cbd for sleep title graphic

CBD Benefits For Sleep

This guide explains the benefits of CBD for sleep. Will CBD help you? Let’s find out.

The sleep studies selected for this guide are published by highly reputable organizations.  Collectively, they show CBD leads to longer duration sleep and more restorative sleep.

In this guide you will learn:

  • CBD’s effect on sleep and insomnia
  • the science of CBD sleep benefits
  • how CBD affects the underlying conditions the cause difficulty sleeping

If you don’t find an answer in this guide, leave us a comment below. We’ll search the published studies to see if an answer exists and get back to you.

Let’s get started.

 

 What is Insomnia?

 

Insomnia is defined as an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for a full night’s rest. (1)

The criteria for insomnia is as follows according to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine:

  • “Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or nonrestorative sleep.”
  • “This difficulty is present despite adequate opportunity and circumstance to sleep.”
  • “This impairment in sleep is associated with daytime impairment or distress.”
  • “This sleep difficulty occurs at least 3 times per week and has been a problem for at least 1 month.”

 

cbd sleep benefits

 

Unfortunately, insomnia is a common condition in the United States that affects up to 30% of Americans each year. (2) It can have a significant impact on one’s life including emotional wellness, cognitive abilities, and negative effects on relationships.

CBD does have relaxing effects that can help ease you into sleep but its ability to help with insomnia doesn’t rely on sedation. Sedation is only a short-term fix to sleep issues and frequently has detrimental effects on sleep in the long run.

On the other hand, CBD benefits for sleep go to the underlying causes of insomnia and get at the root of what’s really causing your difficulty getting restful sleep. In order to better understand how CBD works, let’s take a look at what might be causing your insomnia in the first place and then we’ll see why CBD is such a powerful sleep aid.

cannabis flower
 

Causes of Insomnia

 
Common reasons for difficulty sleeping that lead to insomnia if left untreated include:

bear sleeping peacfully

 

Video: Simple Sleep Hack

 

Before I ever take anything, I like to try a behavioral hack to see if I can solve my problem entirely on my own.  That’s where Jim Donovan comes in.

Jim Donovan is a drummer who teaches music and wellness.

Like a lot of people, the root cause of his insomnia is anxiety.

Insomnia caused by anxiety usually feels like you can’t get your mind to stop thinking when it’s time to go to sleep. Often, you may find yourself in bed for 30 minutes to a few hours before finally quieting your mind long enough to let sleep take hold.

In his popular TED video, Jim demonstrates his simple trick for getting his mind to quiet down and prepare for rest.

This trick takes just about a minute.

Worth a try, right?

Jim’s got a great take on sleep disorders and some pretty good anxiety insights from someone who has first-hand experience.

 

Stress And Sleep

 
Stress in life is practically unavoidable.  Behavioral fixes can work and should be tried but they almost always fall short of actually solving the problem.

How do you know when the stress in your life has become too much? If stress is causing you to lose sleep consistently, that’s a pretty good sign you need to pay attention to it and find a solution before it starts to affect your health negatively.

According to a 2012 sleep and stress disorder study in the journal Experimental Neurobiology, the inability to get a completely restful night of sleep is a sign of unhealthy stress (3)

  • “Stress is a complex condition with emotional, cognitive, and biological factors.”
  • “Excessive stress causes long- and short-term disability in various human systems, and activates the defense system of the central nervous system.”

 

cbd stress sleep aid
 
If stress is keeping you up, consider a behavior sleep hack like the one above in Jim’s Ted video. If that doesn’t work and stress is keeping you from sleeping then a CBD oil with anxiety-relieving and relaxing effects may be the answer that’s right for you.

Let’s find out.


 

Clinical Disorders And Insomnia

 
Clinical disorders are often the root cause of insomnia. (4)

Unfortunately, these disorders are becoming increasingly common worldwide. New pharmaceutical drug development to treat these disorders has stagnated. In fact, most of the drugs used to treat depression and anxiety were developed more than 40 years ago with few new breakthroughs since. Additionally, many patients stop taking the most popular pharmaceuticals because of limited efficacy and significant adverse effects.

On the other hand, CBD and cannabinoids work because they mimic the natural chemicals your body already produces.  CBD affects anxiety, depression and memory formation as part of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

The ECS is part of your central nervous system. One of its most important jobs is to act as a chief regulatory monitor charged with maintaining the chemical balance of your body. The ECS works with CBD to send signals in your body to specialized subsystems which to the actual work of restoring balance.

