia. Researchers collected data from more than 400 volunteers using a digital app, which allowed them to analyze the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids in people’s natural sleep environments. They found CBD significantly reduced insomnia symptoms.
To see a list of studies on CBD for sleep disorders and insomnia, please click here: Sleep Disorders
How much CBD should be taken for sleep?
There is no standard dosage for CBD, and it can be effective therapeutically at a wide range of doses. Because CBD binds to so many different receptors, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact dosage for every person and every wellness concern.
A range of doses from 10 mg to 600 mg and higher amounts has been studied in scientific research, for sleep problems, anxiety, depression, stress, and other conditions.
Studies have shown low doses of CBD can mildly increase wakefulness and higher doses (160 mgs of CBD, in one of the studies referenced above) have been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep. Many people report that taking a CBD-rich product a few hours before going to bed makes getting a good night’s sleep a lot easier.
It is important to keep in mind that CBD dosing truly is individual. For that reason, starting with a low dosage will allow you to slowly adjust until you feel that your sleep quality has improved. Because CBD is safe, generally well tolerated, and not psychoactive like THC, high doses are sometimes necessary for best results.
Unlike prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications, CBD has not been shown to be habit-forming or physically addictive.
CBD is a very safe substance and is well-tolerated. However, it can interfere with certain medications. Please consult with your healthcare provider if you are taking prescription drugs and would like to take CBD.
Do you use CBD products?
Do you use CBD products on a regular basis for a condition? Have you found it helpful? Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments below.
Lisa Egan has been passionate about nutrition and fitness for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a minor in Nutrition. She is the owner of Lisa Egan Nutrition Coaching and the website All About Habits.