Will CBD help you sleep?
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- What is CBD and how does it work?
- How does CBD make you feel?
- Does CBD oil make you tired?
- CBD vs. THC for sleep
- What effect does CBD oil have on sleep disorders?
- What are the other potential benefits of CBD?
- Bottom line
A good night’s sleep has incontestable benefits for general health and wellbeing. For 30% of the general population, however, sinking into an effortless slumber doesn’t come easily, according to a national poll by the Sleep Foundation. To make matters worse, sleeping pills and medications commonly used to induce sleep are often accompanied by side effects.
One possible alternative to these medications is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound. It is currently trending as a sleep aid as many are discovering that it promotes drowsiness by removing obstacles to sleep, such as anxiety. But are there scientific grounds to believe that CBD can actually support and bolster more healthful sleep? Weedmaps spoke with four experts to find out.
What is CBD and how does it work?
While we have some understanding of how CBD interacts with the body, there is still much to learn.
“CBD itself doesn’t do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors but instead promotes the binding of the endocannabinoids already in our systems,” Drew Ford, Chief Science Officer at Kase Manufacturing, a cannabis extraction facility, told Weedmaps. “It ensures they bind to the receptors that they’re supposed to go to.”
Research suggests that CBD may act on serotonin receptors, prompting the release of endocannabinoids. Serotonin is also one of the most important neurotransmitters for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Endocannabinoid receptors affect the entire body. According to Dr. Thinh Vo, Director of Quality and Compliance at Koi CBD, cannabidiol indirectly has an impact on receptors that send information between “the cells in the nervous, immune, and circulatory systems to regulate biological processes.”
Evidence from a study published in Translational Psychiatry also suggests that CBD inhibits the uptake of anandamide, which is an endocannabinoid that is often referred to as the “bliss molecule.” Anandamide binds to CB1 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, just like CBD. When CBD occupies those receptors instead, anandamide’s pleasant effects may last longer.
How does CBD make you feel?
When it comes to how CBD products will make you feel, the answer will depend largely on individual-specific factors.
“Each person’s reactions to CBD are unique,” Vo told Weedmaps News. “Reactions to CBD are also affected by other variables such as delivery method, whether the person is taking existing medications/supplements, and whether the product is an isolate or a spectrum oil.”
Vo points out that terpenes present in CBD oil also influence the individual’s response. “We know that terpenes play an essential role in determining the strain and influencing a sedative effect, energetic effect, or combination of both,” he explained.
CBD may diminish the anxiety that can render it challenging to fall asleep. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Per a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, when administered at different doses, CBD may provoke distinctive responses. Low doses may cause someone to feel energized and alert, while higher doses may be relaxing and encourage drowsiness. CBD is frequently anecdotally reported to alleviate anxiety.
“CBD is an anxiolytic, which means that it reduces anxiety and is calming,” explains Dr. Elaine Burns, a naturopathic doctor who is CEO and founder of Dr. Burns’ ReLeaf. “In addition, it helps to relax the muscles. These two properties both contribute to a feeling of relaxation in the mind and body.”
Does CBD oil make you tired?
As to whether CBD oil can cause tiredness, expert opinions appear to be mixed. “There is no true clinical evidence to support CBD as a sleep aid. CBD oil itself should not make a person drowsy,” Ford said.
That being said, Ford also acknowledges that CBD may diminish the anxiety that can inhibit sleep and “could be effective as a sleep aid for people who need to calm down and relax their mind.”
Dr. Patricia Frye, a board-certified cannabis clinician and Chief Medical Officer at HelloMD, pointed out that there is evidence that high doses of CBD can modulate adenosine pathways in the brain. “Adenosine is the substance that accumulates during the day and deactivates the sensory neurons in the area of the brain that keeps us awake.”
CBD may trigger tiredness or a sleep response through its reported effects on the 5-HT1a serotonin receptors. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
CBD may also trigger tiredness or a sleep response through its reported effects on the 5-HT1a serotonin receptors, as observed in a study published in the medical journal Pain. “When binding to the 5-HT1a receptors, CBD essentially blocks those receptors from other agonists binding to them,” Ford explained. “Depending on the individual’s body chemistry, when CBD binds to these receptors it can essentially block the anxiety or depression-causing molecules, leading to immediate relief.” As a result, some individuals may feel a sensation of sleepiness.
