CBD Oil Dosage For Sleep

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The latest research reveals CBD can help with insomnia and a range of sleep disorders. How should you use it? Find out here. From price to potency to additional sleep-promoting ingredients, see which CBD oils for sleep stand out as our top picks. Thinking about trying CBD or other cannabis compound to help you sleep? Here’s what you need to know.

Can CBD Oil Improve Your Sleep? Proven Effects + Dosage

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The popularity of CBD oil is booming. In addition to helping with chronic pain and anxiety disorders, the oil is claimed to improve insomnia and sleep disturbances caused by various conditions. But is the use of CBD oil as a sleep aid backed by science? And what’s the best way to take it? Read below to find out.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a therapeutic oil made from the cannabis compound cannabidiol or CBD. It’s usually derived from hemp (not marijuana) and unlike THC, it won’t get you high.

The only FDA-approved use of CBD oil is for reducing epileptic seizures. However, many people take CBD oil for other investigational, non-proven uses [1].

Although CBD oil is most commonly used for chronic pain and anxiety, ~25% of the 1,483 people who reported that they used CBD oil for a medical condition responded that they used it for insomnia and other sleep disorders in an online survey [2].

According to another study on almost 100 people using medical marijuana for sleep disorders, most preferred CBD- over THC-rich varieties. This was especially the case in people with insomnia, taking longer to fall asleep, or using marijuana frequently [3].

CBD Oil for Better Sleep: Does It Work?

Cues from Studies in Healthy People

A series of small clinical trials from the 70s on 40 healthy people given CBD found increased drowsiness as an occasional side effect [4+].

A moderate dose had no effect on the sleep-wake cycle in a recent clinical trial on 27 healthy people, but twice this dose promoted sleepiness in another trial on 11 people [5, 6].

In contrast, low doses of CBD suppressed the sleep-promoting effect of THC in a clinical trial on 8 healthy people [7].

Whether CBD makes healthy people sleepy remains unclear and may depend on the dose. One study found it may even counter drowsiness from THC.

Hints from Early Animal Studies

In an old study in rats, injected CBD increased the duration of the highly restorative deep sleep and reduced wakefulness after 5 hours but had no effect on REM sleep [8].

In a longer study (48 hours), CBD increased total sleep at various dosages. At high doses, it also increased deep sleep. But there’s a downside: giving the rats high doses during daytime increased their REM sleep latency – the time it takes to go into the dreaming phase of sleep [9].

Other studies in rats found that CBD promoted wakefulness.

Moderate IV doses at the start of the day increased levels of the wake-promoting neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine and its cholinergic activity also enhance cognition and learning [10].

What’s more, direct CBD injections into the brain reduced the duration of REM and deep sleep and promoted the buildup of adenosine and dopamine in two wake-inducing brain regions (lateral hypothalamus and dorsal raphe nuclei) [11, 12, 13, 14].

Comparison to THC

THC reduces REM sleep. But unlike CBD, it triggers a fuzzy high and impairs sleep quality in the long run. This might explain why heavy marijuana-smokers rarely dream. But when they stop marijuana, they often have vivid, strange dreams [15, 16, 17].

Different Doses, Opposing Effects

Because its effects on the sleep-wake cycle greatly vary with the dose and timing, CBD has been proposed to have a biphasic effect: that is, low doses promote wakefulness while higher doses increase sleep [18+].

Circadian Rhythm Dominance

Here’s another extraordinary fact: the effects of CBD may be dependant on your circadian rhythm.

More precisely, the 24h light/dark cycle (so-called diurnal rhythm) directly affects the activity of your cannabinoid receptors. This might explain why CBD promotes sleep later in the day, but energizes you in the morning. Scientists first discovered this link in 2017 and have yet to look into it in more detail [19].

According to animal experiments, CBD oil can both increase wakefulness and promote sleep. Low, morning doses may have energizing effects, while higher doses in the evening may help fall asleep.

