CBD oil and insomnia
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- Bottom line
Each night, millions of individuals in the United States have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. While for some this is a temporary problem, for others insomnia can become a chronic issue that detrimentally affects day-to-day life. An estimated 10% of American adults experience insomnia, which occurs at least three times per week.
According to The 2018 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll, only 46% of those who identified as having poor sleep patterns felt that they were very effective in getting things done during the day, compared with 89% of those who identified their sleep patterns as excellent.
Restful, nourishing sleep is not only essential to getting things done and performing at one’s best, it also supports optimal functioning of the immune system, mood stability, improved energy and motivation levels, and enhanced overall well-being.
Unfortunately, the quest to achieve a good night’s sleep can lead to those with insomnia becoming addicted to sleeping pills, which comes with a range of potentially dangerous side effects such as dizziness, daytime drowsiness, and a higher risk of mortality.
Anecdotal reports indicate that CBD oil may help to induce somnolence or sleepiness, with no known adverse side effects. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Anecdotal reports indicate that CBD oil may help to induce sleepiness, with no known adverse side effects.
There is conflicting evidence about the efficacy of CBD to support healthy sleep regulation. Some studies show that although CBD oil may help some individuals to fall asleep and stay asleep, it can cause wakefulness or disturbed sleep in others.
At present, there is also a lack of knowledge about the mechanisms by which CBD modulates sleep. It has been theorized that it may change dopamine levels, or exert effects over the body’s cannabinoid system, including the sleep-wake cycle.
Chronic insomnia is often closely linked to anxiety. Those who experience sleeplessness, or have trouble staying asleep, are often anxious about aspects of their waking life or anxious about their poor sleep patterns.
A 2019 retrospective case study in the Permanente Journal investigated the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep. Twenty-five of the 72 patients surveyed reported poor sleep as a primary concern, while 47 reported anxiety as a primary concern.
At the first monthly assessment following the beginning of CBD treatment (25-175 milligrams per day), 66% of patients experienced an improvement in sleep, while 25% experienced worse sleep. At the two-month mark, 56% reported an improvement in sleep compared with the previous month, while 26% reported worsening problems associated with their sleep. The patients demonstrated a more sustained response to CBD as a treatment for anxiety than sleep and experienced a more marked reduction in their anxiety than their insomnia.
The authors also noted that the CBD was well-accepted and well-tolerated by the patients in the study, with minimal side effects.
A 2006 study published in the journal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, found that CBD increased wakefulness and decreased REM sleep in rats during their inactive cycle (when the lights were on). REM sleep refers to rapid eye movement, the phase of sleep in which dreaming occurs. No changes in sleep were observed during darkness, when rats are typically active. CBD appeared to increase activity in waking-related areas of the brain. The study also found that CBD induced an increase in dopamine release. Dopamine is one of several neurotransmitters involved in wakefulness.
One animal study suggests that despite CBD’s popularity to aid sleep, it may, in fact, promote wakefulness by decreasing REM sleep. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
This animal study suggests that, despite CBD’s popularity to aid sleep, it may in fact promote wakefulness by decreasing REM sleep. However, for those individuals with a REM sleep disorder, this could be beneficial. In fact, a 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, researchers reported several case studies where Parkinson’s patients with REM behavior disorder experienced marked improvement when using CBD.
Similarly, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also often have sleep disturbances and nightmares, which occur during REM sleep. In a 2019 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, cannabidiol improved the sleep quality of 38% of the patients with PTSD, and reduced nightmares.
A 2018 randomized controlled trial with human participants published in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated the effects of CBD on the sleep-wake cycle of normal, healthy volunteers. Twenty-seven research participants received either CBD or a placebo over two nights. The study found that CBD did not produce any significant effect, nor did it interfere with the normal sleep cycle of these healthy individuals.
Insomniacs who ingested daily doses of 40, 80, or 160 milligrams of CBD reported having a better night’s sleep and less dream recall than those who took a placebo. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Insomniacs who ingested daily doses of 40, 80, or 160 milligrams of CBD reported having a better night’s sleep and less dream recall than those who took a placebo. The authors of the study hypothesized the CBD may decrease REM sleep capacity, or decrease the frequency of periods of wakefulness during the night, which helps with remembering dreams.
For a long time, chronic insomnia severely affected Paul Miller’s waking life. “I had tried melatonin and various herbal teas, but nothing worked. I was stressed out and exhausted, and it was a vicious cycle. The more I couldn’t sleep, the more stressed I became about it.”
When a friend gave Miller a 500 milligram tincture of CBD oil to help with his sleeplessness, he initially set it aside.
“I knew nothing about it and was hesitant to even try it because I had no idea what the side effects might be,” Miller explained to Weedmaps News.
One restless night, however, Miller was so desperate for sleep he took the CBD oil down from the shelf and tried it.
Further research into appropriate dosages and more randomized clinical trials in the future may offer greater insights and understanding into the use of CBD as a sleep aid. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
“It worked so well that I started researching more about it, and that’s what led me to starting our company, Lokus Nutrition, a CBD company. The reason we exist is because of my insomnia.”
Daniel Robbins turned to CBD as an alternative to other sleep medication. “I have a hard time falling asleep and used to take melatonin or Sleep Aid, but would have side effects like a racing heart, or waking up very groggy and unable to go back to sleep.”
