If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you know how important a good night’s sleep can be. Chronic sleep issues have been implicated in major health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and impaired driving?
Clearly, sleep is essential to good health. But as many as one-third of adults report that they don’t get enough sleep. As a result, they turn to remedies like medication, alcohol, or lifestyle changes to get those precious hours of rest.
Recently, a new sleep remedy has been exploding into the mainstream. It’s called cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-intoxicating, cannabis-derived substance that has developed a new reputation as the cure for all that ails you. But does CBD really work for sleep? Read on to learn what the latest research tells us.
How Does CBD Affect Sleep?
Advocates sometimes make CBD sound like a miracle drug that can fix absolutely everything — from a bad hair day to cancer. And while the enthusiasm around CBD can lead proponents to overstate what the research has shown, there is still reason to believe that CBD could have a broad range of medical applications.
That’s because cannabinoids like CBD work by behaving like products the body produces naturally. Because of this similarity, it can interact with a network of receptors known as the endocannabinoid system. From brain cells to immune cells, this regulates a huge variety of processes in the body. And when it comes to sleep issues, there are a few mechanisms by which CBD could help.
First, CBD may be able to help us deal with some of the underlying issues that cause sleepless nights. By reducing pain and inflammation, or dialing down our anxiety, CBD may help to eliminate obstacles to getting the rest we need.
Additionally, CBD is thought to impact sleep by influencing the levels of serotonin and glutamate in the body. Scientists believe that these neurotransmitters play a significant role in sleep, so CBD’s effectiveness may be the result of bringing these levels into balance.
CBD’s Dose-Dependent Effects on Sleep
Further complicating our understanding of the connection between CBD and sleep is the observation that CBD’s effects on wakefulness appear to be related to dosage. In clinical studies using higher doses of CBD, one of the most common recorded side effects is mild sedation. But in studies using lower doses, participants haven’t reported feeling sleepy when taking CBD — rather, they have tended to feel slightly more alert.
Reviewed together, these studies suggest that CBD may have a dose-dependent relationship with drowsiness. At low doses, it delivers a little bit of pep, while higher doses have a sedative effect.
And what if you want to take CBD for another condition that is unrelated to sleep? Do you need to worry about sleep issues?
In one double-blind, randomized study published in 2018, researchers wanted to find out whether CBD would cause sleep-related side effects if taken for other conditions, such as anxiety. When they gave volunteers a substantial 300 mg dose of CBD, they found that this dose had no effect on sleep for these healthy participants.
Is it Safe to Use CBD for Sleep?
If you want to increase the quality of your sleep, and you’re thinking of giving CBD a try, there are a few potential safety issues that you should keep in mind.
First, it’s important that you find a reputable CBD oil provider. That’s because CBD is essentially unregulated, and a few unscrupulous manufacturers have been caught releasing ineffective products, or products that are contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or dangerous synthetic cannabinoids.
Look for a manufacturer that publishes third-party lab results for their products. Many brands publish lab results on their websites, or will provide them upon request. You should be able to verify that the product you are purchasing contains the amount of CBD listed on the package, and that it’s free of contaminants.
The second safety concern is that CBD has the potential to interact with other medications. That’s because the liver enzymes that metabolize CBD are also responsible for breaking down dozens of common pharmaceuticals.
If you are taking other medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding CBD to your regimen. They might advise adjusting the dosage of your other meds in order to make sure that you’re getting the most effective dose.
Overall, CBD has a very good safety profile. In 2017, the World Health Organization even released a statement recommending that CBD not be scheduled internationally as a controlled substance. And unlike many sleep aids, CBD isn’t habit forming and has low incidence of side effects.
CBD’s broad spectrum of action means that it may be able to attack sleep issues from multiple angles. By reducing anxiety and pain, or regulating the levels of sleep-related neurotransmitters, the current research indicates that CBD helps support a balanced foundation for a good night’s sleep.
Possible Side Effects of CBD
CBD is generally well tolerated by healthy adults. Possible side effects of CBD include dry mouth, lightheadedness, sleepiness, sluggishness in movement and/or thought (psychomotor slowing), and low blood pressure.
People with the following conditions should consult with a physician before using a CBD supplement:
• Pregnancy and breast feeding. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or breast feeding not use CBD.
• Parkinson’s disease. High doses of CBD may exacerbate muscle tremors or other muscle movements in people with Parkinson’s.
The following medications and other supplements may interact with CBD. Effects may include increasing or decreasing sleepiness and drowsiness, interfering with the effectiveness of the medications or supplements, and interfering with the condition that is being treated by the medication or supplement. These are lists of commonly used medications and supplements that have scientifically identified interactions with CBD. People who take these or any other medications and supplements should consult with a physician before beginning to use CBD.
Interactions with medications:
• Sedative medications
• Medications that are altered or broken down by the liver. Many commonly used medications are changed or broken down by the liver. Consult with your physician before using CBD if you are taking medication of any kind.
Interactions with other supplements:
CBD can increase sleepiness and drowsiness. When CBD is used in combination with other herbs or supplements that promote sleepiness, you may become excessively sleepy. Some of the herbs and supplements used for sleep include:
• California poppy
• Jamaican dogwood
• L-tryptophan and 5-HTP
• St. John’s wort
Don't rely, however, on sleep medication to cure insomnia. Prescription and nonprescription sleep medications are only intended for occasional, short-term use.
If you continue to have insomnia, talk to your health care provider or consider consulting with one of our board-certified providers, who specializes in sleep disorders.
Established as the first independent diagnostic testing facility (IDTF) sleep clinic in Alaska in 2002, AIaska Sleep Clinic has grown to 4 locations and 13 beds. Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive sleep clinic in Alaska. Contact us today for your FREE sleep assessment.