Many swear by CBD for sleep, but how does it work? Let’s take a look at some of the research to see the different ways CBD is helping people fall and stay asleep.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a compound in the cannabis or hemp plant, one of over 80 cannabinoids. THC is another popular cannabinoid, but unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating and so doesn’t produce any of the psychoactive effects most people associate with marijuana.
CBD is helping people worldwide with a wide range of ailments and disorders, and the science is slowly starting to back this anecdotal evidence up. CBD’s most famous use is as a treatment for severe forms of childhood epilepsy, like Dravet’s syndrome. In fact, the FDA just approved the first CBD-based drug for childhood epilepsy, Epidiolex, but CBD remains in a legal grey area.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is also showing promise in helping with anxiety, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, depression, chronic pain, and of course, CBD for sleep. The cannabinoid is able to help so many different issues because it’s interacting with the body’s own, natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is one of the largest regulatory systems in our bodies, and plays a role in stress, pain perception, and appetite—sound familiar? Researchers believe CBD has such a wide range of applications because the ECS is so diverse.
For many people, it’s anxiety, planning, and trouble “turning off thoughts” that keeps them up at night. CBD for sleep works by treating issues that keep people awake, like anxiety, pain, and PTSD.
A 2014 study suggested CBD has both anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. Integrative Cannabis Physician Dr. June Chin tells Herb these anti-anxiety effects are likely a result of CBD’s interaction with a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
“GABA tells the body it’s time to power down,” says Dr. Chin. “Since millions of neurons all over the brain respond to GABA, the effects include reducing anxiety, calming the nervous system, helping with sleep and relaxing the muscles. CBD is a GABA uptake inhibitor, meaning that it creates a surplus of GABA in the brain. This results in a quieting and calming effect. With CBD supplementation, patients don’t have the racing thoughts that paralyze them at work or even lying awake in bed at night.”
Stress, anxiety, and racing thoughts aren’t the only things keeping us awake at night. Another powerful source of insomnia is pain. Research is starting to show that CBD helps people with many different kinds of pain, including chronic and neuropathic pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. A 2007 study co-authored by Ethan Russo found that cannabis, including CBD, reduced chronic pain sufferers’ “symptomatic insomnia” by helping to relieve some of the pain that was keeping them awake. So, CBD for sleep works more by relieving symptoms that keep people up rather than by providing very powerful sedating effects.
CBD for sleep is gaining popularity across the continent, but especially in places where cannabis is more accessible and accepted. In fact, survey data by Eaze found more than half of their participants in California use cannabis for sleep. Of those, 95 percent of people were able to reduce their prescription sleeping medications, like Ambien, and 45 percent completely stopped taking sleeping pills in favor of cannabis, including CBD. CBD for sleep is becoming tremendously popular because it offers an all-natural, non-intoxicating, and non-addictive way to relax and fall asleep.
CBD products derived from the hemp plant can be purchased in all 50 states and there are tons of options to choose from in terms of modes of consumption and brands. Plus, in states with accessible medical and adult use cannabis programs, high-CBD or CBD-rich products are also available. These will often have a ratio of CBD to THC. Some of these ratios can still produce a psychoactive effect, like 1:1 or 3:1, but once the ratio gets to 15:1 or higher, it’s less likely to have intoxicating effects if taken in moderate doses. For some medical conditions, some THC in a product makes it more beneficial because of the entourage effect. For some looking to cannabis and CBD for sleep, adding a little THC in there may help too.
One of the most popular ways to consume CBD for sleep is CBD oil. CBD oil can be dropped under the tongue for fast-acting, sublingual effects. Or, CBD oil can be put in food or smoothies, but effects may take longer to kick in when digested. CBD edibles, like gummies and other snacks, are also becoming popular and can be a nice treat after dinner while you’re winding down. Or, if you’d prefer something more traditional, CBD capsules are available so you don’t even have to change your evening routine when weaning off sleeping pills.
Smoking CBD rich flower or vaping CBD concentrates are also options when it comes to CBD for sleep. This mode of consumption will kick in the fastest, but it can also wear off the most quickly. One of the benefits of eating CBD is that it stays in your system the longest, even though it kicks in the slowest. But if you struggle with staying asleep, CBD edibles might be your best bet.
CBD for sleep is helping more and more people each night find a safe and natural sleep aid and sleeping pill alternative. By addressing symptoms that keep people awake at night, like pain and anxiety, CBD helps folks sleep without making them feel drugged or groggy the next day from a strong sedative, changing the way we think about sleep aids.