Benefits for Insomnia

Few studies have looked at CBD’s benefits for insomnia, while more focused on its anti-anxiety effects. However, many people with anxiety suffer from insomnia. If you’re one of them, you’re likely to get the most out of CBD oil [20].

In a small trial from the 80s on 15 people with insomnia, CBD improved sleep quality and reduced dream recall, suggesting the participants got more restorative deep sleep over REM [4+].

In a large 2019 case series on 72 people with anxiety and sleep disorders, lower-dose CBD capsules improved sleep quality in 2 out of 3 people. However, the effect on sleep disorders was not sustained over time; CBD was more effective for anxiety than sleep disorders in the long-term [20].

Another recent study used a mobile app to track over 1k people in the US with insomnia who use medical marijuana. They discovered that people who use CBD-rich strains sleep better than those who use strains high in THC. Both groups experienced similar side effects [21].

To sum up, the evidence to support the benefits of CBD in people with insomnia due to anxiety is promising but insufficient. Further clinical research is needed to confirm these preliminary results.

CBD reduces anxiety better than insomnia, but it’s likely to offer the strongest benefit to people who have both anxiety and sleep problems.

Sleep Issues from Other Health Conditions

CBD oil is most commonly used for chronic pain and anxiety, which are often accompanied by poor sleep. Most CBD clinical studies investigated sleep disorders as a secondary issue. We’ll dive into these studies to uncover additional cues about CBD’s sleep-enhancing potential [16+, 22+].

Insufficient Evidence for Insomnia from:

Epilepsy

Severe epilepsy is often accompanied by reduced sleep quality due to seizures. In 3 studies on over 200 children with treatment-resistant epilepsy, CBD-enriched cannabis preparations helped the children sleep better in ~50% of cases [23, 24, 25].

Although promising, the evidence to support the benefits of CBD oil in sleep disturbances caused by epilepsy is insufficient. More trials testing CBD alone are needed.

A range of traumatic experiences can lead to PTSD in some people. PTSD is tightly linked with insomnia, anxiety, and changes in REM sleep. In 2 studies, 9 out of 22 people said they slept better after taking CBD oil as an add-on therapy [26, 27].

In rats with PTSD, CBD preserved normal REM sleep but failed to affect other measures of sleep. It probably works by reducing the anxiety component of PTSD, which helps some people get decent sleep [28].

A small clinical trial and a study in rats cannot be considered sufficient evidence that CBD oil helps with insomnia from PTSD. Further clinical research is required.

Parkinson’s Disease

REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a frequent symptom of early Parkinson’s disease. People with other neurological disorders such as dementia are also more likely to suffer from it [29+, 30].

People with this condition physically act out their vivid dreams and nightmares, often in a violent manner. They move their limbs, shriek, or even get up to engage in activities while the dream is taking place. The body should normally be paralyzed during REM sleep – the dreaming phase – but this starts to backfire in people with RBD [30].

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CBD reduced agitation, aggressiveness, and nightmares during REM sleep in 4 people with Parkinson’s disease and RBD [29+].

In another trial on 6 people with Parkinson’s, CBD oil greatly improved sleep disturbances. According to a questionnaire, it also helped reduce psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions [31+].

The evidence backing the beneficial effects of CBD oil in insomnia caused by Parkinson’s disease is very limited. Larger, more robust trials should confirm these preliminary findings.

Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, but it can also result in sleep disorders. In 3 people with this syndrome, oral CBD-enriched solutions reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality. This limited evidence is, however, insufficient to claim that CBD oil helps with sleep disturbances due to this syndrome [32].

Lack of Evidence for:

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, which unpredictably causes breathing to stop at times during sleep. It strongly reduces sleep quality. Although CBD oil is sometimes recommended for this condition, only synthetic THC called dronabinol has been tested for this purpose. Dronabinol reduced apnea and improved sleep quality in 3 clinical trials on over 100 people [33, 34, 35].

Because there are no trials testing CBD, there is no evidence that CBD oil improves sleep apnea.

