Alaska Sleep Education Center

CBD vs Sleep Disorder: What Research Says

Posted by Heather Smith on Dec 13, 2020 1:11:00 AM

Young man sleeping in bed

Millions of adults suffer from sleep disorders, the most common of which are insomnia and narcolepsy. The adverse effects of these disorders are far reaching, from accidents caused by drowsiness to hypertension and cardiac conditions. 

Sleep disorders

Somnipathy, or sleep disorder, is a medical disorder where a person’s sleep is disrupted. Disrupted sleep could affect a person’s waking hours, making them impaired enough to cause accidents, make them perform poorly in school or at work, and cause further health problems. 

Common sleep disorders


Insomnia is perhaps the most common of sleep disorders. This is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. 50% of adults experience acute insomnia while a tenth of the adult population suffer from chronic insomnia. 

The causes of insomnia range from anxiety to pain. People who suffer from anxiety have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep than someone who has very low levels of stress and no anxiety. People suffering from chronic pain can also suffer from insomnia as pain makes it difficult to fall asleep. 



This is a chronic neurological disorder that involves a decreased ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. People who suffer from narcolepsy will fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or while doing chores including driving. 

The exact cause is unknown but around 10% of people with narcolepsy have a family history of the disorder. People who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries or those who have tumors can also suffer from narcolepsy. 


Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

These are a group of sleep disorders that affect a person’s circadian rhythm (our natural process that regulates when we sleep and wake), affecting the time of sleep. This happens when your normal sleep time is disrupted likely by a change of work shifts or other external situations that stop you from falling asleep at the time you normally do. 


Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

People with this syndrome have this intense urge to move their legs. The urge is so strong that it disrupts sleep. 

Scientists believe that the cause of RLS is iron deficiency. RLS can worsen during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and consuming copious amounts of caffeine can also exacerbate RLS. 


Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder where a patient’s breathing is affected during sleep. A patient’s breathing could turn shallow or stop altogether for several seconds followed by gasping, choking, or snorting sounds when the body resumes normal breathing. 

The causes of sleep apnea depends on which type of sleep apnea a patient has. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is often caused by excess weight, narrowed airways, even age. OSA occurs more in males than females. The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea (CSA) caused by your brain failing to tell your muscles to keep breathing during sleep. 


Cannabis has long since been used as a treatment for various ailments. Ancient China used the cannabis plant to treat pain brought about by menstrual cramps and gout. In medieval times it was used to treat pain, nausea, and epilepsy. Even western medicine used it as a pain reliever. 


What is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is a cannabinoid found in hemp plants. Cannabinoids are active compounds found within the hemp plant. Cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a series of neuromodulatory lipids and receptors that run from the brain to your central and peripheral nervous systems. The two main receptors of the ECS are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

The most researched phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids) are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is non intoxicating, unlike THC. CBD acts on the CB2 receptors while THC acts on the CB1 receptors. CBD has also shown to counteract the effects of THC and shows promise in the management of addiction. 

CBD and Sleep Management

Studies have been conducted on the therapeutic effects of CBD when it comes to managing sleep disorders. The cannabinoid has shown a lot of potential as a possible treatment for sleep disorders. 

CBD has a differential effect on sleep. This means that a higher dose of CBD, around 160 mg per dose can induce sleep while a lower dose provides energy and wakefulness. 


Insomnia and CBD

A study conducted on rats found an increase in the total percentage of sleep in rats given mid range and higher doses of CBD compared to those given a placebo. Another study reported that CBD anxiety induced REM sleep suppression. And yet another case report stated that patients had reduced PTSD related sleep disturbances after they have taken CBD oil before sleep. 


Sleep Apnea and CBD

Though there has been no direct study published yet about the direct effects of CBD and sleep apnea, CBD has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety that prevent sleep and affect sleep quality. Apart from improving the general well-being of patients who use CBD oil for sleep and wellness, there is anecdotal evidence that points to CBD directly affecting sleep apnea. The treatment people use to combat sleep apnea is by using the CPAP machine. 


Narcolepsy and CBD

One of the more dangerous symptoms of narcolepsy is extreme daytime sleepiness. The negative impact of narcolepsy (and OSA) in the quality of life of its sufferers is substantial. Anything ranging from causing accidents to developing dangerous cardiac conditions are on the table when it comes to narcolepsy. A recent study has found that using a small dose of CBD can induce wakefulness in people suffering from narcolepsy and somnolence. And since studies have shown a link between anxiety and CBD, taking CBD oil for narcolepsy will also help in managing anxiety that comes with the sleep disorder. 


Restless Leg and CBD

RLS sufferers experience pain and discomfort that can be alleviated by moving their legs, hence the name restless leg syndrome. There are few studies conducted around RLS and CBD, but what studies there are are promising. Most doctors prescribe anti epilepsy medications for RLS as well as dopamine regulators. CBD has been proven to alleviate seizures and regulate dopamine. Patients who have tried CBD for their RLS have reported symptom relief. 


Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders and CBD

Studies have shown that CBD plays a large role in bringing homeostasis back into our bodies by regulating hormone levels. A study conducted a couple of years ago has postulated that CBD may possibly affect our body’s circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin. It also has an effect on our sleep latency (how long it takes for us to fall asleep). In various doses, CBD can either wake us up or make us sleepy. For circadian rhythm sleep disorders like jet lag and shift work sleep disorder, CBD can help people reset their sleep clocks by inducing sleep and relaxation. 


Although more studies around CBD and sleep disorders need to be conducted, the results of the studies that we do have now show promise when it comes to the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for sleep disorders. As a precaution, before using any CBD products, it is always a good idea to check with your physician first. 

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 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.SLEEP APNEA QUIZ

Author profile:Heather Smith

Heather Smith is the Communications Manager at Sunday Scaries. She’s a composed copywriter and content strategist. She’s also a CBD advocate, promoting a healthy lifestyle free of stress and scaries.


Topics: remedies, cbd, natural

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