Notice the cannabinoid part of the name Endocannabinoid System? Our body has a special relationship with these natural compounds from cannabis plants. Medical science already recognizes that. It’s our society that’s just starting to come around to the benefits of these compounds.

graphics anxiety sleep disorder
 

Insomnia Caused By Anxiety

 
Do you get in bed tired but still have difficulty getting to sleep? Has this persisted for a long time? Can you attribute it to an intermittent source of stress in your life or had your difficulty sleeping due to anxiety-related issues become chronic? If so, that may be a sign of clinical anxiety.

A persistent and restless mind keeping you awake is often a symptom of anxiety. According to a medical study on sleep published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder can cause both sleep maintenance and sleep-onset insomnia but the effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and PTSD are not as clearly defined.
 

 

Sleep-onset insomnia is defined as difficulty getting to sleep while sleep maintenance insomnia is defined as difficulty staying asleep for a full restful night.

So, when the light goes out what happens?

Does your mind race around and around—one thought after the next?

A ‘racing mind’ is a tell-tale sign that anxiety is keeping you awake and while, clinical anxiety usually references a response to fear, feelings of anxiety don’t need to relate directly to fearful feelings to keep you awake. Many times anxiety that keeps you awake can simply be about whatever is going on in your life at a particular time.

Some level of anxiety is normal and there is no hard and fast line at which anxiety goes from being normal everyday stress to clinical anxiety—only a medical doctor reviewing your specific symptoms can make that determination.

  • According to the same study above, clinical anxiety “could be characterized by a sense of fear, but, it is differentiated from fear in that the threat is not immediate or always obvious.”

 

cannabidiol anxiety treatment

 

When anxiety keeps you awake, it deserves your attention otherwise your health, mental wellbeing, and relationships can be put at risk. Luckily, extracts like CBD oil have a significant impact on anxiety and may be able to help restore your sleep.

If anxiety is clearly at the root of what causes your insomnia, maybe think about addressing your anxiety issues first with CBD and see if that has an impact on your ability to get to sleep.  Check out this guide to a collection of recent scientific studies about CBD benefits for anxiety.

It might be just what you need to get better sleep and be happier.

cannabidiol guide to anxiety benefits based on latest medical studies recent to 2020

koala bear sleeping
 

Sleep Onset Insomnia vs. Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

 
As touched on in the previous section, medical research breaks down insomnia into two major categories and each has different root causes.

The two types of insomnia are sleep-onset insomnia and sleep maintenance insomnia.

Sleep onset insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep. (5)

  • “Difficulty falling asleep may be primarily due to behavioral and cognitive factors such as worrying in bed or have unreasonable expectations of sleep duration.”
  • “Unsuccessful attempts to control thoughts, images, and emotions only worsen the situation. After such  a cycle is established, ‘insomnia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that can persist indefinitely.”

 

cbd sleep benefits

 

On the other hand, sleep maintenance insomnia is defined as not being able to stay asleep through the night and achieve truly restorative sleep. Sleep maintenance insomnia is usually caused by a physical condition like pain or discomfort but can also be due to certain prescription medications.

 

cannabidiol insomnia pain benefits

 

Insomnia commonly comes and goes with pain from an ailment, some specific stressor in your life, or for no discernible reason at all.

gummies bears and cbd candies
 

CBD Sleep Aid

 
My personal experience with CBD and sleep has been dramatic. My sleep-onset insomnia wasn’t the result of pain. It came directly from anxiety. I can’t tell you how many hours of my life have been wasted trying unsuccessfully to get to sleep and then dragging myself through the next day like a zombie because I was so tired. Maybe your experience has been similar? CBD can truly change that for you. If anxiety or pain is at the root of your sleep loss, the science shows CBD works.

In 2019, a medical study published in the Permanente Journal on the benefits of CBD oil for sleep and anxiety reviewed CBD’s overall sleep and anxiety benefits for 103 patients.
 
cbd sleep clinical trial

 

The study concluded that CBD helped relieve both anxiety and sleep difficulties within the first month for the majority of patients. 79.2% of patients with anxiety had improved scores after taking CBD and the benefits persisted for the length of the study.  Sleep scores improved in the first month for 66.7% of patients but fluctuated over the course of the study.  CBD was well tolerated by all but 3 patients with minimal side effects reported. (6)

 

cbd sleep aid
 
These results suggest that CBD may be best used as a short-term sleep aid to help get your sleep back on track rather than a long-term fix for chronic insomnia especially if that insomnia is caused by something other than anxiety.

Additionally, it is possible for your body to develop a tolerance for CBD. It may be the case the effectiveness of the CBD diminished over time with continuous use.  Using CBD intermittently when sleep difficulty is most acute may be more beneficial in the long run because it will stop the body from becoming tolerant to the continuous presence of CBD.