Possibly Ineffective for Insomnia from:

Although many people use medical cannabis and even CBD oil for sleep disturbances due to the following conditions, the purported benefits seem to be mostly due to THC or only observed if CBD is combined with this cannabinoid.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease. It causes nerve pain, involuntary muscle contraction, and bladder issues, all of which also reduce sleep quality. In 8 trials on almost 1.5k people with multiple sclerosis, cannabis-based medicines combining THC and CBD in different proportions reduced sleep disturbances. Conversely, both CBD and THC alone were ineffective [36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43].

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain reduces sleep quality. In 5 clinical trials on over 800 people with chronic pain – from nerve injury, repeated nerve cell stimulation, and diabetes – different cannabis preparations improved sleep quality. However, those containing only THC or a combination of THC and CBD were more effective than CBD alone [44, 45, 46, 47, 48].

Complex Movement Disorders

Complex movement disorders are an umbrella term for all conditions with abnormal movements and postures. Such movement disorders are mostly caused by brain injury (especially brain palsy) and strongly reduce a person’s quality of life [49+].

Medical cannabis preparations improved many symptoms of these disorders, including sleep problems, in a clinical trial on 25 children. However, those with the highest CBD-to-THC content were the least effective [49+].

In 2 studies on over 100 people with IBD, cannabis (both oils and joints) improved sleep quality. However, the effects were reduced by over 50% in people smoking joints from THC-free flowers [50, 51].

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CBD Oil Dosage for Sleep

Because CBD oil is not approved for sleep disturbances, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on their experience.

Dosage

The most effective doses to improve sleep quality in clinical trials depended on the condition:

  • Insomnia: 25-175 mg/day [4, 20]
  • Chronic pain: 15-120 mg/day (combined with THC) [39, 46+, 48+]
  • Epilepsy: 0.5-28.6 mg/kg per day [23, 25]
  • PTSD: 25-100 mg/day (adults) and 12-25 mg/day (children) [26, 27]
  • Parkinson’s disease: 75-400 mg/day [29+, 31+]
  • Complex movement disorders: 6-18 mg/day (combined with THC) [49+]
  • Fragile X syndrome: 32-64 mg/day [32]

CBD oil is generally safe. In healthy people, only extremely high doses have been reported to cause unwanted drowsiness (about 600 mg/day). Overall, CBD may promote wakefulness at low doses (15 mg/day) in people without sleep issues [6, 7].

Consult with your doctor before using CBD oil for insomnia and never take it in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes. Your doctor may recommend a starting dose based on your weight and health condition. If you tolerate CBD oil well, you may increase the dosage gradually until you achieve the desired effect.

How to Use & When to Take

CBD oil comes in different forms:

  • Oil tinctures
  • Capsules and tablets
  • Mouth sprays
  • Gummies and lollipops
  • Teas
  • Vaping oil

Your form of choice may depend on your sleeping patterns. Vaping, mouth sprays, and oil tinctures are absorbed more quickly and may be a good choice if you take a long time to fall asleep.

In contrast, capsules, gummies, lollipops, and teas release the CBD more slowly and may help you sleep longer and without interruption.

Whatever form you choose, manufacturers often recommend taking CBD oil one hour before going to sleep.

Best CBD Oil for Sleep

In addition to choosing a CBD oil adjusted to your budget (you may want to calculate the price per mL to compare different brands), you should also evaluate the product quality. Here are some parameters to take into account:

  • Hemp cultivation: be sure to investigate the conditions in which the hemp plants were grown to reduce your exposure to heavy metals and pesticides.
  • Extraction method: some manufacturers extract and process the oil with toxic solvents such as propane and butane. Instead, choose those using safer methods such as alcohol, carbon dioxide, or cold-pressed extraction.
  • Independent testing: CBD oils tested by third-party laboratories are more likely to be safe and meet quality standards.
  • CBD content: make sure that the oil contains enough CBD. The CBD content should be clearly stated on the label. If you want to avoid unwanted effects of THC or drug tests are part of your daily life, choose one with little or no THC.
  • Flavor: some CBD oils have added flavors such as vanilla, mint, or cinnamon to make them more appealing. Others are flavor-free. Choose the one you prefer.
  • Company reputation: do your homework and investigate the company to make sure it’s a reputable seller.
  • Legality: Unlike marijuana-derived products, hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in all US states and in many countries around the world. Go for CBD oil from hemp to stay on the safe side and read through this post to make sure you’re not breaking any regulations.

Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of CBD oil users who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

There are no CBD oil products specifically formulated as sleep aids. Still, many people take CBD oil to improve insomnia and other sleep disturbances. They were generally satisfied and reported good results.

In some cases, the users complained that the oil didn’t work for them. Adverse effects reported in negative reviews included upset digestion, dry mouth, headaches, and fatigue. Depending on the brand, some users complained about its high price or poor customer service.

CBD Oil Side Effects

Overall, CBD oil is exceptionally safe and side effects are rare. However, keep in mind that it’s an insufficiently researched supplement with a relatively unknown safety profile. The list of side effects below is, therefore, not a definite one. You should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

In a survey on over 700 people using CBD for different medical conditions, the adverse effects most commonly reported were [2]:

  • Dry mouth
  • Euphoria
  • Hunger
  • Red eyes
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue

Additionally, CBD may add to the effect of drugs that reduce inflammation and anxiety. It blocks a liver enzyme that breaks down many drugs (CYP2C19) and may increase their effects in the body [52, 53].

Talk to your doctor about your intention to use CBD oil if you’re on prescription drugs. He or she may need to readjust the dosage of the medication you’re taking.

Takeaway

CBD oil may calm your mind without getting you high or making you overly drowsy. Preliminary research suggests it helps with a range of sleep disorders, from insomnia to sleep issues caused by other health conditions.

However, CBD oil may be best at reducing anxiety. It may also improve sleep quality, but its sleep-promoting effects may wane with time. People suffering from both anxiety and sleep problems may benefit from it the most. You may take it a couple of hours before bed and start with a lower dosage.

Some people have genes that make them more likely to experience inflammation. Check out SelfDecode’s Inflammation DNA Wellness Report for genetic-based diet, lifestyle, and supplement tips that can help reduce inflammation levels. The recommendations are personalized based on YOUR DNA.

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About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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CBD Oil Dosage For Sleep

To choose the best CBD oil for sleep, the Forbes Health editorial team analyzed data on more than 50 products that are:

  • Made from plants grown in the U.S.
  • Have a certificate of analysis (COA)
  • Are third-party tested by ISO 17025-compliant laboratories
  • Are made with all natural ingredients

We then ranked CBD oil based on price, potency and the inclusion of sleep-promoting ingredients, such as melatonin, L-theanine and/or botanicals like chamomile.

Why Use CBD Oil for Sleep?

Using CBD oil for sleep may allow for faster and more predictable absorption because it’s administered via mucosal dosing, says Mark H. Ratner, M.D., the chief science officer at Theralogix, a nutritional supplement company.

“Tinctures or oils that are placed under the tongue provide absorption directly into the bloodstream and avoid the first pass effect,” he says, referring to what happens when a drug loses potency by the time it reaches its target or systemic circulation.

CBD oils are typically administered through a dropper, which makes it easy to know the dose you’re taking. This method also allows users to start with a low dose and work their way up as needed.

Potential Benefits

In addition to helping facilitate sleep, CBD can potentially help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, opioid addiction and chronic pain.

By helping someone get more sleep, CBD oil can tangentially help improve other areas of life, according to Mikhail Heifitz, the chief operating officer of CBD product company Unabis. He notes that people who get better sleep may enjoy other benefits, such as:

  • Increased focus during the day
  • Weight control, as feeling more awake and energized can lead to increased physical activity and balanced eating habits
  • Anxiety relief

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Potential side effects of CBD include sedation, sleep disturbances, anemia, diarrhea, fatigue and vomiting. CBD may also interact with other drugs you take.

