Can CBD help me to go to sleep at night? [Sleep Study]

If you struggle with sleep, you are not alone. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, more than 1 in 3 people have at least a moderate level of symptoms associated with insomnia. Whether it’s a big meeting the next day, inability to shut off your mind late at night, or another cause, we’ve all dealt with these issues one time or another.

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Many people turn to pharmaceutical sleep aids to relieve their insomnia. While pharmaceutical options do tend to work well, they also tend to create more side effects than other natural alternatives. While sleep aids can be useful tools to help getting through stressful toss and turn nights, one shouldn't rely on them for extended periods of time without the oversight of a doctor. Ultimately there is a root cause of your sleep challenges and it’s important to determine what this is and put a plan in place to resolve the issue. 

How CBD May Help You to Sleep

Many people that suffer from insomnia and sleep issues have turned to CBD to improve their sleep. Some of these include well known golf celebrities like Bubba Watson and Phil Mickleson. Both golfers have talked about the improvement they’ve seen to their sleep patterns, which translates to improved performance on the golf course during major events. You may even notice Phil taking CBD from a tincture during the event.

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the more highly produced cannabinoids within the cannabis plant (especially in hemp) and has been shown to have the potential to address many different health conditions. 

Cannabinoids such as CBD interact with your endocannabinoid system, which produces endogenous cannabinoids designed to help your body maintain a state of balance or homeostasis.The endocannabinoid system is the largest known system of receptors in the human body. Cannabinoid Receptors CB1 and CB2 are found in almost every organ of the body including the brain. They signal and regulate pain, inflammation, body temperature, stress levels, sleep patterns, etc. For more information on the endocannabinoid system check out our Complete Guide to CBD.

Unlike THC, CBD isn’t intoxicating, meaning you won’t experience the feeling of being “high” as is the case with traditional marijuana. Instead, it has a range of health applications, like reducing seizures in people with rare forms of epilepsy and inflammation and pain relief from various conditions.

Some research suggests that CBD can also help you get a good night’s sleep. However, it may not be as simple as just buying the CBD product located at the convenience store down the road. Here’s what you need to know about using CBD as a sleep aid.

Research on CBD and Sleep

Before outlining the research that has been conducted on CBD and sleep, it’s important to understand what causes poor sleep habits and insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep challenges can be caused by the following conditions or factors:

  • mental health disorders, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression

  • medication, which can disturb your sleep-wake cycle

  • physical conditions, such as chronic pain and restless leg syndrome

  • caffeine, especially when consumed late in the day

  • environmental factors, such as loud noises or an uncomfortable bed

If your insomnia is caused by external factors or related conditions, CBD may help by treating the causes of sleeplessness.

CBD Can Reduce Anxiety and Improve Sleep

A very recent study published in 2019 looked at whether CBD could improve sleep and or reduce anxiety. The study involved 72 subjects, with 47 experiencing anxiety and 25 experiencing poor sleep. The subjects were each given 25 milligrams (mg) of CBD in capsule form each day. In the first month, 79.2 percent of the patients reported lower anxiety levels and 66.7 percent reported better sleep.

Another study simulated a public speaking exercise in patients with social anxiety disorder. Patients were given 600 mg of CBD prior to their public speaking exercise and were asked to rate their levels of anxiety with and without CBD. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group as assessed with the VAMS (Visual Analogue Mood Scale).

CBD can also counteract the intoxicating effects of THC. For many, over consumption of cannabis products high in THC can cause anxiety and paranoia. Famed cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo has long talked about CBD’s unique ability to counteract anxiety and paranoia in his research paper “Taming THC”. 

Can CBD Reduce Cortisol

Cortisol is the body's stress chemical and even after a stressful event, cortisol can remain in our system and perpetuate the feeling of stress. CBD has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol.

Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. When cortisol is in high supply in the body it can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep.

