The importance of sleep is frequently understated. Getting a decent night’s rest is becoming more difficult in this day and age, with as many as 16 million people in the UK often tormented by sleepless nights.
The majority of insomnia cases are stress and anxiety-related, and with more of us working longer hours than ever, it’s inevitable more of us suffer from sleep disorders.
If you’ve ever lain awake in the dead of night, desperately trying to fall asleep while your brain goes 100mph and you feel as awake and alert as ever, you’ll be aware that people are often willing to do anything for a good night’s rest.
The result is a parade of sleep-based wellness trends, from melatonin and meditation to a quiet reading time before bed and, of course, the biggest by far at the moment – CBD oil.
CBD oil for sleep is becoming more and more popular, but how does it work?
And if it is useful, how should you take it for the best results?
We’ve got the answers right here:
While there aren’t heaps of research that specifically examine the connection between CBD oil and sleep, the mechanics of how CBD may potentially impact resting are relatively clear.
Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC act upon receptors within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates sleep patterns amongst other physiological functions. The ECS works like an internal body clock, chiming in according to our pre-set patterns, helping us maintain a day and night rhythm.
A growing volume of anecdotal evidence highlights that using CBD has the potential for improved patterns of rest with the use of CBD products. However, challenges still exist around finding the right dose, consumption route, and balancing potential side effects and timing.
Additionally, anecdotal evidence is subject to potential placebo effects and a lack of quality control, which we know is a huge problem with supplements and especially CBD oil.
Even ignoring the role the ECS plays in regulating sleeping patterns, researchers are actively exploring if using CBD oil for anxiety and stress is beneficial, both of which can be significant roadblocks when it comes to getting a natural night’s rest.
So what exactly have research studies and clinical trials on the matter found?
Let’s take a look:
Early indications from studies outline that cannabinoids such as CBD can potentially support balanced sleep behaviour, especially when a lack of sleep is related to anxiety or stress as suggested above.
For example, one study into whether or not CBD can help to improve sleep and/or anxiety in a clinical population of 72 adults found decreased anxiety in 57 of the patients, and improved rest in 48. Thus, providing a strong suggestion that the impact CBD can have on daytime sleepiness can potentially be attributed to reduced anxiety.
While the study noted that further investigation was necessary, especially into the most effective doses, the research pointed towards a benefit for anxiety-related issues and insomnia, concluding that CBD was better tolerated than routine prescription medications for anxiety.
A 2012 study on rodents further supports this suggestion, indicating that “CBD may block anxiety-induced REM sleep alteration via its anxiolytic effect, rather than via sleep regulation per se”, which in plain English means that CBD improved deep sleep by its anti-anxiety effect than by regulating the function directly.
Another study on rodents in 2013 concluded that CBD increased the time rats spent asleep during the day and night.
Other research is indicative of a more direct impact on time spent rested. Primarily through interactions with the CB1 receptors found in the endocannabinoid system, suggesting CBD has “therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
If you’re new to the idea of CBD, you might be wondering whether CBD has any side effects and if it will leave you feeling groggy in the morning, or make you drowsy to the point you can’t go about your daily business.
We have the answer to that right here too:
While using CBD is considered safe as long as you purchase from a reliable source, like anything, there are possibilities of side effects. Nonetheless, most of these are considered mild and include:
The common side effects mentioned above are taken from an Epidolex study in which participants took a highly purified form of CBD. Out of all of the above, increased liver enzymes is the notable exception – as this has the potential to lead to downstream issues should this go unchecked and the individual have a pre-existing condition.
Related read: Side effects of CBD oil
Likely due to the stereotypes around cannabis smokers, many people wonder whether trying CBD to help with shuteye will make them tired as an unwanted set of side effects, or if using it is dangerous when driving or operating heavy machinery.
After all, is there any point taking a supplement to help you fall asleep if you’re going to wake up groggy and sluggish the next day regardless?
Unlike prescribed sleeping tablets such as Promethazine, this is usually nothing to worry about.
Since CBD works via interacting with the endocannabinoid system to promote a feeling of relaxation as opposed to being a strong sedative or opiate, studies suggest it is unlikely to elicit daytime sleepiness (or morning grogginess) as long as you find your dosage sweet spot for CBD.
Using oil isn’t the only way to consume cannabidiol. Although absorption and onset, rates differ significantly depending on the administration route. For example, edibles like CBD gel caps take at-least 45 and potentially up to 90 minutes to absorb.