“We suggest starting with small amounts of CBD, then slowly increasing the dosage to test how your body reacts and adjusting the dosage accordingly,” says Heifitz. You should also talk to your doctor about adding CBD to your wellness routine, especially if you take any other medications.

You may also have a reaction to other ingredients in CBD oil products, such as MCT oil, which is often used as a carrier oil in CBD products.

A Bedtime Routine Like No Other

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Ingredients to Look for in CBD Oil for Sleep

While CBD alone can lull some people to sleep, especially in higher doses, CBD oils for sleep often include other sleep-promoting ingredients, such as:

Cannabinol (CBN). Another increasingly popular cannabinoid, CBN can help treat epidermolysis bullosa (rare diseases that cause the skin to blister easily), glaucoma and chronic muscle pain.

Cannabigerol (CBG). This cannabinoid may have antibacterial properties and may help treat neurologic disorders and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Melatonin. This hormone can be created artificially to help relieve jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, sleep disorders in children and pre- and post-surgery anxiety.

L-theanine. A common amino acid, L-theanine can cause relaxation in high doses.

Chamomile. This herbal flower is often used to treat sleeplessness, anxiety and gastrointestinal issues.

Lemon balm. Another botanical, lemon balm may contain antioxidant properties.

Valerian root. A plant native to Europe and Asia, valerian root is historically used to treat insomnia, migraines, fatigue and stomach cramps. Today, it’s used sporadically for insomnia, anxiety and depression.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). A natural chemical that’s been used in treatments for depression, 5-HTP may help with insomnia and anxiety due to its relationship with serotonin.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).This neurotransmitter may help with sleep and anxiety when taken as a supplement.

Terpenes. These naturally occurring compounds typically found in plants form the majority of essential oil composition.

CBD Oil Dosage for Sleep

Experts recommend following the dosage instructions listed on the CBD product you choose.

A low dose of 10 to 20 milligrams of CBD is a smart place to start, according to Dr. Ratner. From there, you can increase your dose as needed.

Forbes Health covers CBD and cannabis products in accordance with FTC guidelines. Learn more about Forbes Health’s practices and policies regarding how we cover CBD and cannabis as a publisher.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly do you notice a difference with CBD oil for sleep?

Thanks to the oral mucosal administration of CBD oil, it can take effect as quickly as 20 minutes after you take it, but it could require up to 40 minutes.

You may not notice a systemic difference until after using CBD for a few days. “After reaching a cumulative effect sufficient for calming down your nervous system over the longer periods of time, you will likely feel the effect you’re looking for,” says Heifitz.

He adds that you may need to take CBD in smaller doses throughout the day to achieve the desired effect by bedtime rather than taking it in one dose.

Does CBD oil for sleep have intoxicating effects?

What sets CBD apart from THC is its lack of intoxicating effects. In fact, a CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD product should have zero or undetectable levels of THC. Full-spectrum products, on the other hand, are allowed to contain up to 0.3% THC, but this limit should still not be enough to create an intoxicating effect.

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Sources

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  • Huestis MA, Solimini R, Pichini S, Pacifici R, Carlier J, Busardò FP. Cannabidiol Adverse Effects and Toxicity. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):974-989..
  • Sleep Disorders: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Valerian. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • 5-HTP: MedlinePlus Supplements. MedlinePlus. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Boonstra E, de Kleijn R, Colzato LS, Alkemade A, Forstmann BU, Nieuwenhuis S. Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior. Front Psychol. 2015;6:1520.
  • Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-168.
  • Terpinolene – an overview. ScienceDirect. Accessed 4/23/2022..
  • Surendran S, Qassadi F, Surendran G, Lilley D, Heinrich M. Myrcene-What Are the Potential Health Benefits of This Flavouring and Aroma Agent?. Front Nutr. 2021;8:699666..
  • Linalool – an overview. ScienceDirect. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Passionflower. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 4/23/2022..
  • Vitamin E – Health Professional Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Lecithin – Health Encyclopedia. University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Herman TF, Santos C. First Pass Effect. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. 2021.
  • Nachnani R, Raup-Konsavage WM, Vrana KE. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2021;376(2):204-212. The Pharmacological Case for Cannabigerol.
  • Melatonin: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Chamomile. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 4/23/2022.
  • Lemon Balm – an overview. ScienceDirect. Accessed 4/23/2022.
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Information provided on Forbes Health is for educational purposes only. Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. For personal advice, please consult with a medical professional.

