CBD: For Sleep and Insomnia

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is part of the cannabinoid family which is a chemical that binds to receptors in the the central nervous system and is commonly used for treating many symptoms.

As of 2019, medical cannabis has become legal in 33 states. Cannabis contains various chemical compounds including cannabinoids. According to research published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, there are over 100 cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant. (1)

Various cannabinoids affect the body differently and may have potential health benefits. One of the primary cannabinoids that appear to have medicinal benefits is cannabidiol also called CBD for short.

CBD and cannabinoids and have been used for various types of ailments and medical conditions, such as treating epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and nausea from chemotherapy. Like melatonin and other sleeping aids, CBD may also help promote more restful sleep and treat insomnia.

What Are CBD and Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that bind or attach to certain receptors in the central nervous system and act as chemical messengers. Depending on the specific cannabinoid, it may have varied effects on the body.

The most well-known and probably most researched cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We know that THC is the cannabinoid that leads to the “buzz or high” from cannabis use.

CBD differs from THC and does not cause psychoactive effects or a “high.” Because it does not cause the psychoactive effects and it might help certain conditions, such as pain, anxiety, and insomnia, CBD is gaining traction as a possible treatment for several diseases.

How Do CBD and Cannabinoids Work?

Not everything is completely understood about how cannabinoids including CBD work. What we do know from research is CBD and cannabinoids interact with proteins and cells in the brain. A relatively newly discovered system may also hold some answers.

Researchers discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in maintaining certain body functions, such as mood, appetite, and sleep including regulating circadian rhythms. Within the endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system.The two primary receptors identified are CB1 and CB2.

CBD and Sleep

Cannabinoids attach to these cells and have various effects. As far as how they may affect sleep, some research indicates that the cannabinoid CBDmay interact withspecific receptors potentially affecting the sleep/wake cycle. 

Additionally, CBD may also decrease anxiety and pain, which can both interfere with restful sleep. By reducing certain symptoms, it’s also possible that sleep may improve.

What Does the Research Say About CBD?

Although more studies need to be performed, some research supports the theory that CBD and cannabinoids may improve sleep. This study published in the journal Medicines involved 490 people with insomnia. Data was collected from June 2016 to May 2018. Participants rated their symptoms of insomnia on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most severe. Starting symptoms were rated 6.6 on average. (2)

The participants were treated using the cannabis flower with varied combustion methods including vape, pipe, and joint. THC potency on average was 20 percent and limited to 30 percent. CBD potency was on average 5.7 percent and limited to 30 percent. After using cannabis, participants rated symptoms on average to be 2.2, which was a decrease of 4.5.

The results indicated the cannabinoids in cannabis decreased symptoms of insomnia. But the study involved using the cannabis flower, which contains several cannabinoids. It’s difficult to determine if relief from insomnia was due to CBD or another cannabinoid.

In another study published in the Permanente Journal, 72 adults with anxiety and poor sleep were involved. The participants completed anxiety and sleep assessments at the start of the study and at the first-month follow-up. Study participants were given 25 mg in capsule form of CBD. Those that had predominately sleep complaints took the dose in the evening. Participants that had anxiety as the predominant complaint took the CBD in the morning. (3)

After the first month, anxiety scores decreased in 79 percent of the people. Sleep scores improved in 66 percent of the participants, which indicated less trouble sleeping. The results suggest that CBD decreased sleep difficulties in many of the participants. But while the decrease in anxiety symptoms remained steady for the duration of the study, the sleep scores fluctuated over time.

Several smaller studies have also supported the use of CBD oil to improve sleep. For example, a case study involving a 10-year old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder and poor sleep was treated with CBD. A trial of 25 mg of a CBD supplement was administered at bedtime. An additional 6 to 12 mg of CBD was given via a sublingual spray during the day for anxiety. Sleep quantity and quality gradually improved over five months. (4

Forms of CBD

CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and known as CBD oil. But it can be a little complicated. CBD may be extracted from either the marijuana or hemp plant, which are both from the cannabis plant. But they are harvested differently. Hemp comes from the seeds and stalks of the plant, which contains less THC than marijuana.

Because the THC content in CBD oil may vary, depending on the state it’s sold, there may be restrictions. For example, in some states, CBD oil is sold legally if all the THC is removed. If CBD oil still contains THC or other cannabinoids, it may only be sold in states that have legalized marijuana use.

Depending on the laws in your state, you may need a doctor’s prescription for CBD oil. But laws continue to change quickly, so in the near future, it may be different.

CBD oil can be placed under the tongue. It may also be infused in different products including the following;

  • Edibles: Various types of edibles infused with CBD oil are available including gummy bears, cakes, and cookies. Edibles usually list the concentration of CBD in milligrams.
  • Vaporing: CBD extract can be used in a vaporizer or vape pen. As the extract heats up, it creates a vapor that is inhaled.
  • Tinctures: CBD also comes in tinctures. A few drops of the liquid can be added to drinks.

CBD oil is available in different concentrations. Since research is ongoing, the exact dose to treat sleep issues may not be fully known. It might take some trial and error to determine what works best.


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