There’s nothing worse than a poor night’s sleep. The hours of tossing and turning leave you feeling irritable and drained when morning arrives. For decades, many people have turned to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids to get some much-needed sleep, but the medications come with some pretty serious side effects. Then there are the increasingly popular natural sleep aids, from melatonin supplements to cannabidiol (CBD) products. Indeed, CBD sleep products are everywhere, from big box retailers to local health food stores. But are they effective? Are they safe? And, if they are, when should you take them? We connected with several renowned cannabis researchers and physicians to find out. Read on for their input and advice on when to take CBD oil for sleep.
What is CBD?
The terminology here can get a little confusing: Cannabis refers to everything derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. To make the stuff some folks roll up into a joint, the flowers of the cannabis plant are dried and crushed. Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a plant compound derived from marijuana or hemp. It’s just part of the plant and it doesn’t include Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which a compound in the cannabis plant that’s responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana.
“CBD is biologically active, meaning it interacts at numerous ‘targets’ in the human brain and body,” explains Bonnie Goldstein, MD, a California-based physician and author of Cannabis Is Medicine: How Medical Cannabis and CBD are Healing Everything from Anxiety to Chronic Back Pain. “So far, researchers have found over 75 targets… where CBD impacts human physiology, providing anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety and other profound effects.”
“Cannabis contains about 140 different compounds,” adds Daniele Piomelli, PhD, Director of the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Center for the Study of Cannabis. “The most famous is THC, which causes the ‘high’ in people who use marijuana. But CBD doesn’t have such an effect and isn’t intoxicating at all.”
Thanks to its impact on different areas of the body and lack of inebriating effects, CBD is ripe for research. Scientists all over the world are working to unlock its benefits for pain relief, anxiety control, and of course, sleep. And people are taking notice: According to a recent survey, 25% of Americans are either currently using CBD products or are interested in trying them for a variety of health conditions.
CBD can be manufactured from hemp or marijuana. Both are plants of the same species, but they contain different amounts of THC. Hemp-based CBD is legalized nationwide and contains low levels of THC (below 0.3%). Conversely, marijuana-based CBD has higher amounts of THC, so it’s only sold in states with medical marijuana dispensaries and/or legalized recreational marijuana. (Click through for more on the laws regarding CBD.)
The CBD gummies and oils featured in this article (see recommendations below) use hemp-based CBD and can be purchased anywhere in the U.S.
CBD is available in many forms, from oils and gummies to topical lotions, drinks and other edibles. But when it comes to CBD for sleep, gummies and oils are the most popular options. And as with many prescription and natural sleep remedies, some people experience positive results when taking CBD for sleep, while others don’t. Ryan Vandry, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Johns Hopkins University, whose research focuses on the behavioral pharmacology of cannabis, notes that “the existing science on CBD indicates that it isn’t sedating like most sleep medications are.
But one recent study, published in the Journal of the American Nutritional Association, found that people who took 15 mg of CBD experienced sleep improvements equal to those of people who took 5 mg of melatonin.
Experts agree that CBD seems to work best for sleep when you have other symptoms or health conditions that interfere with sleep. “Those who take low-dose CBD and report that it helps likely are able to sleep better because they are less anxious or having less pain,” explains Dr. Goldstein.
“CBD helps reduce inflammation, which lowers pain and anxiety and improves sleep,” explains Mary Clifton, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician, an expert on the use of CBD and a consultant for CannabisMD.com. “And new research indicates CBD may calm menopause symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes.” But she adds this caveat: “CBD doesn’t work for 20% of those who try it.” (Click through to see how one woman overcame hot flashes and insomnia with CBD.)
When to take CBD oil for sleep: What conditions it’s most likely to help
Research shows that CBD is a powerful sleep aid for people suffering from certain medical conditions. Keep reading to learn more about these conditions and how CBD oil helps, then keep scrolling for more the right time to take CBD oil for sleep:
When you have sleeplessness caused by anxiety
Researchers have identified a link between people with anxiety disorders and severe insomnia. It makes sense: If you’re under extreme stress or stuck on the worry wheel, it’s hard to relax. Here too, CBD may be a boon.
One study, published in the Permanente Medical Journal, investigated the benefits of CBD on sleep quality in 103 people with anxiety disorders. Participants were given a 25, 50 or 75 mg capsule of CBD daily after breakfast or dinner. After a month of CBD supplementation, 79% of participants reported decreased anxiety while 66.7% reported improved sleep.