Forbes Health adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers.

Lauren Silva, a freelance writer in New York City, believes in feeling good in your body and making that experience accessible to everyone across generations. The proof is in her ever-piling browser tabs and newsletters, which help her stay on top of the latest wellness trends. When she’s not researching sustainable alternatives to her everyday products, Lauren is likely attempting to make a dent in her “TBR” book pile.

Robby has spent his career in a variety of writing, editing and storytelling roles. He now resides near Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife and three kids. He enjoys woodworking, playing rec league soccer and supporting chaotic, downtrodden sports franchises like the Miami Dolphins and Tottenham Hotspur.

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Cannabis, CBD, and Sleep

If you’re one of the millions of people who have trouble sleeping, you may have considered a cannabis compound, such as CBD. Some say cannabis compounds are helpful, but more research is needed. And they might not be legal, depending on where you live. Look up the laws to know what’s allowed.

What Does the Research Say About Cannabis?

Also known as marijuana, there’s growing interest in the health benefits of cannabis, specifically cannabis compounds. Two cannabinoids that get a lot of attention are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The compound in cannabis that makes you feel high. Human-made versions are used to ease nausea and vomiting from cancer treatment.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD). A compound in cannabis said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure properties. It does not make you feel high.

Research results on cannabis and sleep are mixed. So far, there haven’t been many controlled studies to show that THC, CBD, or a combination of both can boost sleep quality, says Bhanuprakash (Bhanu) Kolla, MD. He’s an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and a consultant for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, MN.

But some studies show promise. That includes a small one on dronabinol, a human-made version of medical THC. Early research shows it might help with obstructive sleep apnea. But “at this point, we do not recommend the use of cannabis products for treatment of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders,” Kolla says.

Ryan Vandrey, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimoe, looks at how cannabis use affects sleep. He says there’s evidence that THC can help you fall asleep faster in the short-term. But “there’s a big gap in our knowledge” for how cannabis affects overall sleep quality long-term or if it can help people with sleep disorders.

Possible Benefits

Michelle Sexton, ND (naturopathic doctor), assistant adjunct professor in the department of anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego, helps people use cannabis to manage certain health conditions. She says those who use THC to ease pain often report longer sleep time. “They’re not waking as much,” she says.

Sexton sees some real-world benefits from THC products. But when it comes to cannabis research on sleep, “the body of literature is pretty small.”

There’s some evidence that nabilone — another human-made form of cannabis — might help ease sleep problems related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Vandrey says people with PTSD often say they have fewer nightmares when they use cannabis. “A lot of folks report not remembering dreams,” he says.

A lot more research is needed to know if CBD can help with sleep. Vandrey says people who use it to manage other health conditions — anxiety, pain, epilepsy — often say their sleep gets better. But he says we don’t know if that’s from the CBD itself or because the compound helps in other ways.

“We can try to piece together a story,” Vandrey says. “But it’s really an incomplete picture at this point.”

Risks of Using Cannabis

Your brain and body get used to the chemicals in cannabis or other drugs. You’ll have to use a higher dose to get the same effects. With repeated use, cannabis might not help you sleep as well, or you might find it hard to snooze on your own.

“What commonly happens is people get into a pattern of using cannabis — whether it’s a high THC or high CBD hemp product — on a daily basis for an extended period of time,” Vandrey says. “Then, when they go one night without it, they can’t sleep.”

