Can CBD Help You Sleep? Here's What Experts Say
CBD, aka cannabidiol, has skyrocketed to the forefront of alternative medicine in the past few years and is being used for a slew of ailments. In fact, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, 1 in every 7 Americans, or about 14%, use CBD. Of all its purported uses, CBD is especially popular as a sleep aid, but there's lots of information out there surrounding this subject.
To understand more about using CBD for sleep and CBD itself, we tapped Jessie Gill, RN, who is a cannabis nurse, aka a registered nurse with a special focus on cannabis therapeutics. She is also a director at large for the American Cannabis Nurses Association and is on the speakers' bureau for the Cannabis Nurses Network. Additionally, she runs an online patient resource to help demystify cannabis for all.
What Is CBD?
First up, what actually is CBD? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also known as marijuana or hemp. Gill adds, "When people discuss marijuana, they're generally referring to products containing THC, the famous cannabinoid that has many health effects but can also trigger euphoria and can cause people to feel intoxicated ... CBD is another beneficial cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. CBD can offer health benefits, but it is not intoxicating so CBD cannot get you high."
Health Benefits of CBD
"Research and anecdotal evidence shows CBD may impact a wide variety of diseases and symptoms of disease," explains Gill via email. "This is because CBD directly affects the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is widespread; there are cannabinoid receptors all over the body and in every organ system. The three most common reasons people seem to choose CBD are for sleep, pain and anxiety."
Brent A. Bauer, M.D., writing about the topic for the Mayo Clinic online, says, "A prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil is considered an effective anti-seizure medication. However, further research is needed to determine CBD's other benefits and safety. ... Currently, the only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a prescription oil called Epidiolex. It's approved to treat two types of epilepsy. Aside from Epidiolex, state laws on the use of CBD vary. While CBD is being studied as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and anxiety, research supporting the drug's benefits is still limited."
CBD for Sleep
Using CBD to enhance sleep is very common, according to Gill. She says, "Many patients report that CBD helps them fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep longer and feel [more] rested in the morning. However, for some people, CBD can actually be stimulating instead of sedating. This may be related to the specific CBD product they're using; sometimes it's dose-dependent; other times, it's just how the individual reacts to CBD."
In terms of dosing, the ideal amount really depends on the individual. Gill explains: "Some patients need 10 milligrams while others need 100 mg. The thing is, CBD is most effective at the individual's ideal dose. Too much or too little does not produce ideal results. Patients should start with a lower dose and increase it slowly if needed. Most patients choose to start with 10 to 25 mg, which is effective for many people. Others need more and occasionally some patients need less."
How to Pick the Best CBD for Sleep
One of the challenging things about using CBD is that there are many CBD products available. Gill says that patients need to choose the method of consumption that works best for them, which can generally be determined with experimentation. She says, "When patients are using CBD daily, I generally encourage them to reach for products that do not contain extra sugar, colors or other additives. CBD oil, CBD capsules or using dried CBD flower can be great choices." Just make sure to evaluate the source of your CBD product before purchasing.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, CBD is primarily classified as a supplement rather than a medicine. The site explains, "Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements."
Gill adds, "Purchasing a high-quality CBD product is absolutely essential ... as CBD is not regulated, which means there are many contaminated products on the market and some can be potentially harmful. There are also many products that don't even contain the CBD levels listed on the label. Many companies only test for potency but I encourage patients to choose companies that are doing full-panel testing which checks for all possible contaminants."
Not sure where to start? Gill personally loves NurseGrown Organics from Vermont since they are certified clean green, which is more stringent than an organic certification. Gill says, "NurseGrown does full-panel testing on their products. They test for all impurities, heavy metals and potentially harmful chemicals that can be picked up by the plant during its growth cycles."
Here are some other popular CBD products for sleep:
What Else to Consider
The good news is that CBD is not known to be addictive. In fact, a report from the World Health Organization states, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. ... To date, there is no evidence of any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
Gill mentions that it's important for consumers to know that CBD can interact with some medications, though it's usually dose-dependent. "Additionally, CBD can lower a person's blood sugar or blood pressure, which is important for anyone with a blood sugar disorder or low blood pressure to know. Finally, CBD may interact with blood thinners, especially Coumadin. It's very important for anyone on blood thinners to take that into consideration and to have their physician monitor their blood when adding or changing their dose," she says.
For the Mayo Clinic online, Bauer adds, "CBD use also carries some risks. Though it's often well-tolerated, CBD can cause side effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue."
So, if you're struggling with insomnia or not getting quality sleep, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest CBD may be an option to ease that ailment. Just be sure to critically evaluate the source of your CBD for sleep purposes to be as safe as possible. Remember, if you plan to use products containing CBD, talk to your doctor and don't be afraid to ask questions.