He started experimenting with CBD gummies, taking 10-20 milligrams before sleep, with no other medication. “At first I noticed a feeling of relaxation and then I would begin to feel sleepy. “I fall asleep faster, with zero side effects. It has done wonders.”
Robbins notes that the CBD also helps to manage his anxiety. “Additionally, I take it in the morning and feel calm when I start to have anxiety coming on as I often get very stressed and anxious.”
Studies show that CBD may support healthy sleep in some individuals, but it can potentially increase sleeplessness in others. Further research into appropriate dosages and more randomized clinical trials in the future may offer greater insights and understanding into the use of CBD as a sleep aid.
CBD oil and insomnia Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives Bottom line Each
Can CBD Really Help You Sleep Better?
Nothing makes me more jealous than hearing people talk about sleep. I’ve struggled with sleep for as long as I can remember, and I’ve tried just about everything to get more of it: Regular exercise, meditation, solid sleep hygiene, melatonin and magnesium, to name a few.
Some of it has certainly helped, but only for certain periods of time when I didn’t have much on my mind. As soon as I found something to worry about, all hope was lost. That no-tech-before-bedtime rule plus a melatonin tablet didn’t get me anywhere fast.
Perplexed doctors eventually gave me a prescription for Klonopin, a medication many clinicians assign to patients for anxiety. While it helped me fall asleep, I spent the entire next day feeling like a slightly nauseous zombie. I felt equally as terrible as I did after a night of poor sleep, so I decided it wasn’t worth it.
That’s precisely why I was intrigued when I started hearing about CBD, or cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive compound found in the cannabis or hemp plant that apparently helps with sleep and anxiety. I didn’t exactly get my hopes up ― after all, tons of natural remedies that worked for other people hadn’t worked for me ― but I figured it was worth a shot.
Putting CBD To The Test
CBD can be taken in a few ways. Oil is probably the most popular, but it can also be taken in capsule form, or even as a chocolate or gummy. After a week of taking CBD in oil form every night, it was clear I’d stumbled across something kind of remarkable. I often slept well the first few nights of trying something new before it stopped working its magic, which I partially attribute to the placebo effect. With CBD, however, the good nights of sleep kept on coming.
My racing thoughts seemed to come to a screeching halt within an hour of taking it, and when I got into bed I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Even better, I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. And this isn’t unusual: As Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep specialist, explained in a 2017 HuffPost article, there’s a good chunk of research to suggest that CBD can be beneficial for rest. Research shows CBD may increase overall sleep amounts and reduce insomnia. CBD has also been shown to improve sleep in people who suffer from chronic pain.
Gretchen Lidicker, author of CBD Oil: Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide To Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness, said that while studying CBD is extremely difficult because of the legal issues still surrounding cannabis and marijuana, there has been research that indicates CBD can be a helpful antidote to anxiety and insomnia.
“These studies mainly point to CBD’s ability to interact with . serotonin receptors and GABA receptors in the brain,” she explained. “Serotonin plays an important role in mood and anxiety, and GABA is known as the main ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter, meaning it calms excess activity in the brain and promotes relaxation. GABA receptors are the target of benzodiazepines, which are a class of anti-anxiety drugs.”
Lidicker noted that one study on humans, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, showed that CBD was able to help with public speaking-induced anxiety. She also pointed to a clinical trial that started in August at a hospital in Massachusetts, in which researchers are administering 10 mg of CBD three times a day for a month to test its effects on patients with anxiety.
“Hopefully we’ll know more and more as clinical trials like this are conducted,” Lidicker said.
And how does CBD compare to other sleep supplements like melatonin? Lidicker explained that while she thinks melatonin is great, it has a different impact on the brain and body.
“CBD appears to help with sleep because of its anti-anxiety properties and ability to promote relaxation,” she said, noting that melatonin directly signals to the body that it’s evening and time to go to sleep by raising the naturally occurring levels of melatonin already in the body.
That explained why melatonin made me sleepy and helped with jet lag, but didn’t to help with the underlying anxiety that was causing my insomnia in the first place.
Can You Use Too Much CBD?
Everyone’s body is different, and Lidicker said that for some people, CBD might actually energize them.
“In that case, it could keep them up at night,” she said. “This interpersonal variation is a common theme with cannabis-derived therapies, because the way you react to cannabis is highly individualized.”
Lidicker added that people’s responses have a lot to do with how they personally process the product, and how cannabinoid receptors are distributed throughout the body. This is why it’s also difficult to standardize dosing recommendations for CBD. I was administering 0.5 ml of CBD oil under the tongue about half an hour before bed every night (that was the amount recommended on the bottle), but it’s worth noting that the concentration of cannabidiol may vary by product and that some people require more or less to feel the effects.
And what happens if you use it regularly? Lidicker said that while there’s still not enough published research available on CBD, there’s very little reason to believe people develop a resistance to CBD over time, which was my main fear.
That being said, it isn’t perfect: Some people do experience negative side effects like irritability, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Experts say that caution is key when it comes to using CBD until more definitive studies are able to be conducted.
So, is CBD the miracle sleep supplement it appears to be? There may not be enough scientific data yet to say for sure, and it obviously depends on the person. But I certainly hope so ― because I’m not willing to give up these blissful eight-hour nights and energy-filled days I’m experiencing anytime soon.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the amount of CBD oil the author was taking per dose.
Breaking down what the product does for insomnia.