Tip: CBD oil can help with insomnia triggered by hormone swings, too. Click through to see why it’s one of the best natural menopause treatments.
When you have sleeplessness caused by chronic pain
Study after study shows that pain makes it difficult to sleep. And now research finds that the lack of sleep exacerbates pain. CBD to the rescue! In a small study published in the journal Exploration of Medicine, researchers found that CBD eased pain and improved sleep in cancer patients.
And a systematic review of CBD research published in The Cureus Journal of Medical Science concluded that CBD was an excellent alternative to opioids and other prescription pain medications because it’s nonintoxicating and non-habit-forming.
Another study conducted on rats and published in the European Journal of Pain found that CBD relieved arthritis pain and inflammation without side effects. Since 60% of people with insomnia say that pain keeps them up at night, a natural treatment like CBD oil is worth trying.
If you have sleeplessness caused by epilepsy
Epilepsy patients often take anti-seizure medication to reduce side effects, but these drugs can impact sleep. Again, CBD oil may help manage these symptoms.
One study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior, found that epilepsy patients who took CBD reported a better quality of life and lower psychiatric symptom severity and were better able to tolerate epilepsy medication. Participants also saw significant improvements in depression, anxiety and sleep quality.
Do this before using CBD for sleep
“CBD is very safe, and CBD won’t create a ‘high’ like THC,” assures Dr. Clifton. Still, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor or another qualified medical professional if you’re thinking about using CBD oil or gummies as part of your nightly routine. Since CBD products aren’t regulated like over-the-counter and prescription drugs, you need to find one that’s safe. One place to start: a cannabis physician.
How to choose CBD products
There are hundreds if not thousands of CBD companies out there and the label accuracy of CBD products is generally poor, says Dr. Vandry. What’s more, most manufacturers have their own extraction and processing techniques. His advice: “Do your homework and identify CBD products that are likely to have good quality control, meaning products sold at state-regulated dispensaries or products purchased from national retailers that have a good reputation for quality control.” Here, more ways to ensure you’re buying a safe product:
Check the QR code
Dr. Clifton advises choosing a product that’s undergone third-party testing, which she says should be clearly displayed on the label. Harvard-trained physician Ian Smith, MD, advises viewing a product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA). “Some products have a QR code on the label that you can scan with your smartphone to access a COA, but if you don’t see one, call the company and ask,” Dr. Smith advises. “If you can’t get the information readily, I’d avoid that product.”
Look for a product with full-spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the hemp or marijuana plant’s natural compounds, including terpenes (cannabis compounds responsible for the product’s smell and taste), flavonoids, THC and CBD.
Dr. Clifton likens a full-spectrum CBD extract to eating whole foods, explaining that the nutritional benefits are better when we ingest all of the plant’s compounds compared to taking a single vitamin.
Studies have found that CBD is more potent (and effective) when it includes multiple compounds. Specifically, full-spectrum CBD contributes to something called the ‘entourage effect’, which allows your body to reap more of the cannabis plant’s benefits.
Check for additives
Some CBD oils and edibles contain sugar. This usually isn’t something to worry about if you take the recommended dose. However, if you have diabetes or need to follow a specific diet, it might be a problem. Likewise, some CBD products contain THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). The amount is usually less than 0.3%, but even that small amount of THC can affect your results if you undergo routine drug testing for work. Since many manufacturers avoid listing THC on the label, it’s best to contact the specific manufacturer with any questions you have.
CBD products worth trying
With so many companies offering CBD products, it can be difficult to know who to trust. To help point you in the right direction, we’ve selected brands that use hemp-based CBD and strictly adhere to good quality control and manufacturing practices. All of the products below feature full-spectrum CBD, which is considered the gold standard of CBD extracts, and for many people, provides the best results. Additionally, the featured products contain 0.3% THC or less (meaning they’re non-intoxicating) and are legal in all 50 states.
For a full-spectrum CBD oil with no additives:
Dr. Kogan recommends Myriam’s Premium Hemp products. They use organically grown hemp, are made with full-spectrum CBD and don’t contain sugar or other additives.
