CBD for Insomnia

The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but as many as 35 percent of Americans aren’t achieving the optimal amount of rest. Many people are turning to cannabidiol for insomnia, and it seems to show some promise in helping them sleep. One of over 100 active compounds found in marijuana, CBD has been researched as a treatment for anxiety, epilepsy, and even insomnia. But the question remains: Does using CBD for sleep work?

Why People Use CBD to Help Them Sleep

There are two leading reasons why insomnia sufferers try cannabidiol to help them sleep.

The first is to avoid the unpleasant side effects associated with prescription sleep. Ambien’s possible side effects include dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, memory loss, mood swings, and hallucinations. And that’s an abbreviated list. Benzodiazepines like Dalmane have similar side effects and can be highly addictive, often requiring assisted detox and rehabilitation for dependent users.

The second reason why people are trying CBD over prescription sleep aids is to avoid the risk of overdose. While Ambien overdoses are rare, benzodiazepine overdoses are extremely common. In 2013, they accounted for 31% of prescription overdose deaths in the United States.

It’s easy to see why cannabidiol is becoming a popular solution for insomnia sufferers. It’s natural, safe, non-habit-forming, and free from major side effects. Some users have reported minor ones like grogginess and dry mouth, but for the most part, usage is well-tolerated. Perhaps most importantly of all, there’s zero risk of overdose.

What Research Says About CBD for Insomnia

Research suggests that the reason cannabidiol helps some people sleep better is because of its ability to reduce anxiety. It acts upon the serotonin and GABA receptors in the brain. Serotonin and GABA are the same neurotransmitters influenced by conventional anxiety medications like SSRIs. It also acts upon the body’s endocannabinoid system, which consists of natural cannabis-like compounds. Endocannabinoids promote homeostasis in the body, and cannabinoids may help us to keep our endocannabinoids longer. These factors may contribute to CBD’s anti-anxiety effects, and less anxiety means better sleep for many insomnia suffers.

Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney, a naturopathic doctor who researches and uses it in her practice, notes that cannabidiol can be “hit or miss” when it comes to insomnia, but it appears to work best when the insomnia is related to anxiety. “When you’re up in the middle of the night making lists and planning your week, 5 to 10mg will often help you quiet down and get back to sleep in 10 to 15 minutes. It allows you to slow your brain down.”

CBD may also be useful for those who lie awake at night as a result of chronic pain. As Dr. Shunney noted, “Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects can also come in handy for people who are up at night due to pain. Some studies point to its potential to enhance the quality and quantity of REM sleep.”

Dr. Shunney points to a 2019 case series published in The Permanente Journal, in which an integrative psychologist from Colorado analyzed anxiety and insomnia sufferers over three months. The subjects were treated using only CBD. Over two-thirds of subjects reported improved sleep within the first months but had fluctuating sleep scores thereafter. According to Dr. Shunney, “CBD was exceptional for anxiety. Sleep was about a 60 percent improvement, but it varied over time.”

In a 2017 review of cannabis studies, researchers concluded that “cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.” The researchers observed that it may provide a promising treatment solution for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. The review also conceded that more research is still needed.

Is CBD Addictive?

Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive and non-habit-forming. This is one reason why many people are looking to cannabidiol as a possible alternative to conventional sleep aids. Some researchers are even examining ways that it can be used to help control cravings and impulses of people struggling with addiction.

One animal study from Scripps Research Institute found that CBD could reduce drug-seeking behaviors. So not only is it non-addictive, but preliminary research indicates that it may be a worthwhile sleep aid alternative for individuals who struggle with addiction.

Can You Take CBD With Other Sleep Aids?

If you’re taking a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid to help you sleep, speak to your doctor before replacing or supplementing the drug with cannabidiol. While on its own it is safe to use, it can interact with certain medications.

CBD is a compound that influences the body’s endocannabinoid system. It has been shown to inhibit the activity of cytochrome P450, a collection of liver enzymes that break down drugs within the body. If these enzymes are less able to break down and expel drug compounds, the drugs may behave differently in the body.

Will CBD Make You Tired During the Day?

If it has the potential to help you sleep, it raises the question: Can daytime usage make you tired?

Drowsiness and fatigue are recognized as two possible side effects of cannabidiol. However, severe side effects are rare. In the 2019 case series mentioned earlier, researchers examined 103 patients. Cannabidiol was well-tolerated in all but three patients.

