Can CBD Help You Sleep? Here's What The Research Tells Us
How tired are you right now? If you're like many, your answer probably leans more toward the sleep-deprived side.
Fifty to 70 million of people in the US suffer from sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And it's not just falling asleep that vexes us. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-third of the U.S population -- 100 million people -- aren’t staying asleep during the night.
“As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep,” says Dr. Wayne Giles, M.D., the standing director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health. To compound its importance, lack of sleep negatively affects overall health. A recent study found that individuals with insomnia are five times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression and have double the risk of congestive heart failure.
It comes as no surprise that finding remedies for sleep is a lucrative industry. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on doctor visits and medical costs related to sleep disorders.
Unfortunately, over-the-counter sleep aids have well-known negative side effects, including drowsiness and creating chemical dependency. In 2019, the FDA required new “boxed warnings” for sleep pharmaceuticals Ambien and Lunesta for their negative side effects like sleepwalking and even “sleep driving”.
In recent years, CBD products have hit the market offering promises of sleep relief with little-to-no side effects. There are capsules, tinctures, gummies. Brookestone has even advertised a CBD-infused pillow.
Sounds dreamy, but do these products work?
While more research is needed to back the current published findings, several hopeful studies have begun to emerge that show CBD as an aid for insomnia and sleep.
What The Science Says
CBD is one cannabinoid that has been found to interact indirectly with CB1 and CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system (ECS). These two receptors are considered by current research to be the part of the ECS that aids with pain relief, inflammation, relaxation, and therefore sleep.
One study published in January of 2019 called “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series,” points to CBD as a hopeful sleep aid. While it looked at a small pool of only 72 adults, the study found “sleep scores improved” within the first month of CBD use in 66.7 percent of the patients, 48 adults. It attributes sleep relief can to CBD’s “calming effect in the central nervous system.” Over time, the benefits fluctuated. 56 percent reported improvement in sleep after about two months of continued use.
Another notable survey conducted by Project CBD examined a larger pool of 1,521 people who used CBD for issues falling and staying asleep. It found that CBD reduced the average time it took these individuals to fall asleep from 62 to 20 minutes. Users also reported waking up less throughout the night, from 4 times on average to just once with CBD. It also concluded that 75 percent of non-CBD users reported waking up tired; that number dropped to 9% for people using CBD.
“The evidence is admittedly limited at this point,” said Scott Christ, CEO and Founder of Pure Capsules Company told Green Entrepreneur. Christ speaks to CBD’s benefit as a business owner as well as from his decade-long personal experience with insomnia.“I've had trouble falling asleep and issues with waking up multiple times throughout the night. I've been tracking my sleep for a couple of years, so I had some good baseline data of how much time I took each night to fall asleep, how much I spent in Light, REM, Deep sleep, and how much time I spent on week awake each night.” FitBit is one app that tracks sleep which would make the discovery of your dose also more easy to find.
“CBD has helped me fall asleep much faster, within 5 minutes most nights versus 30 to 45 minutes previously,” says Christ. “I spend significantly more time in REM sleep, and fall back asleep easier after waking up during the night.” Christ has found through clientele who take PureCapsules, that the magic number hovers around 25 milligrams for sleep
Falling Asleep Versus Staying Asleep
Data is piling up showing that CBD’s benefit is in its ability to help you remain asleep for longer. A 2012 study comparing CBD with a sleep aid called nitrazepam found that high-dose CBD at 160 milligrams increased the subject’s duration of sleep.
It continues to suggest that higher doses of CBD are therapeutic for anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and that CBD allows for, “mental sedation.”
How does the entourage effect, so the combination of two or more cannabinoid, affect sleep? Does CBD need to be mixed with the cannabinoid THC to be effective, like it is often advertised in dosist products?
One 2018 study performed on 409 adults over the course of two years looked at insomnia and each individual’s level of symptom relief. It concluded the cannabinoids CBD and THC both showed a “statistically and clinically significant improvement” for insomnia. This improvement on sleep and reduction of negative symptoms was stronger for Indica than Sativa strains.
The study also parsed apart the effect of varying THC and CBD percentages. It found that, “THC potencies tend to be much higher than CBD potencies across all levels of symptom relief. This may indicate an interaction effect or that the optimal ranges may differ for the two cannabinoids.” The study also suggests general improvement in symptom relief for those suffering from insomnia worked best with “higher CBD levels and lower THC levels.”