The researchers from the Journal Permanente conclude that further clinical studies are needed to fully determine the benefit of CBD for sleep. (7)

Interestingly, the CBD dosage used for sleep in this study was lower than most clinical studies.

  • “The doses used in this study (25 mg/day to 175 mg/day) were much lower than those reported in some of the clinical literature (300 mg/day to 600 mg/day).”

 

cbd anxiety sleep benefits medical study
 
Whether you suffer from chronic insomnia or intermittent bouts of sleeplessness, CBD has shown results in helping many people get back to regular restful sleep.

Other studies have shown higher CBD dosages can increase the duration of sleep but may result in sedative effects. (8)

  • “Comparing CBD with nitrazepam found that high-dose CBD at 160 mg increased the duration of sleep.”
  • “Another crossover study showed that plasma cortisol levels decreased more significantly when given oral CBD, 300 to 600 mg, but these patients experienced a sedative effect.”

 
cannabidiol sleep maintenance benefits
 
Exactly how CBD affects sleep is still yet to be defined by medical science. CBD appears to help sleep by affecting a critical regulatory system in your body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is your body’s natural way of regulating anxiety stress and maintaining mental, physical and chemical balance. (9)

  • “Recent data indicate that CB1R signalling modulates both pro- and anti-anxiety pathways and thus contributes broadly to regulation of anxiety-like behaviours,” according to a study published in the journal Nature.

 
cbd mental health
 
CBD is able to affect the root causes of anxiety insomnia because it mimics signaling compounds in your body’s natural system for regulating anxiety.

 

CBD for Insomnia Caused By Pain

 
Along with anxiety, pain is a leading cause of sleep loss and poor quality sleep.  CBD has significant benefits for pain relief and inflammation that may the root cause of your sleep disturbance.

Both sleep maintenance insomnia and sleep onset insomnia can be caused by pain or discomfort according to a medical study published in the British Journal of Pain.

  • “Sleep disturbances experienced by patients with chronic pain can be characterized by longer sleep onset, more frequent and longer awakenings after sleep onset, shorter total sleep time, lower sleep efficiency and poorer sleep quality. “

 
 
cbg sleep aid

 

One of CBD’s most significant benefits is its ability to disrupt pain sensation. It does so safely and without leading to habit-forming behavior.  CBD is especially good at relieving chronic neuropathic pain, hard to treat pain, and pain caused by inflammation such as arthritis.

  • According to a 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, “CBD was also seemingly effective in treatment of chronic pain associated with kidney transplantation and when given topically to patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy of the lower extremities. As well, in patients with fibromyalgia, CBD treatment decreased pain by more than 30% in significantly more patients than placebo.”

 

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As discussed in-depth earlier in this guide, CBD derives its pain-relieving benefits by interacting with a part of your central nervous system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). In fact, CBD changes the way pain is transmitted through the nervous system and may play a key role in how acute pain is resolved. (37)

  • According to a medical study published in the journal Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, “Preparations of the Cannabis sativa plant have been used to analgesic effect for millennia, but only in recent decades has the endogenous system responsible for these effects been described.”
  • “The endocannabinoid (EC) system is now known to be one of the key endogenous systems regulating pain sensation, with modulatory actions at all stages of pain processing pathways.”

 

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Depending on the cause of the discomfort that is leading to your loss in sleep quality, different types of CBD may be appropriate. While CBD oil and gummies are the most commonly available products for sleep, new research suggests that CBD topicals with the terpene trans-nerolidol may also be beneficial. (38)

  • Topicals CBD products such as CBD creams are especially good at delivering CBD to specific areas for the purpose of relieving pain and inflammation.
  • According to a 2018 study published in the journal Molecules, “topical administration is potentially ideal for localized symptoms, such as those found in dermatological conditions and arthritis but also in peripheral neuropathic pain for which capsaicin patches have been proposed as a second-line treatment after high quality of evidence was provided.”

 


 
Physical pain is a frequent obstacle to getting the sleep you need and CBD may be an ideal form of pain relief.  CBD is generally well tolerated with minimal side effects.  CBD has the additional benefit of being non-psychoactive so you won’t wake up groggy and it is a non-habit forming substance.

mature cannabis flower with visible trichomes
 

Sleep Benefits: CBD vs. CBG vs. CBN

 
In fact, several types of cannabinoids have anxiety and sleep benefits.  When choosing a full-spectrum CBD oil for sleep you may want to check the lab results to see if CBG or CBN is present in your product.  Both CBG and CBN have distinct benefits for sleep and anxiety relief.
 