CBD vs. THC for sleep
THC, the cannabis plant’s most abundant and intoxicating cannabinoid, is reputed to induce sleepiness. Ford believes any feelings of drowsiness associated with CBD oil can most likely be attributed to THC. “If CBD oil is making you feel drowsy, it’s probably due to a fraction of THC being left in the product,” he said.
THC isn’t necessarily more effective than CBD as a sleep aid. An individual’s body chemistry affects how he or she responds to THC, and for some, it may be counterproductive if they’re looking for deep slumber. Ford explained that while the “psychoactivity of THC” can lead to drowsiness, it can also cause the mind to race, ultimately concluding that “it really depends on what symptoms you are trying to overcome and what works best for your own body.”
Burns agrees, adding that THC can also cause anxiety and restlessness at doses higher than 10 milligrams. “Because of this, I would say that CBD is a better sleep aid for most people; however, dosing less than 10 milligrams of THC along with 20 milligrams or more of CBD could be a great combination.”
CBN, the cannabinoid into which THC transforms when exposed to heat and light, may have more sedative effects. One analysis by Steep Hill Labs found that five milligrams of CBN was as effective as a 10-milligram dose of diazepam, a member of the “benzo” family used to treat muscle spasms, seizures, and anxiety. Thus, it’s likely that consuming older cannabis will have more sedative, sleep-inducing effects than fresher flower with less CBN present.
What effect does CBD oil have on sleep disorders?
Although more studies on CBD and sleep disorders need to be conducted, Vo pointed to the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, which returns more than 100 results for a search of CBD and sleep. The articles include studies and reviews of previous research, mostly conducted on animal models, which may overlap. A 2019 review of the use of CBD and THC for sleep indicates that cannabinoids may improve sleep quality, decrease sleep disturbances, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
Cannabinoids may improve sleep quality, decrease sleep disturbances, or reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Many of the studies reviewing CBD, however, examined sleep as a secondary outcome in the context of another illness. Frye highlighted a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology that investigated the use of CBD oil for children with autism spectrum disorder to treat related conditions such as sleep disturbances. “Patients with autism typically have sleep disturbances,” she explained. “The study showed that CBD improved sleep in 71.4% of patients.”
What are the other potential benefits of CBD?
As CBD interacts with the nervous, immune, and circulatory systems, it may also offer benefits for a gamut of conditions. An in-vitro study published in the European Journal of Pain suggests that CBD reduced evidence of pain and inflammation behaviors in rats, while another study published in Ingenta Connect found that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects in animal models. Too, CBD shows promise in reducing epilepsy-induced seizures and some types of muscle spasms, as shown in this in-vivo study published in The Lancet Neurology and this pilot patient study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience.
Per an in-vitro study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, there is also evidence that CBD may potentially improve heart health and, as seen in this scientific review published by CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, may offer protective benefits for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
There is some evidence that CBD may reduce anxiety and promote feelings of calm and relaxation, which could lead to better sleep in some people.
However, there is presently little clinical research on human subjects specifically investigating the effects of CBD on sleep disorders. Possibly, future studies will enhance our understanding of CBD, its mechanisms, and its role in sleep regulation.
Will CBD help you sleep? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is CBD and how does it work? How does CBD make you feel? Does CBD oil make
Thinking About Using Cannabis For Sleep? Here Are Some Things To Know
I’ve had a lot of patients and others of you ask me about using cannabis for sleep. I thought I’d take some time to go over some information that may be helpful in understanding how cannabis can affect sleep and sleep-related issues, and whether cannabis is something to consider for your sleep problems, in consultation with your physician.
Cannabis helps insomnia and other sleep problems
The cannabis plant has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. Contemporary scientific research has measured what people have known and experienced since ancient times: cannabis has relaxing and sedative effects. In particular, cannabis makes falling asleep easier. One recent study found that cannabis shortens the time it takes to fall asleep , both for people with sleep problems and people who fall asleep without trouble. Among people with active difficulty falling asleep, cannabis use resulted in an average of 30 minutes less time in falling asleep. The study also included a group of people who were able to fall asleep without difficulty. Among this group of strong sleepers, cannabis helped them fall asleep even faster, by 15 minutes.