Due to this fact, some methods have quicker access to the bloodstream than others, with vaping being one of the most ‘efficient’ and fastest way to use CBD; certainly more rapid than an oil.
If you are not a fan of vaping, it may be best to buy CBD oil instead. Although, it’s important to note that research suggests CBD may be more effective when it is a broad or full spectrum plant profile; meaning it contains other beneficial ingredients beyond CBD which are also found in hemp.
Most CBD e-liquids only contain CBD isolate, which is pure CBD with none of the other potentially beneficial ingredients often found in CBD oil and concentrates, such as terpenes, and other cannabinoids.
As a result, standard CBD vape liquids that only contain CBD isolate are often considered useful for enjoyment or to help reduce smoking tobacco or cannabis, but not as effective for to feel the fuller wellbeing effects of cannabidiol.
If you are vaping CBD for sleep or in the hope of achieving some positive effects for your wellbeing, try a broad spectrum product. It’s also critical to remember that different methods of use have varying levels of bioavailability.
This means that one approach doesn’t directly translate to another in respect to absorption, and switching from one method of taking CBD to another doesn’t necessarily mean that your ideal dose remains the same too.
The second most straightforward method of using CBD in terms of the absorption rate is to take CBD oil drops under the tongue. For many people with no history of smoking or vaping, this is the preferable method to experience the effects.
Of course, taking pure CBD oil via a dropper opens up other potential routes too such as cooking with CBD oil or adding it to drinks and smoothies, making it perhaps the most versatile method.
This does rely on you having a high quality broad or full spectrum CBD oil though, otherwise, you may be missing out on some potential effects in a similar manner to vaping CBD isolate.
To learn more about how to take CBD oil, including more methods and tips on how to calculate your ideal dose, take a look at our guide on how to use CBD.
CBD oil, in general, is said to be mildly stimulating in small amounts, and medium to high doses are considered to be sedating.
It also appears the time it is used can have an adjustment on the overall effect. Consequently, CBD oil is regarded as a stimulant by some and a relaxant by others, adding to the confusion.
Studies specifically tackling dosing are few and far between.
Nonetheless, we have come across a couple, and they all suggest a higher dose than average can help improve both quality and length of sleep.
For example, a 2004 study suggested medium doses of CBD and THC in combination correlated with improved sleep patterns. If the enhanced rest is attributed to CBD, THC or both in combination is another question for discussion.
On the flipside, in another instance, individuals with insomnia were given very high doses of 160 mg CBD, resulting in reduced sleep disturbances and an increase in the hours slept.
One thing to be aware of is that the best CBD oil dosage for sleep likely varies dramatically from person to person.
This is because there are simply too many variables involved for one recommended dose to be suitable for everyone. These variables potentially include:
With this many potential variables, it’s simply impossible to find an ideal dose that will suit everybody.
However, based on the research results above, you can assume that it’s a good idea to go with a dose slightly higher than recommended at first, then slowly increase it until you find the best results.
Another research study from 2012 seems to support this, finding that the ideal CBD oil dosage for insomnia varies significantly, with 40mg being the lower end.
Based on what we’ve learned, the best CBD oil to use as a sleeping aid is:
This second point is crucial because any brand that doesn’t publish lab results raises questions around product quality, or at the very least is prioritising other things over building trust with its customers.
We would highly recommend you maintain an appropriate bedtime routine, including spending some time winding down before bed.
For at least one hour before bed, you should avoid any stressful tasks or physical exertion. In an ideal world, avoiding caffeine and bright screens such as a smartphone is useful; instead, just read a book!
Maintaining a consistent sleeping pattern will make things easier as your body will be aware of when it should begin to start winding down.
Maintaining a healthy diet is also useful, as is regular exercise and ensuring you have a comfortable bed.
At the end of the day, all of the existing evidence so far seems to suggest that the answer to the question of “Can CBD oil help you sleep better?” is up to you to decide.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t suggest it’s a miracle worker, and going directly from running around managing your busy life to attempting to rest immediately will always be difficult.
It’s clear that the experience of using CBD oil varies by individual significantly, and that they’re issues in determining dosage along with the exact chemical composition of the product being used.
Nonetheless, the reports for its anecdotal use to improve sleep is growing, and it’s something to keep an eye on as time progresses.
If you suffer from any type of side effects, sleep disorders or are on prescription medication, ensure you talk to your physician before continuing to use or using CBD oil as a supplement.
Otherwise, if you’re interested then give it a shot and make up your mind, what have you got the lose?
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nature & Bloom and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention for any disease. Nature & Bloom products have not been evaluated by the MHRA.