Can CBD Help You Sleep?
A sleep psychologist says you should reconsider stocking up on CBD products for catching some zzz’s.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil seems to be all over the place, used as treatment for anxiety, chronic pain, acne and even infused in some foods and drinks. It’s readily available in various doses and forms over-the-counter. It’s natural to wonder what this mystical compound of marijuana is and what it does in the body.
You might be thinking, “Wait, marijuana? Doesn’t that make you high?” But let’s set the record straight: unlike CBD’s counterpart delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it doesn’t alter your cognitive state.
Similar to THC though, CBD can help you relax and people are wondering if it will help them finally get some good shut eye.
“It’s a tricky question to answer,” says Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D. , clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at Michigan Medicine. “There have been few studies on CBD and its effect on sleep, and those published have few participants with differing doses and forms of CBD administered.”
However, many of these studies suggest there could be some benefit to using CBD as a sleep aid, and it’s worth researching. “For example, there’s evidence that CBD can be helpful in managing anxiety . If someone’s anxiety is creating their sleeping problem, a CBD product may benefit them,” Conroy says.
But reaping the rewards of CBD is a slippery slope since much of its long term safety or efficacy is still unknown. One study showed taking less than 160 mg of CBD oil may actually promote wakefulness . While higher doses can promote sleep, the FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Because other CBD products aren’t regulated, you might not know what you’re really getting.
“This compound is used in various forms and their doses may differ, so you might not know how much CBD you’re actually using,” Conroy says. Regular usage of high dose CBD could harm you before you become aware of it, according to the FDA. It can cause liver injury and affect how other drugs are metabolized, causing serious side effects. Similarly, when used with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants, the increased risk of sedation and drowsiness can lead to injuries.
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“Non-pharmacological interventions have long-term, long-standing data that proves their safety and efficacy,” Conroy says. “I know CBD oil for the treatment of sleep disorders is intriguing, but we’re looking for answers we just don’t have yet. The products are outpacing the science.”
Setting yourself up for sleep
Melatonin for sleep , like CBD, needs more research to unmask its benefits and harms. “We secrete melatonin naturally as our bodies prepare for bed,” Conroy says. “I believe in harnessing what you already have.”
Until we have more answers about CBD, there’s a plethora of behavioral strategies that promote better sleep, including:
Allowing yourself time to wind down before bed in a dark setting without bright screens. If you need to look at a screen, make sure you use a brightness filter.
Having outlets for managing stress and anxiety, like journaling or seeking professional help with a therapist if it’s more serious.
Training your body to follow a regular sleep and wake cycle if you don’t already have a routine.
If you’re having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, you may have an underlying sleep disorder that a sleep specialist could help diagnose and manage.
If sleep problems persist, Conroy recommends seeking help from a sleep medicine specialist. “We might recommend undergoing a sleep study or offer other therapies to improve your quality of life,” Conroy says. “This also opens dialogue between you and a medical professional about what kind of treatment option you’re looking for, what your sleep goals are and what your expectations from a sleep aid are.”
Can CBD Help You Sleep? Here’s What Experts Say
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CBD, aka cannabidiol, has skyrocketed to the forefront of alternative medicine in the past few years and is being used for a slew of ailments. In fact, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, 1 in every 7 Americans, or about 14%, use CBD. Of all its purported uses, CBD is especially popular as a sleep aid, but there’s lots of information out there surrounding this subject.
To understand more about using CBD for sleep and CBD itself, we tapped Jessie Gill, RN, who is a cannabis nurse, aka a registered nurse with a special focus on cannabis therapeutics. She is also a director at large for the American Cannabis Nurses Association and is on the speakers’ bureau for the Cannabis Nurses Network. Additionally, she runs an online patient resource to help demystify cannabis for all.
What Is CBD?
First up, what actually is CBD? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also known as marijuana or hemp. Gill adds, “When people discuss marijuana, they’re generally referring to products containing THC, the famous cannabinoid that has many health effects but can also trigger euphoria and can cause people to feel intoxicated . CBD is another beneficial cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. CBD can offer health benefits, but it is not intoxicating so CBD cannot get you high.”
Health Benefits of CBD
“Research and anecdotal evidence shows CBD may impact a wide variety of diseases and symptoms of disease,” explains Gill via email. “This is because CBD directly affects the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is widespread; there are cannabinoid receptors all over the body and in every organ system. The three most common reasons people seem to choose CBD are for sleep, pain and anxiety.”
Brent A. Bauer, M.D., writing about the topic for the Mayo Clinic online, says, “A prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil is considered an effective anti-seizure medication. However, further research is needed to determine CBD’s other benefits and safety. . Currently, the only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a prescription oil called Epidiolex. It’s approved to treat two types of epilepsy. Aside from Epidiolex, state laws on the use of CBD vary. While CBD is being studied as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and anxiety, research supporting the drug’s benefits is still limited.”
CBD for Sleep
Using CBD to enhance sleep is very common, according to Gill. She says, “Many patients report that CBD helps them fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep longer and feel [more] rested in the morning. However, for some people, CBD can actually be stimulating instead of sedating. This may be related to the specific CBD product they’re using; sometimes it’s dose-dependent; other times, it’s just how the individual reacts to CBD.”
In terms of dosing, the ideal amount really depends on the individual. Gill explains: “Some patients need 10 milligrams while others need 100 mg. The thing is, CBD is most effective at the individual’s ideal dose. Too much or too little does not produce ideal results. Patients should start with a lower dose and increase it slowly if needed. Most patients choose to start with 10 to 25 mg, which is effective for many people. Others need more and occasionally some patients need less.”
How to Pick the Best CBD for Sleep
One of the challenging things about using CBD is that there are many CBD products available. Gill says that patients need to choose the method of consumption that works best for them, which can generally be determined with experimentation. She says, “When patients are using CBD daily, I generally encourage them to reach for products that do not contain extra sugar, colors or other additives. CBD oil, CBD capsules or using dried CBD flower can be great choices.” Just make sure to evaluate the source of your CBD product before purchasing.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, CBD is primarily classified as a supplement rather than a medicine. The site explains, “Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements.”
Gill adds, “Purchasing a high-quality CBD product is absolutely essential . as CBD is not regulated, which means there are many contaminated products on the market and some can be potentially harmful. There are also many products that don’t even contain the CBD levels listed on the label. Many companies only test for potency but I encourage patients to choose companies that are doing full-panel testing which checks for all possible contaminants.”
Not sure where to start? Gill personally loves NurseGrown Organics from Vermont since they are certified clean green, which is more stringent than an organic certification. Gill says, “NurseGrown does full-panel testing on their products. They test for all impurities, heavy metals and potentially harmful chemicals that can be picked up by the plant during its growth cycles.”