How To Use CBD for Better Sleep

Andreas Meistad@s profile picture
Andreas Meistad
Oct 21, 20225 min read
Will CBD help me sleep?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has increasingly captured the interest of many people who are looking to improve their health. A recent survey carried out by Forbes found that three out of five adults in the U.S. have tried CBD at some point in their life.1

CBD research is in the early stages, but some evidence shows that it could help improve sleep. You may want to consider trying CBD if you find it difficult to get to sleep or frequently feel unrested.

What Is CBD?

CBD is not the same as marijuana or weed. However, both come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa.2

This plant contains hundreds of chemicals. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the chemical that makes people feel high when they use marijuana. CBD is another chemical that won’t make you high but may produce other beneficial effects for your mind and body.2

Is CBD Legal?

United States federal law says that CBD is legal to sell if it contains less than 0.3% THC. However, state law doesn’t always agree — some states ban CBD, only allow it in certain products, or restrict its use to people with medical conditions.3Look up the laws in your state to see whether it is legal in your area.

Potential Health Benefits of CBD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one medication that contains CBD. This drug, Epidiolex, can help lessen seizures for children with certain types of epilepsy.2

CBD may also have other uses. Although more research is needed and clinical trials are currently ongoing, initial studies show that CBD may help with:2,4

  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Opioid use disorder

Although CBD can lessen certain symptoms, it isn’t yet known to cure any diseases. Additionally, many of the studies identifying the benefits of CBD have not analyzed this substance alone, but rather in combination with standard therapies. Don’t stop taking treatments or avoid telling your doctor about health issues just because you are taking CBD.

Can CBD Improve Sleep?

One of CBD’s main side effects is that it can make you tired.3 However, this may be a good thing for people who want to sleep better.

There is not a lot of research looking at the effects of CBD on sleep. In early, small studies conducted in the 1970s, researchers reported that people with insomnia tended to sleep longer after taking high doses of CBD.5

In another recent study, doctors recommended CBD to patients with anxiety or sleep problems. Two-thirds of people in the study reported better sleep within the first month of taking CBD, but the results didn’t always last in the long term.6

Some studies have found that CBD can lead to higher-quality sleep and fewer nighttime awakenings in people with certain health conditions, including PTSD, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and cancer. For these individuals, CBD may directly improve sleep or it may reduce symptoms that typically get in the way of a good night’s rest.2,7

How To Take CBD

CBD comes in many forms. It may be an ingredient in capsules, oils, foods, lotions, or cosmetics.3 The product you choose depends on your personal preferences, although lotions and cosmetics are unlikely to reach your bloodstream. CBD products that you ingest may work better for things like sleeping problems.

Make sure to buy CBD products from reputable companies. Find the highest-quality products with the following tips:8

  • Look for products that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Use CBD products that have been produced using carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction
  • Buy from companies that test their products for pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals
  • Avoid products simply labeled “hemp seed oil”, which don’t contain CBD

Is CBD Safe?

Because CBD hasn’t yet been well studied, we don’t yet know all of the possible safety concerns. In particular, the long-term effects of CBD are not clear.

Experts have identified a few CBD side effects, including:9,10

  • Sleepiness
  • Digestive symptoms like diarrhea or appetite changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure levels
  • Lightheadedness
  • Feeling more irritated than usual
  • Liver damage

You shouldn’t use CBD before driving. It could make you too sleepy to operate a vehicle.11

You should also avoid CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding. Human studies haven’t yet been completed, but animal research has found that CBD could prevent a fetus from developing normally.12

It’s best to avoid mixing CBD with alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. This could lead to severe side effects such as difficulty breathing.10,13

CBD can also interfere with other medications such as blood thinners, immunosuppressive drugs, methadone, anti-seizure medications, or antidepressants. CBD could prevent these drugs from working correctly or worsen side effects.9

Long-Term Solutions for Better Sleep

Taking CBD makes many people feel sleepy. We don’t yet know whether CBD can improve sleep in the long term, although one small study suggests that its initial effects may not last.6

For long-term sleep improvements, doctors recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). This type of therapy helps you identify underlying factors that may be causing insomnia and teaches you how to build a healthier attitude toward sleep. CBT-I is all-natural, doesn’t cause any side effects, and continues to be effective even after treatment is done.14


Learn more about Dawn Health’s virtual CBT-I treatment program here.

References

    • Hall, A. (). Survey: 64% of U.S. adults think CBD is safer than alcohol, despite legality concerns. Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/body/2022-cbd-survey/ (https://www.forbes.com/health/body/2022-cbd-survey/)
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2019, November). Cannabis (marijuana) and cannabinoids: What you need to know. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know (https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know)

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, August 8). CBD: What you need to know. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/featured-topics/CBD.html (https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/featured-topics/CBD.html)

  3. García-Gutiérrez, M. S., Navarrete, F., Gasparyan, A., Austrich-Olivares, A., Sala, F., & Manzanares, J. (2020). Cannabidiol: A potential new alternative for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and psychotic disorders. Biomolecules, 10(11), 1575. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10111575

    • Carlini, E. A., & Cunha, J. M. (1981). Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21(S1), 417S–427S. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1552-4604.1981.tb02622.x
  4. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041

  5. National Cancer Institute. (2022, June 7). Cannabis and cannabinoids (PDQ)—Health professional version. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq)

  6. VanDolah, H. J., Bauer, B. A., & Mauck, K. F. (2019). Clinicians' guide to cannabidiol and hemp oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 94(9), 1840–1851. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003

  7. MedlinePlus. (2022, July 20). Cannabidiol (CBD). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1439.html (https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1439.html)

  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, March 5). What you need to know (and what we’re working to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis (https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis)

  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, March 9). Some medicines and driving don’t mix. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/some-medicines-and-driving-dont-mix (https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/some-medicines-and-driving-dont-mix)

  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, October 16). What you should know about using cannabis, including CBD, when pregnant or breastfeeding. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding (https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding)

  11. Meissner, H., & Cascella, M. (2022, July 4). Cannabidiol (CBD). In StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556048/ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556048/)

  12. Rossman J. (2019). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia: An effective and underutilized treatment for insomnia. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(6), 544–547. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827619867677


Andreas Meistad@s profile picture
Andreas Meistad

Therapist specializing in applying CBT principles for the treatment of insomnia.

It’s time to stop blaming the night monsters.

Let’s work together to transform your sleep for the better.