Anecdotal evidence shows that CBD can help you sleep better.
But is there any scientific evidence backing up the anecdotal?
Today, we’re going to look at whether there’s any evidence that supports the use of CBD for sleep.
We’re also going to use scientific evidence and anecdotal reports to look at how to use CBD for sleep.
Did you know small doses of CBD can have an energizing effect? Not something you would want to experience when you’re getting ready to sleep.
Let’s get started.
Table of contents:
Using CBD for Sleep: Anecdotal Evidence
If you take a look around in forums like Reddit, you’ll quickly find many posts that talk about using CBD for sleep.
Based on our research of these posts, it looks like CBD can indeed be effective for improving sleep.
In some cases, it helps users fall asleep faster. For example, Reddit user “Rickard403” said (quote):
Cbd helps me fall asleep, not stay asleep.
In other cases, it mostly helps users to stay asleep better. For example, Reddit user “NitrousFoxide1919” said (quote):
I use Cbd Distillery full spectrum 1000mg and it has worked wonders as I am sleeping almost through the night for the first time in ten years.
Sometimes it helps users both fall asleep faster and stay asleep. For example, Reddit user “Spacetimepitseleh” said (quote):
I started taking 10mg of CBD oil an hour or so before sleep and it has changed my life.
I used to move/twitch restless feet during the night that my husband couldn't take it anymore, I would shuffle before going to sleep anxious knowing that I wouldn't get any all night, and dream so much to the point of feeling drained and tired all day no matter how much sleep I got.
I felt that I havent slept in years, guys. I DONT have kids, im healthy/ no alcohol consumption at all, eat healthy in shape and 28yrs old.
And again, in other cases, it improves the quality of sleep (judged by how refreshed users feel the next morning). For example, Reddit user “nhancelife” said (quote):
I started taking CBD oil not for any other reason really than curiosity. I have always tracked my sleep and what I found was that when I started taking CBD oil regularly (as in every day) I slept for 14% more. What's more, my sleep was better quality.
But there are also users who don’t experience any benefits for their sleep when using CBD products. And some users even experience an energizing effect from CBD.
For example, Reddit user “Fromage_rolls” said (quote):
I managed to quit my morning coffee routine with CBD as it gives me enough energy and focus to start the day.
The problem here is that there are no standardized CBD products. The exact biochemical composition of the products used in every example is unknown. The only common denominator is CBD.
The products could range anywhere from being a CBD isolate product, to a CBD-rich full-spectrum hemp extract. CBD-rich hemp extract contains hundreds of hemp-derived compounds that have unique individual effects (1) and may act synergistically to CBD (2).
Because the exact biochemical composition of CBD products differs widely, CBD products can have variability in their effects.
Also, another reason why users find such widely differing effects could be related to doses. Studies have found CBD to have differing effects based on doses. Generally, the higher the dose, the stronger the sedative effects from CBD (3). It could be that the people that experience energizing effects from CBD, take too low of a dose.
CBD as a stand-alone compound hasn’t been found to have strong sedative properties in doses up to 1500mg (3).
It’s probable that full-spectrum CBD oil with small concentrations of THC, and other cannabinoids and terpenes with sedative properties, has significantly more potent sedative effects than CBD as a standalone compound.
According to some users, cannabinol (CBN), which is a different cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, is more effective for sleep than CBD.
There’s little scientific evidence supporting this experience, but at least one study has found CBN to be the most sedative of all cannabinoids (4). Therefore, this sedative effect may indeed be what’s causing some users to experience better sleep-improving effects from CBN products.
Also, take a look at our list of best CBD oils for sleep.
Scientific Evidence That Supports Using CBD for Sleep
Although anecdotal evidence can serve as a signpost, we can’t base any conclusions on it.
To come to clear-cut conclusions, we need scientific evidence. And the cream of the crop when it comes to scientific evidence is randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials.
So, are there any randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep?
While there are a few being set up or in the research phase, no finished clinical trials of this type exist that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep.
Examples of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials in progress or the beginning stages:
- The Study of Hemp Oil CBD for Evaluation of Efficacy and Safety in Treatment of Pain, Anxiety and Insomnia Management (5).
- CBD for Sleep in People With HIV (6).
Although no randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials, there’s some scientific research that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep.
That being said, the scientific evidence that shows CBD may reduce anxiety is more robust currently.
For example, a 1981 study reviewed clinical trials researching the effects of CBD on sleep in insomnia patients (7).
In one of the trials, 15 patients got divided into three groups:
- The first group received CBD in varying doses;
- The second group received a placebo;
- The third group received nitrazepam.
The CBD-group slept significantly longer than the placebo group and has significantly less dream recall, with a CBD dose of 160mg. Less dream recall can be indicative of deep sleep.
A more recent case-study looked at the effects of CBD oil on sleep disturbance caused by trauma in a young female patient (8).
A daily dose of 15-25mg CBD oil resulted in significantly less anxiety and sleep disturbance.
The researchers note that CBD can anxiety-caused sleep disturbances by its anxiety-reducing effects.
It’s unclear whether the CBD oil used in this study contained other hemp-derived cannabinoids and terpenes or whether it was a purified CBD product.
Retrospective case series
An even more recent 2019 retrospective case series looked at the effects of CBD on anxiety and sleep in a large group of patients with anxiety- and sleep-related disorders (9).