To minimize the likelihood of side effects, always stick with the recommended dosages. Start with 10 to 20mg, and increase the dosage gradually.

With normal usage, CBD shouldn’t contribute to daytime tiredness because it’s not a sleep aid in the traditional sense. It doesn’t influence melatonin production or block histamine. Its main benefit for insomnia sufferers is its anti-anxiety effect. Because anxiety is a leading contributor to insomnia, quieting the mind can naturally contribute to improved sleep.

Which Delivery Method Is Best?

CBD can be vaped, eaten, mixed into foods or beverages, applied topically, or consumed sublingually. But which method is best for insomnia?

The destination is the key. In this case, the destination is your brain. Cannabidiol needs to access your brain via the bloodstream, and so oral products are ideal. Specifically, you’ll want to consider vape oils or tinctures for the fastest results.

If you already enjoy vaping as a pastime, all you have to do is purchase some CBD vape oil and add it to your favorite vape pen. If you’re not a vaper, your best bet is a tincture. Tinctures and sprays are both effective and fast-acting, but sublingual (below-the-tongue) tinctures tend to have the quickest absorption into the bloodstream. Tinctures are also among the most bioavailable delivery methods.

Be sure to do your homework before buying. There are a lot of inferior CBD products out there, and because there’s no FDA oversight, some products aren’t what they claim to be. To ensure you’re getting a high-quality product, look for a certificate of analysis from a third-party lab. When reviewing the certificate:

  • Confirm that the amount of CBD is as advertised on the packaging
  • Confirm that the amount of THC doesn’t exceed .3%
  • Confirm that it was tested in-house
  • Confirm that the product contains additional cannabinoids, including CBDa, CBC, CBG, and CBN (if purchasing full-spectrum or broad-spectrum product)

How to Take CBD for Insomnia

If you’re new to CBD oil, start with a low dosage, no more than 10 to 20mg. If you take more than that, you may experience morning grogginess, dry mouth, or other mild side effects without improving the intended outcome. You can experiment with higher dosages as your body adjusts to the treatment. Try to increase the dosage gradually by 5mg intervals.

If you’re already using cannabidiol, you can stick with your standard dosage. The only major difference will be when you take it. For insomnia, it should be taken right before bed. A high-quality tincture should take effect within 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Take a CBD Tincture

Place one to two drops beneath your tongue, using the provided dropper, right before bed. The effect should take place within a few minutes. If you prefer, you can also apply the drops to a snack or beverage, and consume it that way.

How to Vape CBD Oil

If you already have a pen, cartridge, or pod that you’re fond of, just apply the dosage and vape as normal. If you’re new to vaping but would still like to try this delivery method, consider a disposable vape pen. They can be purchased with your preferred dosage already installed. They’re draw-activated, so all you have to do is inhale. No buttons are required.

How to Find the Right Dosage

In order to understand dosage, you also have to understand concentration. A single serving is 1 milliliter (mL), and a typical bottle of CBD oil contains 30 mL (or 30 servings).

So if a bottle contains 500mg, you can expect that each 1mL serving contains about 16.6mg of CBD. That’s a good place to start if you’re new to it. Again, you can increase the dosage over time.

If you’re vaping, the same rules apply. If you’re using a 30mg disposable vape pen, you’ll want to inhale about one-third to one-half of the vape oil to get a full serving.

Should You Use CBD As a Sleep Aid?

As noted by Dr. Shunney, “Nothing works for everybody.” Still, if you’re one of the estimated 70 million Americans who suffers from insomnia, CBD may provide some relief. While clinical research into the subject is still limited, the existing studies show promise. In addition, it is safe to use. Keep the following factors in mind:

  • CBD is likely best for those whose insomnia is related to anxiety; according to Dr. Shunney, “Over time, patients report managing their stress better, even if the stressor itself is still present. I call that ‘stress resilience,’ and I attribute it to the CBD supporting the ECS (endocannabinoid system).”
  • The compound may be less effective for sleeplessness related to sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorders, and other common sleep disorders.
  • Start with a low dosage (no more than 10 to 20mg), and gradually increase the dosage in 5mg increments as needed.
  • If you’re taking other medications to help you sleep, you should speak to your doctor before adding it to your routine.
  • For best results, try using a tincture or other oral delivery method. Take one serving right before bed.

Have you tried using CBD oil for insomnia? We’d love to hear your experience. Did it work for you? Do you have any tips for others considering it as a sleep aid? Let us know in the comments.

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