When it comes to the entourage effect, one study conducted in 2007 called “Cannabis, Pain and Sleep” found the effects of both cannabinoids THC and CBD in concert to be positive. The study measured CBD and THC for sleep aid and found results that indicate “a mild activating effect of CBD, and slight residual sedation with THC-predominant extracts.” This is particularly solid when it comes to “symptom reduction permitting better sleep.” The study’s author says it’s not “a hypnosis effect,” but that individuals who experience less pain, inflammation, and anxiety is in fact what will help improve sleep.
Improvements on overall sleep are hopeful but not yet conclusive. Credible studies looking at CBD (PubMed lists 6,810 at the time of this writing) do not find negative side effects for sleep when it comes to CBD use. One 2018 study from the Department of Neurosciences and Behavioral Sciences at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, administered 300 milligrams of CBD to 27 healthy adults. The study found it did “not effect the sleep-wake cycles” of healthy adults. It’s a small pool, and the study didn’t focus on people with sleep issues to begin with. So take it with a grain of salt.
RELATED: Is CBD Oil Addictive?
CBD And Melatonin, CBN, And Mixing Sleep Aids
Another trend in CBD sleep aids is the combination of CBD with melatonin as well as other natural sleep aid mixtures. Those mixtures are beginning to include lesser-known cannabinoids like CBN.
What does the science behind these combinations, and are they safe?
When it comes to the combination of CBD and natural sleep aid melatonin, it appears to be. There are no known negative interactions between CBD and melatonin. Both are recognized as “endogenous”, which means they occur naturally in the body. The body already makes both CBD and melatonin, which is another reason they exhibit significantly less side effects.
CBN is a cannabinoid that may hold untapped sleep aid potential. Dr. Jeremy Riggle, International Cannabis Research Institute two time poster acceptee. Dr. Riggle is a keynote speaker and the current Chief Scientist who oversees a quality-control, laboratories, research development, testing of raw materials and finished products, and a team of biochemists for Mary’s Brands.
“Unfortunately, and as is the case for most of the minor cannabinoids, the research is very limited, particularly studies on human subjects,” Dr. Riggle told Entrepreneur. “There is a study from 1976 by Musty, et al. in which they administered CBN to human volunteers and found that it produced greater sedation than THC. Another study using an animal model found that CBN extended the sleep cycle of rodents.”
“CBN has also been shown to be more effective when combined with other can,” Dr. Riggle explained. It’s for this reason Mary’s Medicinals launched a combination product that contains both CBD and CBN, focused on sedation.Dr. Riggle said Mary’s customer feedback has been, “effective for helping them fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.” He adds the comapny’s consumers have also reported “no residual grogginess that sometimes occurs after using other common sedatives.”
“An interesting thing about CBN is that the plant doesn’t make very much of it naturally.” For this reason, Dr. Riggle says, it is often created through a degradation product of THC. “Over time, when THC is exposed to heat or light it will slowly convert to CBN. We just accelerate this process… crude THC extract and expedite the degradation of THC, converting the THC to CBN..” In this particular product, a tincture, the company produces it is made using no additional chemicals such as oxidizers and acids, solvents. It is part of the Mary’s Medicinals line because the CBN is indirectly made from cannabis, not hemp.
Your endocannabinoid system is naturally occuring, all cannabinoids including THC, CBD and CBN are simply plugging in to those receptors. When looking at how CBD and CBN may interact with one another, the short answer is, they don’t. “They won’t really interact with each other, nor will they compete for receptor binding sites. In fact, they actually have quite different pharmacologies… different effects on the body have completely different biochemical mechanisms.”
The psychoactive effect of THC is believed to be due to it binding to CB1 receptors. “CBN is a weaker agonist at CB1 and CB2 receptors than THC,” said Dr. Riggle. This means CBN has a lower affinity for binding to the CB1 CB2 receptors. “CBN, because it does bind to these receptors albeit to a lesser degree than THC, could potentially exhibit psychoactive effects. This would be more likely in a less experienced consumer than in one who consumes more frequently, but the possibility certainly exists,” Dr. Riggle explained.
Hemp-derived CBN materials are starting to become available, slowly, Dr. Riggle explained. But there is a downside. Typically, hemp-derived CBN is isolated using chemicals and some type of oxidation. That’s why CBN products, like Mary’s, are sold in dispensaries because of they are cannabis-derived.
The Unregulated CBD Market
In July of 2019, the FDA warned CBD companies that they cannot make unsubstaniated health claims in order to market and sell their products. This warning pointed to specific claims that CBD could “cure” or help with cancer, alheimers, anxiety, pain relief. This warning does not mention sleep.
Meanwhile, the FDA has also not made any substantial moves in its own research and claims to support or deny. Unregulated CBD is unfortunately being sold online so be cautious and only purchase from trusted manufacturers. Consult a doctor and listen to your body when it comes to the dosage and the use of CBD.