CBD Reduces Inflammation and Pain

Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters. Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

Research has supported the use of cannabis for treating pain from a variety of conditions. Cancer in particular can cause patients a lot of pain, and one study of 177 cancer patients found that CBD can have a big impact on pain reduction. The study looked at a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD, THC alone, and a placebo. Only the combination of CBD and THC reduced pain 30% greater than placebo. Those who used THC alone saw no effect.

Improve your Quality of Sleep

Cannabidiol may improve the quality of rest by not only decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, but also by increasing deep, restful sleep and minimizing factors that interrupt sleep. CBD may help by shifting your body from REM to a deeper NREM sleep cycle.

A recent study conducted on Alzheimer’s patients and sleep showed that CBD reduced Rapid Eye Movement during sleep, which is a key factor that prevents these patients from getting to deep sleep. CBD improved the quality and duration of sleep for these patients.

While THC does help some people fall asleep faster, it has been shown to decrease sleep quality in the long term.

CBD May Be Able to Improve Insomnia

A study recently published on patients with insomnia looked at CBD’s effect on insomnia patients at different dosages. Patients received either placebo, 40mg, 80mg or 160mg of CBD. The group that received 160mg of CBD fell asleep faster and woke up less frequently throughout the night.

 Additional studies on cannabis and insomnia have reported similar findings.

Terpenes in CBD May Help Induce Sedation

CBD causes an alerting, stimulating effect when taken in low doses, which most likely won’t aid sleep. However, as we have already learned, getting a good night’s sleep might not require a strong sedative effect. CBD tends to help with sleep by addressing the root cause of what’s keeping you awake. At high doses, CBD does produce a sedative effect, yet its not critical to take a high dose of CBD to help with sleep.

Terpenes are compounds naturally found in cannabis as well as a range of other plants such as fruits, spices and herbs. They have a significant impact on the aromas and tastes of cannabis, and research has shown them to contain a host of potential medicinal applications and benefits. Terpenes have also been shown to interact synergistically with cannabinoids and play an important role in a given products overall effects and effectiveness. There have been hundreds of different terpenes identified in cannabis, each with their own unique properties.

Terpenes are what gives cannabis its different smells and tastes, but most important its effects.

 Additional terpenes such as Linalool and Terpinolene may also be able produce a slightly sedative or relaxing effect, which may be useful for sleep purposes.

Additional Cannabinoids Like CBG and CBN May Also Benefit Sleep

CBG has been shown to produce a higher GABA uptake inhibitor than THC or CBD, which may also allow it to help resolve underlying issues preventing sleep.

CBN has long been speculated to be the sedative cannabinoid found in cannabis. Early research supported these theories, however other studies since then have refuted the previous sedative findings of CBN. Additional research is needed to understand if CBN exhibits sedative effects.

Review the Lab Report

Be sure to review the lab report of the CBD product you are purchasing to ensure the proper amount of CBD is present and also helpful terpenes like Myrcene are dominant within the product profile. Be sure the product isn’t dominant in energetic terpenes like Limonene or Alpha Pinene.

CBD Products Optimized for Sleep Effect

Cannabinoids like CBD aren’t the only compounds worth considering in your cannabis product. Terpenes like Myrcene, Nerolidol, and Linalool may also help you get a better night's rest. Additionally, you want to ensure a full spectrum of potentially helpful cannabinoids like CBG and CBN are also present. 

Conclusion:

  • CBD and terpenes may help you sleep by addressing the root cause of poor sleep.

  • While CBD is typically stimulating in low doses, pairing it with the proper terpenes like Myrcene or Nerolidol can create a sedative effect helpful for sleep.

  • CBD in high doses of ~150 mg produces a sedative effect that may be helpful for sleep according to studies

  • Review the lab report to ensure helpful terpenes like Myrcene and Nerolidol are dominant within the profile

  • If additional cannabinoids like CBG or CBN are present they may also aid in sleep

 Medically Reviewed by Third Year PhD Med Student: Ryan Mcloughlin