This research falls aligns with other studies that show cannabis use reduces the time it takes to fall asleep , and lengthens time spent in deep, slow wave sleep. Cannabis also appears to shorten time spent in REM sleep, likely as a result of one of its primary active ingredients, THC (more on this important component of cannabis in a minute.)
Cannabis contains many different natural chemicals that affect sleep
Cannabis has dozens of different natural chemical compounds that have effects on sleep, and sleep cycles. There are two main components to cannabis I’ll focus on today that are important to sleep: cannabinoids and terpenes .
Scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant . Many are being studied for their benefits for sleep and other health conditions, including psychological conditions like depression and anxiety, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, seizure disorders, different forms of cancer, and chronic pain.
Three of the best-known cannabinoids all have effects on sleep.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-mind-altering cannabinoid that promotes relaxation.
Last week, I talked about the latest scientific evidence illustrating many of the benefits of CBD , including for sleep. (I’ve written about CBD before: you can read about it here , and here .) CBD has no psychoactive effects—that means there’s no “high” associated with this compound. Scientists think instead that CBD works to balance or counteract the high that’s delivered from another cannabinoid, THC.
CBD has gained a lot of attention for its ability to reduce anxiety, relieve pain, promote mental focus and clarity. CBD also has the ability to reduce daytime sleepiness and promote alertness. Studies of CBD show that it reduces anxiety without affecting sleep-wake cycles.
Cannabinol, or CBN, is a less well-known cannabinoid than CBD. It appears to have powerful sedative effects, which may be enhanced when its combined with THC. CBN also has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest CBN stimulates appetite. (CBD, on the other hand, appears to suppress appetite.) CBN is found in aged cannabis, when, over time, THC converts naturally to CBN.
I’ve written recently about the emerging research about how CBN helps sleep and pain .
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. THC is what gives the high that’s associated with cannabis use. THC can provide pain relief, and is also useful in reducing nausea. Research shows THC has sedative effects , and can make it easier to fall asleep. There’s also emerging evidence suggesting that THC may improve breathing during sleep , which makes THC a potential therapy in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea .
THC appears to alter time spent in stages of sleep. Specifically, THC has been found to reduce time spent in REM sleep and increase time spent in slow-wave sleep.
Because of this diminished time in REM, THC reduces dreaming . That can be helpful to people who have conditions such as PTSD that involve frequent, disturbing dreams and nightmares. People may experience fewer dreams when using cannabis regularly. After stopping, its common to experience a burst of dreaming. That’s part of what’s known as REM rebound—an increase in REM that happens after REM has been suppressed.
Changes to sleep cycles are one factor to consider when evaluating whether, and how long, to use cannabis. All sleep cycles are important for healthy rest and functioning. Alterations to our nightly sleep architecture, especially over the long-term, can deprive us of the full restorative effects a night of sleep is biologically designed to provide.
Cannabinoids have gotten a lot of attention for their potential benefits for sleep, mood and pain, as well as other health issues. But terpenes also appear to play a pretty significant role in the effects of cannabis, including its ability to affect sleep. We’re still learning about how terpenes affect the body and mind. But scientists think they may work to enhance the effects of different cannabinoids, as well as affecting the body directly in a range of ways.
Terpenes are tiny, aromatic molecules in cannabis that create its smell and taste. Terpenes aren’t only found in cannabis—they’re found in many natural plants, fruits and flowers. There are more than 150 different terpenes that have been identified. Different combinations of terpenes in different strains of cannabis create distinctive tastes and smells. They also contribute to different strains having different effects when we consume them.
Science shows terpenes have effects on energy, mood, sleepiness and alertness. Some of the most common terpenes identified as helpful to sleep are:
Myrcene . Commonly occurring in cannabis, this terpene is also found in a lot of fruits and herbs, including mangoes, basil, thyme, and lemongrass, as well as in the sleep-promoting plants hops and ylang ylang. Myrcene has been shown to have sedative effects . It also functions as an anti-inflammatory.
Caryophyllene . This is a stress, anxiety and pain-relieving terpene that may also promote sleep, thanks to these relaxing, anxiolytic and analgesic properties. This terpene has a peppery, spicy scent, and is also found in cloves and black pepper.