Most patients got 25mg of CBD in capsule form. After one month, 66.7% of the patients reported sleeping better. Interestingly, 25% of patients reported sleeping worse. After two months, 56.1% of patients reported sleeping better, while still 25% reported sleeping worse.
It’s unclear whether the patients received a purified form of CBD or a form of CBD where it’s combined with other hemp-derived cannabinoids and terpenes. Especially if they got a purified form of CBD, it’s possible that the dose was too low for some patients to experience beneficial effects with regards to sleep quality.
While these previous studies were all within the context of some medical conditions, there’s also one study that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep in healthy volunteers.
Double-blind crossover study
In this study, 27 healthy volunteers received 300mg a night for two consecutive nights (10). During the night, various physiological metrics like heart rhythm and breathing were measured. Also, directly after waking up, the volunteers underwent cognitive tests to measure whether CBD had affected anything during sleep.
Both in the case of the physiological tests and cognitive tests, no abnormalities were measured. The researchers conclude that CBD has no effect on sleep in healthy volunteers.
Mechanisms of Action that Explain CBD’s Effects on Sleep
One of the dominant mechanisms thought to be responsible for CBD’s effects on sleep is related to its interaction with serotonin receptors.
Especially in high doses, CBD is known to activate the 5-HT1a-receptor, which is a serotonin subtype receptor (11).
Activation of the 5-HT1a-receptor has been associated with both physical and mental beneficial effects:
- Anxiety-reducing effects (12);
- Reduced aggression (13);
- Lowered impulsivity (14);
- Pain-reducing effect (15).
Especially CBD’s anxiety-reducing effects related to activation of the 5-HT1a-receptor seem to play a big role in CBD’s sleep-improving effects. This could explain why CBD seems to have an especially noticeable sleep-improving effect in people with anxiety-related disorders but seems to have no effect in healthy people.
How to Use CBD for Sleep
Although there’s some scientific evidence supporting the idea that CBD can improve sleep, there are currently no clinical trials that actually prove that CBD can be used as a medication for sleep disorders.
If you have a sleep disorder, first consult your doctor before going on a path of self-medication.
That being said, if you want to try CBD as a natural aid to improve your sleep, that could definitely be worth a try.
Keep in mind that the effectiveness of a CBD product is highly dependent on the following factors:
- Method of consumption > different methods lead to a different bioavailability of CBD. Vaping CBD, for example, results in a higher bio-availability than oral consumption;
- Type of CBD product > CBD is more potent when taken together with all the different compounds found in the Hemp plant, including all cannabinoids and terpenes. Therefore, a full-spectrum CBD oil is more potent than CBD isolate for example.
- Physical and biological characteristics of the individual like weight and metabolism.
Generally, we recommend using an oral form of CBD, especially for sleep. This means for example CBD oil or CBD gummies. The effects of orally taken CBD last longer than other forms of CBD. But it also takes longer before you feel any effects with orally taken CBD.
In contrast, vaped or smoked CBD gives effect almost immediately. However, the effects of vaped CBD last significantly shorter. With vaped or smoked CBD, you also risk inhaling toxic byproducts that are completely absent from CBD edibles or tinctures.
Here are the steps for effectively using CBD depending on your type of product.
- Get a high-quality full-spectrum CBD oil (we highly recommend Receptra Naturals);
- Take your CBD oil either within 2-hours after a diner that contains at least some healthy fats like olive oil or take your CBD oil 1-hour before sleep. Experiment to see what works better for you;
- Drop a dose that equals 50mg of CBD under your tongue;
- Keep this dose under your tongue for 60 seconds;
- Swallow the dose of oil;
- Keep a sleep diary and document if and how many times you wake up and rate how refreshed you feel the next day;
- In case of no effects, slowly work your way up in 10mg increments until a maximum dose of 100mg CBD in the form of a full-spectrum hemp extract;
- If you feel groggy the next day, you might be sensitive to even small amounts of THC and you should try a broad-spectrum, THC-free CBD product.
Flower or Vape Oils:
Generally, we recommend CBD flower over CBD vape juice. CBD Flower is more natural and has a much wider spectrum of hemp-derived compounds than vape juice.
- Get high-quality CBD flower or CBD vape juice. It must be lab-tested, and in the case of vape juice, contain more hemp-derived compounds than CBD.
- Vape your flower or juice with a vaporizer. And do it right before you go to sleep. Consuming CBD through inhalation leads to faster onset of effects, but effects last less long. Therefore, it’s important that you keep the time between vaping CBD and sleep to the minimum.
- Take at least 5 good draws out of your vaporizer;
- Keep a sleep diary and document if and how many times you wake up and rate how refreshed you feel the next day;
- In case of no effects, add 3-5 puffs to the 5 puffs you started with;
- If you feel groggy the next day, you might be sensitive to even small amounts of THC and you should try a broad-spectrum, THC-free CBD product. There is no completely THC-free CBD flower I know of. But there are THC-free CBD vape juices.
While there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence showing CBD can be used to improve sleep, scientific evidence is currently limited.
There are no clinical trials that show CBD can be used for sleep.
There are a few observational, animal, and retrospective studies that show CBD may have great potential for improving sleep.
Based on these studies, it looks like CBD may be especially helpful for improving sleep disorders that are secondary to anxiety disorders or trauma.
The safest way to use CBD for sleep is in the form of edibles or oils. The effects of orally taken CBD also last the longest compared to any other consumption method. Based on various studies and our own experience, full-spectrum CBD products are more effective than any other type of CBD product.
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