One to try: Myriam’s Daily 50 CBD oil. (Buy at MyriamsHopeHemp, $75 for 30 1,500-mg servings.) Dr. Kogan says this CBD oil is high-quality and low-cost. You can boost this CBD oil’s sleep quality by customizing your own blend with sleep-promoting terpenes, like linalool and myrcene for 25 cents extra. This is a high dose (see more on that below) so Myriam’s also sells a Bottle Adapter Syringe Pack so you can take a more precise dose for you. (Buy at MyriamsHopeHemp, $1.25)
For a full-spectrum CBD oil that’s absorbed fast:
Kush Queen is another trusted cannabis company. Like Myriam’ Premium Hemp, Kush Queen products are lab-tested, accurately dosed and made with full-spectrum CBD.
One to try: Bare CBD Oil: Broad Spectrum (buy at KushQueen, $35.99 for 15 16-mg servings). This sublingual tincture is suspended in non-GMO extra virgin olive oil to increase absorption and bioavailability. Users who take it before bed report improved sleep, less pain and reduced anxiety.
For a full-spectrum CBD gummy that tastes great:
Try Kush Queen Full Spectrum CBD Gummies (Buy at KushQueen, $59.99 for 30 25-mg servings) if you prefer an edible. Verified buyer Emilee Derecewitz cheers, “These helped my anxiety and help my fiancee and I sleep at night. Great product and I don’t feel groggy in the morning.”
Everyone’s body metabolizes CBD differently, so the dosage that’s right for you might not be the same for someone else.
“I usually have my patients start by taking 15 to 20 mg of CBD and then quickly titrate up, assuming there are no side effects,” says Dr. Kogan. “I find that for it to work, the dose of CBD should be at least 50 mg and often 100 mg or more.
Since many oils and gummies contain far more CBD than these recommendations, it’s best to go slow. Instead of taking a full dose right away, start with a third of a dose or half a dose of oils and gummies. Keep a journal to monitor your symptoms and results. You can slowly add more to your regimen if you tolerate CBD well.
When to take CBD for sleep: How soon before going to bed
Before taking a CBD oil or CBD edible, read the dosage instructions on the label. “The best rule to follow is ‘start low and go slow’,” says cannabis journalist Jim Higdon, co-founder of Cornbread Hemp. “Bigger people, higher tolerance to cannabis and other factors can increase the amount of CBD necessary to achieve the desired results.”
CBD oil is usually administered sublingually (under the tongue), where the CBD is absorbed through the mucous membranes and can rapidly enter the bloodstream,” explains Joan Liebmann-Smith, PhD, a medical sociologist and co-author of Medical Marijuana with Dr. Kogan. “As a result, CBD oil can work in as little as 10 minutes. Because gummies (and other edibles) go through the digestive system, they take longer to take effect — up to an hour or more.”
Heather Moday, MD, director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia, notes that next-day fatigue is a common side effect of CBD. The reason? “Your body needs to learn how to adjust to the calming effects of CBD, and that process can take up to three weeks. Plus, higher doses may take longer to wear off.” If you experience grogginess after taking CBD, she suggests lowering your dose to 10 mg. If after two days, that doesn’t work, add another 5 mg. of CBD and repeat the process every couple of days until you find the dose that eases your pain and helps you wake up without feeling groggy.
Dr. Kogan encourages most patients to take CBD 30 to 60 minutes prior to going to sleep, but no two people are exactly alike. That’s why it’s so important to track CBD administration, especially if you’re a new user. With some trial and error, you can determine the proper timing for optimal results.
CBD is considered safe, but it isn’t right for everyone. Avoid taking it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You may also want to steer clear of CBD if you take one or more medications for a serious illness Dr. Goldstein says. That’s because “there are well-known interactions with some seizure medications, blood thinners, cancer medications, and others that can lead to unwanted consequences.”
“Some research suggests that CBD can impact liver function at very high doses,” Dr. Vandry adds, “so, folks with liver problems should be very mindful about using it.”
“Cannabinoids, including CBD, are first-line pharmacological interventions in my practice for any sleep disturbances,” says Dr. Kogan. “At the same time, I typically recommend sleep hygiene, mindfulness, acupuncture, and other nonpharmacological interventions.
While products like CBD oil offer much promise, the research is still young. Do your homework before diving in. Partner with your doctor or a cannabis physician and document your results in a journal or app. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for poor sleep, but CBD oil and edibles are worth trying because they’re all natural and have few side effects.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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