Do you regularly find yourself awake in the wee hours of the morning, deep in a Wikipedia black hole or counting the dimples on your ceiling?
Then you, my friend, could probably use some sleep.
There are many ways to curb sleeplessness and insomnia, like breathing exercises, meditation, aromatherapy or noise machines. But have you ever considered CBD?
You’ve probably noticed that CBD is all the rage these days — but it can be difficult to wade through the hype to find out what it is, how it works and what benefits it can actually provide in terms of your health and wellness.
Well, some research suggests that CBD can help you sleep better by both easing some of the underlying causes of sleeplessness and potentially by directly interacting with your sleep cycles. But why is that the case? And what are the benefits of using CBD in lieu of another type of sleep aid?
CBD in a Nutshell
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant, along with a better-known cannabinoid, THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol), which is famous for its psychoactive properties.
CBD, on the other hand, does not give you the “high” that is often associated with cannabis use. So, while CBD is psychoactive, it is not psychotropic like THC.
In fact, while marijuana (one species derived from the cannabis plant) does contain CBD, it has higher concentrations (anywhere from 0.3% to 20% or greater) of THC. Hemp, however, contains less than 0.3% THC and much higher concentrations of CBD, even though it also is a cannabis plant.
If CBD comes from a hemp plant with less than 0.3% THC, then it is legal to buy under federal law (certain states, however, still have legal restrictions on the compound). If CBD contains more than 0.3% THC — or, in other words, comes from a marijuana plant, then it is illegal under federal law. For this reason, most CBD available on the market comes from industrial hemp (though not all).
How CBD Might Help with Sleep
Most of the ways CBD can help with insomnia or other sleep problems links back to the plant’s effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) — which plays a role in regulating our mood, appetite and circadian rhythm. The ECS is naturally occurring in the body, even if you’ve never used cannabis before.
This system is made up of a bunch of cannabinoid receptors in our brain and nervous system. When cannabinoids attach to these receptors, they can have certain effects — like making us feel buzzed, relaxed, tired, etc. — depending on the type of cannabinoid.
So how and why does CBD potentially help with sleep both directly and indirectly?
- Some research suggests that CBD can ease anxiety by reacting with a certain receptor in the brain that researchers have linked to stress and anxiety. In this study of 72 subjects given 25mg of CBD daily, 79.2 percent reported lower anxiety levels and 66.7 percent reported better sleep after the first month.
- Similarly, depression or depressive thoughts can interrupt sleep. One study in the Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy reported that rodents seemed to exhibit less depressive-like behavior after taking CBD — and that it seems to act faster than conventional antidepressants. (Admittedly, it can be difficult to detect depression in animals, but it makes for a good hypothesis on the sustained antidepressant effects of CBD.)
- CBD also is believed to ease both short-term and chronic pain, which can disrupt sleep or make it harder to fall asleep (as many of us know).
- Other research suggests that CBD may interact with receptors in the brain that control our sleep cycles, directly influencing the body’s ability to slip into the first few sleep stages and stay asleep. However, significant research is still needed in this area.
- CBD has also decreased nightmares in some users. For example, one case of Parkinson’s disease patients who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) — which causes restlessness and increased nightmares — experienced fewer side effects of the disorder when treated with CBD. RBD is a common occurrence among people with Parkinson’s disease.
- It’s also possible that CBD reduces excessive daytime sleepiness or grogginess, and promotes wakefulness. Though it might seem paradoxical, wakefulness is actually an important part of our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. In other words, if you have more energy during the day, you’ll probably sleep better at night — which again makes you feel well-rested during the day. It’s all connected!
Additionally, most plants contain terpenes — and some of these terpenes have sedating or hypnotic properties that either calm down the nervous system or directly induce sleep, respectively. Lavender or valerian root, for example, are known to help with sleep and relaxation because of some of their terpenes, which is why they are commonly used in aromatherapy.
Well, hemp also contains terpenes with these relaxing, sleep-inducing properties, and broad-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD products can sometimes contain these terpenes.
5 Ways to Use CBD — and Which Ones Are Best for Sleep
There is still much more research that needs to be done on the sleep benefits of CBD — specifically around how much you need to take, when to take it, what form to take, etc. For example, higher doses of CBD might be better (about 30mg or more). For this reason, many researchers suggest starting at a dose of 25mg and adding more until you find what works for you.
