Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Recent research has revealed that CBD could be more energizing than relaxing, at least when it’s taken in low doses. Then, why do so many people use CBD products to get better sleep?
CBD on its own probably won’t make you fall asleep, but the therapeutic cannabinoid could help with other conditions that are keeping you awake. Learn what CBD can do to battle pain, anxiety and other issues that are interfering with the quality of your sleep.
The Complicated Relationship Between CBD and Sleep
If CBD is energizing, then how can it be used for insomnia? For many people, their insomnia is linked to the fact that they also suffer from anxiety, depression and/or chronic pain. Feeling on-edge all day, regular negative thought loops and being in constant physical pain can all affect one’s sleep. Stress hormones circulate in the body, which makes getting to sleep at night more difficult.
CBD is a partial agonist of serotonin receptors, an anti-inflammatory and an allosteric modulator of opioid receptors. This means that CBD can effectively “turn down the volume” of both pain and anxiety, and its mood-boosting properties can help treat depression and anxiety. CBD’s multi-receptor targeting makes it very useful for treating several conditions, and can help reduce the intake of some medications as well.
Higher doses of CBD (160 mg or more per day) may also have sedative effects and increase sleep duration. This is because CBD may reduce nighttime cortisol levels, ultimately helping reduce anxiety. The same compound having different effects at different dosages is referred to as having “biphasic effects.”
All of these facts add up to the possibility of CBD helping some people fall asleep and stay asleep. Racing thoughts and anxiety attacks keep many people up at night, but with CBD toning these episodes down, deeper sleep could be the end result.
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How to Effectively Use CBD for Sleep
Using CBD for sleep involves a delicate balance of proper dosing, other relaxing chemical compounds and lifestyle factors. Here are some ways to maximize the benefits of CBD and sleep more soundly.
Use Moderate to High Doses of CBD
CBD has awakening, energetic effects when taken in low doses. However, in moderate to high doses, CBD does seem to have more sedative effects. The fact that cannabinoids can have opposite effects based on the amount consumed that makes accurate dosing so vital. A 2018 study on 27 healthy subjects showed that 300 milligrams (mg) of CBD taken 30 minutes before bedtime had no effect on their sleep-wake cycle. In a similar study, 600 mg of CBD had a sedative effect on healthy patients. Interestingly, the same study showed that those who had insomnia found much lower (but still moderate) doses of CBD (160 mg) to be effective in getting them to sleep.
These results suggest that, for people who have a sleep disorder, more moderate doses of CBD may still be helpful in treating insomnia. For otherwise healthy people who don’t need too much extra help getting to sleep, much higher doses of CBD are needed. Although we don’t know precisely why this is the case as of yet, people with insomnia may need lower doses of CBD in order to trigger sleep hormones, suggesting that an endocannabinoid deficiency of some sort is associated with insomnia.
Combine CBD with Relaxing Cannabinoids and Terpenes
CBD is best combined with the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN) in order to get more sleep-inducing effects. In addition, blend CBD with more relaxing terpenes such as linalool, humulene and myrcene. Some pinene and limonene can also help induce sleepy effects, but when in high doses and combined with beta-caryophyllene, many people have reported more awakening effects.
Avoid Taking CBD with Sedatives
If you have been prescribed benzodiazepines, barbiturates or any other sedative medication to treat your insomnia, it would be wise to taper their use when utilizing CBD. Long-term sedative users ought to do so under medical supervision, as withdrawal from sedatives can be dangerous and possibly life-threatening. Ingested and dosed properly, CBD and medical cannabis can help reduce or replace the intake of harsher, more addictive medications.
Use CBD Products with Melatonin
Extensive research on sleep suggests that the hormone melatonin is a useful tool in the fight against insomnia. Melatonin works by balancing your circadian rhythms, which are often thrown off-kilter due to blue light-emitting gadgets like smartphones. Many CBD products contain relaxing melatonin, which makes them targeted treatments for sleeplessness.
Develop a Sleep Schedule and Rituals
Beyond melatonin, it is also helpful to incorporate nightly rituals into your sleep schedule and go to bed at the same time each night. For example, sip a cup of chamomile tea every evening, do 10 minutes of meditation and stretching, or read a chapter in a book in gentle lighting. Good sleep is the culmination of effective stress management and a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and fixed meal times also help.
The Bottom Line: Should You Use CBD for Sleep?
Some CBD products may help you achieve a more restful night’s sleep, especially those that contain melatonin. On its own, CBD may not work for insomnia, but combined with lifestyle changes (like no smartphones in bed), the cannabinoid could be beneficial. People who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety and/or depression may find CBD products to be particularly useful for sleep.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is CBD oil good for insomnia?
Many people have achieved a good night’s rest by using CBD oil for insomnia. But CBD oil is not a cure for insomnia, and some people may even feel energized when using the cannabinoid. The best way to learn if CBD oil is helpful for your insomnia is to try a small amount and see how you feel.
What dose of CBD oil should I take to help me sleep?
Research suggests that moderate to high doses of CBD oil may be best for battling insomnia. But you should consult with your physician for precise dosing guidelines and to determine if CBD is an appropriate treatment for you.
Is it safe to take CBD with Ambien (Zolpidem) for insomnia?
You should avoid taking CBD with Ambien (generic name zolpidem, a benzodiazepine) and other sedative-based sleep aids. The two medications combined can increase your risk of side effects, such as dizziness, confusion and impaired motor coordination. Furthermore, using CBD with zolpidem results in the liver needing more time to process the sleep aid, thus keeping the sedative in your system for longer.