CBN Sleep Benefits

 
Cannabinol also called CBN has significant benefits for sleep.

CBN is a powerful sedative.  In fact, it’s the most powerful sedative of all the cannabinoid compounds including the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. (13) CBN helps me get to sleep at my most anxious times—when I need something stronger than CBD.

CBN is not found in high quantities in hemp. It’s created when THC chemically degrades from exposure to light, air, and heat.

Unlike CBG and CBD which are completely non-psychoactive cannabinoids, CBN is a mildly psychoactive compound. CBN is thought to be about 10% as psychoactive as its precursor compound, THC.  It may mildly intoxicate some individuals so use due caution when using CBN in circumstances in which you need to be alert for safety reasons.

There is very little research on whether or not CBN would cause a positive drug test for THC.  CBN is derived from THC and closely related to THC chemically so be cautious taking CBN if failing a drug test would be problematic for you.
 

CBG Sleep Benefits

 
Like CBD, CBG (cannabigerol) is non-psychoactive and not derived from THC. CBG is similar to CBD in that it affects the same parts of the Endocannabinoid system as CBD but it may have some unique properties that make it especially suited for people who have difficulty getting restful sleep.

CBG is the only known cannabinoid to affect the uptake of noradrenaline.  Noradrenaline is a type of adrenaline that is implicated in anxiety symptoms and affects you ability to achieve deep sleep. Noradrenaline appears to play an important role in REM sleep which is the deepest type of sleep and required for restorative sleep.

  • According to a 2011 medical study in the journal Frontiers of Neurology, “although a low level of noradrenaline is still maintained during REM sleep because of diffuse extrasynaptic release without rapid withdrawal, the decrease observed during REM sleep contributes to the mentation disturbances that occur during dreaming.”

 
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CBG’s benefits for sleep appear to be more potent than CBD but without the mildly psychoactive effects of CBN. Unfortunately, much less research has been done on CBG compared to CBD due to prohibition and its relative scarcity until recently. New studies are underway now that will better define CBG benefits for anxiety and hopefully touch on its sleep benefits that will further define the effects of CBG on insomnia and restfulness.

 

CBD For Insomnia Caused By Depression

 
Like clinical anxiety, depression is a psychiatric disorder that can cause insomnia. When depression becomes chronic, it can lead to increasingly frequent bouts of insomnia. Unfortunately, being tired as a result of insomnia may also lead to more significant depression thus kicking off a negative feedback look that can be incredibly distressing. (23)

  • According to a study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “links between sleep and depression are strong.”
  • “About three-quarters of depressed patients have insomnia symptoms, and hypersomnia is present in about 40% of young depressed adults and 10% of older patients, with a preponderance in females.”

 
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While CBD’s benefits for depression are not fully defined yet, several animal studies and anecdotal reports from general practitioners report antidepressant-like effects when CBD is administered.  CBD is known to affect serotonin uptake in the brain which is the same chemical that SSRIs effect (a common type of pharmaceutical antidepressant). Additionally, CBD has the benefit of being fast acting with nearly immediate reported effects.  CBD is well tolerated and does not have the reported adverse effects that cause many patients to discontinue using SSRIs.

If you find yourself stuck in a negative feedback look of increased depression and insomnia, CBD may be a way to break the cycle and create a positive look of better sleep leading to a better state of mind and quality of life.

 

Seasonal Depression Insomnia

 
Seasonal depression can lead to insomnia and difficulty sleeping. In fact, it’s natural to feel a little depressed as the seasons change and the weather turns colder with fewer hours of sunlight.

Spending more time indoors and receiving less sunlight causes a natural depressive effect on our mood that can escalate to something called Seasonal Affective Disorder.  (25)

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder can have short and long-term depressive effects on mood and sleep.
  • According to a study published in the journal Depression Research And Treatment, “those most at risk are female, are younger, live far from the equator, and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD.”

 

 

When depressive feelings come on too strong as fall turns to winter, it can sometimes affect sleep. As discussed earlier in this guide, medical studies have reported that CBD has significant sleep benefits for the majority of patients within the first month of taking a CBD oil product.

CBD’s fast-acting sleep benefits make it perfect for short term sleep interruptions like depressive feelings caused by seasonal changes. CBD may be just what you need to return to a normal sleep cycle and avoid sleep disruption in the winter months or as seasons change.

CBD has the added benefit of being non-habit forming and non-addictive so trying CBD for short term sleep interruptions won’t become a detriment to the quality of your long term sleep.

 

CBD Sleep Benefits: PTSD

 
PTSD is a significant cause of insomnia. CBD has specific and wide-ranging benefits for PTSD. It may be able to restore sleep quality and positively affect the traumatic memories that lead to PTSD.
 