You’re not likely to overdose on THC or CBD, but here are some things to think about:

  • Withdrawal. Long-term cannabis use can cause sleep problems when you try to quit. Vandrey says that includes insomnia and the return of vivid dreams or nightmares.
  • Dizziness or balance problems. If you have to get up to pee at night, Sexton says to give yourself a minute to see if you feel stable. If you have a walking aid, make sure you use it.
  • Trouble thinking clearly. Heavy cannabis use is linked to problems with memory, learning, and attention.
  • Health problems. Smoking any substance can hurt your lungs, heart, or blood vessels.
  • Substance misuse. Cannabis is less addictive than alcohol or opioids. But people who use it every day might get a cannabis use disorder. Tell your doctor if you want to stop but can’t. They’ll help you quit.

Don’t use cannabis products if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The drug could affect your baby.

Is CBD Safe?

Kolla says it’s OK to use CBD if you think it helps your sleep. He says there isn’t any data to show that it’s harmful. But keep in mind these products aren’t regulated by the FDA. There’s no way to know exactly what you’re getting. “A lot of times, CBD can be contaminated with THC and there are potentials for drug interactions,” Kolla says.

Vandrey says CBD can interact with multiple biological systems in the body. But he says there’s no research to know how long-term use will affect those systems. Until we know more, “keep use of these products controlled in some way,” he says. “You use them for a couple of weeks and then you stop.”

How to Use Cannabis

There isn’t an official “dose” that works for everyone. Always read the product label for instructions. Even better, talk to a health care professional before you try THC or CBD. Tell them if you have other health problems or you take any other medication.

Sexton doesn’t suggest CBD as a sleep aid. She says it can have an “alerting” effect for some people. Here are some of her tips for how and when to use THC:

Look for “indica” on the label. There isn’t one “nighttime” strain. You’ll need to try different kinds to see what works best for you. Though, she says something labeled indica might be more sedating.

Start with a low dose. Sexton says a 2-milligram dose is a good place to start. If you’re new to THC, you might want to go lower. More might give you unwanted side effects. “You might wake up in the middle of the night paranoid with your mind racing,” Sexton says.

Use oral THC. Drop it in the back of your mouth and swallow. “I typically stick with the oral dose because of how long it lasts, and it comes on more slowly,” she says.

The effects kick in after 1 to 3 hours, she says, and could last for 6 to 8 hours. If you try a dose that doesn’t help, “wait it out.” Sexton says you can raise your dose by 50% the next night.

  • If you have trouble staying asleep. Take an oral dose right as your “head hits the pillow.”
  • If you have trouble falling asleep. Take an oral dose 1 to 2 hours before bed.

Don’t go above 10 milligrams. A larger amount might raise your odds of poor sleep. “We don’t know if (THC) is disrupting sleep architecture at those higher doses,” Sexton says.

Talk to a Doctor

Ask about nondrug ways to get a good night’s rest. “My sleep expert colleagues will always say behavioral treatments are superior to pharmacological treatments,” Vandrey says.

Sexton urges good sleep hygiene. But she also tries to find any hidden problems. Here are some questions she asks:

  • Do you exercise at 8 p.m.?
  • Do you drink green tea with dinner?
  • Do you take your B vitamins at night?
  • Are you stressed or anxious?
  • Is your sleep trouble linked to hormonal changes?

No detail is too small and could help your doctor figure out what’s triggering your sleep issues.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Bhanuprakash (Bhanu) Kolla, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology; consultant, Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Ryan Vandrey, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Michelle Sexton, ND, assistant adjunct professor in the department of anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego.

Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience: “Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids, and Sleep.”

CDC: “Marijuana and Public Health.”

Antioxidants: “Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol.”

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: “Medical Cannabis and the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement.”

Current Psychiatry Reports: “Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature.”

Cannabis: “Cannabis use is associated with greater total sleep time in middle-aged and older adults with and without HIV: A preliminary report utilizing digital health technologies.”

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: “Use of a Synthetic Cannabinoid in a Correctional Population for Posttrautmatic Stress Disorder-Related Insomnia and Nightmares, Chronic Pain, Harm Reduction, and Other Indications.”

Addiction: “Heavy cannabis use, dependence and the brain: a clinical perspective.”

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