Limonene . This citrus-flavored terpene, which is found in citrus peels as well as in cannabis and other plants, has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress , according to research. Limonene may also have anti-depressant effects . And research shows it may reduce OCD behaviors. Scientists think its calming, mood-lifting effects come from limonene’s ability to elevate serotonin levels in the brain . That may also make this terpene a sleep-promoter. Studies have shown that limonene may help reduce insomnia symptoms .
Terpineol. This terpene has relaxing, pain-relieving, and sedative effects. In addition to being found in some strains of cannabis, terpineol is also found in lilac, pine, and eucalyptus.
Linalool . This lavender-scented terpene is found in hundreds of plants, including cannabis. You probably know about the benefits of lavender for sleep, which I wrote about here . Studies show linalool lowers anxiety and depression symptoms , as well as help g uard the immune system against damage from stress . Particularly important for sleep: linalool increases adenosine , a sedating hormone that helps us fall asleep.
Different types of cannabis have different types and amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes
Always consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or make any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine. This is not medical advice , but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your physician at your next appointment.
For people considering using cannabis, it can be a little intimidating and confusing to figure out what type of cannabis is best. There are many different strains of cannabis available. How do you know which one to choose?
Working with a knowledgeable medical provider and dispensary is essential. You can also use this basic knowledge of these natural cannabis compounds to identify the strain of cannabis that’s right for you.
Here are a few key things to know:
The most common cannabis strains are Indica and Sativa. There are also hybrid strains that combine the two. Indica is generally considered to be relaxing and sleep promoting. Sativa is generally regarded as more energizing and invigorating.
However, some scientists who study cannabis say that these generalizations of indica and sativa aren’t particularly accurate or useful. More important, they say, is the composition of cannabinoids and terpenes. When considering using cannabis for sleep (or other health conditions), these scientific experts say we’re better served by using an understanding of the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes to choose the particular strain that’s most suited to our individual needs.
When it comes to sleep, generally that means identifying a strain that contains relaxing terpenes, and a balance of CBD and a not-too-high concentration of THC. In addition to increasing the euphoric and mind-altering effects, higher concentrations of THC can make you feel sluggish the next day .
Don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions, and working with your physician and dispensary to make an informed choice you’re comfortable with.
Know potential side effects of cannabis for sleep use
Cannabis can be helpful in bringing about sleep. It does have side effects that you should know. They include:
- Next-day grogginess, especially with overuse and/or a high-THC strain.
- Overuse and high-THC strains can also produce dry mouth, euphoria, and increased appetite after ingestion
- After extended use, possible withdrawal symptoms that may include changes to mood (feelings of anxiety or depression) and changes to sleep (trouble falling asleep, vivid dreams)
Where you live affects how you can use cannabis
The state laws governing cannabis for medical and recreational use are changing often these days. As of this month, 10 states have now legalized cannabis for recreational use. (Michigan became the latest to legalize cannabis in our most recent election.) In 33 states, medical cannabis is currently legal.
Even if you live in a state where cannabis is legal without a prescription, I recommend talking with your doctor, as you would before using any sleep aid or supplement.
Keep in mind, there are different ways to ingest cannabis besides smoking, which obviously carries health risks. If you’re considering cannabis for sleep, I recommend using a tincture or vaping, so you don’t expose yourself to the health hazards associated with smoking.
And remember, you can use many of the natural compounds found in cannabis on their own, in isolated form or combined with other natural ingredients. Many of the sleep-encouraging terpenes found in cannabis are also present in sleep-promoting essential oils and natural supplements, including hops, ylang ylang, and lavender.
CBD is fast-growing in its popularity as a therapy for sleep, anxiety, and cognitive performance. The benefits of CBD are so promising, I included CBD in my own sleep formula, Aktive Sleep Booster, along with other natural sleep-boosting ingredients including valerian and hops.
I hope this has been a helpful primer on some of the basics of cannabis and its influence over sleep. There’s lots of emerging scientific evidence about cannabis and its potent natural chemical compounds. I’ll be sure to update you as we learn more about how cannabis works and what it may be able to do for our sleep and health.
Thinking About Using Cannabis For Sleep? Here Are Some Things To Know I’ve had a lot of patients and others of you ask me about using cannabis for sleep. I thought I’d take some time to go