What is PTSD

 
PTSD is a huge problem that frequently leads to periods of prolonged insomnia.

  • According to medical studies, 3.5% of Americans are currently struggling with PTSD.
  • 1 in 11 will be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetime. (30)
  • PTSD can be caused by experiencing a traumatic event or being a witness to a traumatic event.
  • PTSD is defined as a medical disorder that “can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life.”  PTSD can be caused by experiencing such an event or simply by witnessing a sufficiently traumatic event.

 

cannabidiol ptsd benefits

 

PTSD affects sleep

 

According to a 2019 study published in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine,  insomnia is a significant symptom of PTSD that is present for a large number of those who struggle with PTSD. (31)

  • “Insomnia occurs in 66-90% of individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 36-72% of individuals with substance use disorder (SUD).”
  • “Individuals with both PTSD and SUD are more likely to have insomnia than individuals with only one disorder.”

 

ptsd symptoms cbd relief

 

CBD benefits PTSD

 
CBD may have powerful benefits for PTSD that go to the central cause of PTSD—the traumatic memories themselves.

According to the 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, CBD’s benefits go beyond PTSD symptom relief. CBD may help diminish the traumatic memories that are the root cause of the disorder. (32)

  • “Alternatively, cannabinoids may reduce traumatic memory by affecting its retrieval or reconsolidation or by stimulating the process of aversive memory extinction.”

 

 
Though the exact mechanism by which CBD oil affects PTSD is not yet clear, the endocannabinoid system appears to play an important role in memory formation and extinction.

  • CBD affects the endocannabinoid system by mimicking an important endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide.
  • This ability to mimic anandamide is believed to be the main mechanism of action by which CBD effects traumatic memory and symptoms of PTSD.

 

CBD effects PTSD symptoms

 
CBD has benefits for PTSD symptoms including anxiety and depression.

  • A recent study published in 2019 found that an 8-week course of oral CBD reduced symptoms of PTSD in 91% of participants. (33)
  • The PCL-5 score (a way of testing for the severity of PTSD symptoms) decreased by a mean average of 28% in study participants. (34)
  • “Patients taking oral CBD over an 8-week period demonstrated an overall decrease in PTSD symptom severity as measured by continual decreases in mean PCL-5 scores.”
  • “CBD was well tolerated and no patients discontinued it due to side effects, although a minority of patients did report fatigue and gastrointestinal discomfort.”

 
image text quoted immediately above image

 

This new medical research suggests CBD causes a substantial decrease in PTSD symptoms including nightmares.

  • “CBD also appeared to offer relief in a subset of patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD.”
  • The study authors go on to say that their study cannot conclude whether or not the reduction in nightmares was due to CBD or the placebo effect because they did not set up controls for this specific effect at the outset.

 
cannabidiol ptsd benefits
 
The terpene content of CBD oil used in the study is not known.

  • The addition of terpenes such as limonene and myrcene may have benefits for PTSD-related sleep disturbances.

If you’re interested in more in-depth studies about CBD benefits for PTSD check out our guide here.
 
cbd ptsd clinical study

 

CBD Sleep Benefits: Allergies

 
One of the main benefits of consuming CBD oil and terpene is their anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Inflammation is one of the main symptoms of allergic reactions.
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD can be useful in the treatment of seasonal allergies that lead to sleep loss. (35)

Consumers of CBD oil report breathing and pain-related symptoms from inflammation improve by cutting back inflammation and reducing pressure.

  • Congested airways and physical pain are frequent contributors to insomnia.
  • Taking CBD and terpenes to reduce allergy symptoms sets the conditions for restful sleep.
  • “These outcomes were accompanied by decreases in collagen fibre content in both airway and alveolar septa and the expression markers associated with inflammation in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and lung homogenate.”

 

cannabidiol insomnia allergy benefits

 

Sleep Loss: Medications

 
Some pharmaceutical medications cause insomnia. This is something you may want to discuss with your doctor.

Medications that are known to cause insomnia include:

  • some allergy and sinus medication
  • blood pressure medications
  • medications for heart disease
  • some asthma medications
  • some depression medications.
 

Lifestyle Choices

 
There are many ways you improve your sleep.

Tip: Try watching Jim Donovan’s TED talk video at that beginning of this article.

CBD is helpful but behavior and lifestyle choices are important too.

  • Have a bedtime routine.
  • A safe and comfortable place to sleep.
  • Don’t use technology before you go to sleep. The blue light from screen watching can disturb our ability to get to sleep.
  • Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol are known to cause sleep difficulties.

References

 

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