Whatever the dose, there are a lot of ways to consume CBD, but ones that release slowly in the body are thought to be better for sleep. So, which ones are those?
1. CBD Oil Tinctures
Like it sounds, CBD oil is the oil derived from the cannabis plant. CBD oil tinctures, like Curfew's Evening Tincture, are often sold in small vials with droppers, so the oil can be placed under the tongue.
Are they good for sleep?
They’re a pretty good option — the CBD does slowly enter the bloodstream when placed under the tongue, and tinctures are the most effective form of CBD. But there are other methods that release even more slowly.
2. CBD Capsules
CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant in a powder form and placed in capsules, much like a vitamin.
Are they good for sleep?
Most likely. In capsule form, the CBD is released very slowly into the body which could help you stay asleep throughout the night. It is also easier to work taking a capsule into your daily routine (like a medication or vitamin) — and it’s one of the better ways to control how much CBD you are taking. As such, you can more accurately measure the long-term effects of CBD on your sleep quality and patterns.
3. Topical CBD Salves, Creams and Lotions
Simply put, these are CBD-infused body care products. Some, like Curfew’s CBD salve, are broad-spectrum — meaning they contain not just CBD, but also the terpenes, fatty acids and other naturally occurring phytocannabinoids found in the hemp plant.
Is it good for sleep?
The short answer is yes. CBD lotions and salves can relieve pain and help relax your muscles. While you can use these anytime you’re sore or achy, massaging them on your body before bed could be a helpful way to promote good sleep hygiene.
4. Vape Concentrates
These CBD products could either be sold in the form of cartridges that you would use with a long-term vape, or as disposable vape pens.
Is it good for sleep?
Maybe, but maybe not. Because it gets CBD into your system so quickly, you could fall asleep much faster than you ordinarily would. But that doesn’t always mean you’ll stay asleep throughout the night. Plus, vaping can pose respiratory risks — whether you’re vaping CBD, marijuana or tobacco.
5. CBD-Infused Blankets and Textiles
These are materials that have CBD incorporated into the fabric. For example, Curfew sells a blanket made with a textile that’s infused with micro-encapsulated CBD isolate.
Is it good for sleep?
Most likely — the CBD in the blanket can help promote relaxation and deliver constant, slow-release exposure to the cannabinoid as you sleep.
6. Edibles (Gummy Bears, Drinks, Foods, etc.)
You’ve probably heard of marijuana edibles, but you can also get CBD edibles — they’re simply gummies, candies, cookies, chews, beverages, etc. that are infused with CBD oil.
Are they good for sleep?
Potentially, depending on the type and the concentration of CBD. For example, most CBD-infused drinks you might see at a cafe probably won’t contain enough of it to make a noticeable difference in your sleep patterns. Also, they are generally less effective than tinctures and topicals because the CBD is broken down and degraded by digestion — so you might not experience the full effects.
CBD, Sleep and Your Health and Wellness
When it comes to CBD and sleep improvement, it’s unlikely that you’ll see immediate results — the research that does exist suggests it could take about a month to notice a difference in your quality of sleep.
Another key factor is to look for high-quality, research-backed products since CBD is not yet regulated by the FDA. This absence of any sort of regulatory standards leaves room for products that could contain harmful substances, like pesticides, that haven’t been properly filtered out. (The FDA recognizes the current and growing demand for CBD products, and is working to develop routes to market for CBD products that involve detailed reports and clinical studies for the safety of consumers.)
When shopping for CBD, you should look for where it was grown, how much THC it contains (i.e. look for one that comes from industrial-grade hemp) — and you may even want to request test results or certificate of analysis (COA) from companies if they are not already available. (If a company refuses to provide this information, then it’s probably best to avoid purchasing its products.)
And, since there is still much research to be done on CBD, you should always talk to your doctor before you begin taking it — especially if you take prescription or over-the-counter medication regularly. There could be potentially harmful interactions between certain drugs and CBD.
We should also note that there are potential side effects associated with CBD (like with any sort of medication), including fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite and weight.
Regardless, it is generally considered safe. Plus, CBD is potentially a great short-term, natural, non-habit forming solution to lack of sleep thanks to its anxiety-easing, relaxation-promoting properties — especially if you use it safely, talk to your doctor and purchase it from a trusted source.