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Is CBD for Sleep Worth Trying? Benefits and Risks

CBD has become increasingly popular as a potential remedy for different health concerns, including sleep support. Many are using CBD oils and capsules as natural solutions aiming to improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and alleviate chronic pain. In this article, we’ll explore CBD for sleep, reviewing how scientists think it works, its proposed benefits, and its potential risks.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in cannabis plants (including hemp and marijuana). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and does not produce the 'high' associated with marijuana use. CBD is often extracted and processed into oils, tinctures, edibles, and other products people can use to support their health. The legality of CBD varies by region, but it is generally considered safe for use, with the World Health Organization stating that it has a good safety profile.

Is CBD addictive?

CBD is not considered addictive. Unlike THC, which has psychoactive properties and can lead to dependence, CBD does not produce intoxicating effects or cravings. Studies suggest that CBD may even help reduce addictive behaviors.

The science behind CBD and sleep

The exact mechanism of how CBD affects sleep is unclear. It is believed that CBD may influence sleep through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the body system that helps regulate various bodily functions, including pain, mood, and sleep patterns. It’s theorized that CBD's influence on endocannabinoid receptors might promote relaxation and improve sleep quality; however, the understanding of potential mechanisms is still somewhat unclear.

The scientific understanding of CBD and its effects on sleep is still evolving as more studies are being conducted. One challenge is the limited number of studies that measure the effects of CBD by itself since many studies use CBD mixed with THC or CBN (cannabinol), rather than CBD alone. Additionally, only a limited number of studies focus exclusively on people with sleep problems.

Research shows that cannabinoids may improve sleep in those with various health conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis. However, the effects of CBD on sleep may differ for those without other health issues, and more studies need to be done to know for sure.

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Mixed results

When researchers did study CBD's effects on healthy people without other health conditions, results varied.

A study published in Nutrients Journal followed 28 healthy college students without sleep issues for eight weeks, half of which took 50 mg of CBD orally every day, the other half receiving a placebo. Overall, the CBD group reported improved sleep (i.e., better sleep quality and waking feeling more rested). Their improvements were strictly subjective, meaning they were perceived improvements measured via participant surveys, versus proven, measurable, objective findings (i.e., sleep duration, REM deep sleep cycles, movement during sleep, etc.). Subjective improvements are a good sign; however, objective data would tell us definitely whether CBD helps sleep and if it does, how it works.

In contrast, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medication published a study where people with moderate to severe insomnia, taking 150 mg of CBD under the tongue, did not experience better sleep. They did not fall asleep faster, sleep longer, or report improved sleep quality compared to the placebo group.

The Permanente Journal reviewed a study where 72 adults with reported anxiety and inconsistent sleep were given between 25 and 175 mg of CBD per day and within one month, nearly 80% of participants reported lowered anxiety and over 66% showed improvement in sleep scores. These findings did fluctuate throughout the study but were positive overall. It is suggested that by helping underlying health issues like chronic pain and anxiety, CBD may indirectly improve sleep.

CBD and other cannabinoids for sleep

The Journal of the American Nutrition Association published a review of nearly 1,300 participants and the effects of non-psychoactive cannabinoids on sleep. Different amounts of CBD, CBC (cannabichromene), and CBN (cannabinol) were all used, as well as a combination of 15 mg CBD with 5 mg melatonin. The groups taking 15 mg CBN and 15 mg CBD + 5 mg melatonin reported the greatest improvements in sleep (even compared to 15 mg CBD isolate). These findings suggest that other cannabinoids may be beneficial for sleep support and that adding melatonin to CBD could enhance sleep quality more effectively. However, more studies need to be done to know for sure.

The disparity in results among all of these studies may be due to various differences. These include differences in dose, age of participants, exactly what aspects of sleep disturbance are being measured, subjective vs. objective data points, length of studies, severity of symptoms, sample size, pre-existing conditions and sleep disorders, sleep cycles, medications participants may be taking, and the CBD delivery system (e.g., oil, capsule, tablet). There are so many variables to consider, which is why more specific and more consistent studies need to be done to measure the effects of CBD on sleep.

What is the best form of CBD?

CBD comes in many different forms, each with its own advantages. Tinctures and CBD oils are popular for their easy dose adjustments and proposed fast absorption. CBD gummies and capsules are more convenient and offer consistent dosing. Topical creams are used more for localized pain relief rather than sleep support.

In any case, the best form of CBD for sleep largely depends on personal preference and specific needs.

Potential side effects and risks

While CBD is generally well-tolerated, some users may experience side effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Liver enzyme elevation (those with liver disease or other liver issues should not take CBD)

CBD can also interact with certain medications, so it is important to consult a healthcare provider before starting use.

Is it safe to use CBD for sleep while pregnant or breastfeeding?

The safety of CBD use during pregnancy or breastfeeding is not well-established. Due to limited research, it is recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding individuals avoid using CBD to prevent potential risks to the baby.

Choosing CBD for sleep

When choosing a CBD product for sleep, it's crucial to select a high-quality product:

  • Buy from a licensed dispensary or a reputable brand.
  • Choose organic products made in the U.S.
  • Use products tested by a third-party lab to ensure product quality and correct dosage.
  • Avoid products with additional additives.

Determining the best CBD product for sleep can be challenging because of the lack of scientific evidence. A common recommendation is to start with a low dose and monitor your well-being and possible side effects. Timing also matters; taking CBD about an hour before bedtime may help maximize its sleep-promoting effects.

It's important to note that for some people, low doses of CBD can sometimes have stimulating effects, making you feel more awake. It’s recommended to see a qualified healthcare professional who can offer personalized plans, and some trial and error may be necessary to find the most effective product and dose for you.

Bottom line

CBD shows promise as a natural remedy for improving sleep quality and addressing certain symptoms of sleep disorders, but more studies need to be done to know for sure. While it may not work for everyone, it can be a worthwhile option to try alongside other sleep improvement methods. As always, consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it is a safe and suitable choice for your sleep needs.


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