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Does CBD help with sleep? What the science says

There are plenty of impressive anecdotes about CBD oil eradicating insomnia, reducing nightly wake ups and inducing a deeper and more restorative sleep overall. But what does the science say?

Ruby Deevoy

Of the millions of people who now enjoy using CBD supplements on a daily basis, a very large percentage of those will do so with the aim to have a restful night’s sleep. While there are plenty of impressive anecdotes about CBD oil eradicating insomnia, reducing nightly wake ups and inducing a deeper and more restorative sleep overall, what does the science say?

Does CBD help with sleep?

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Photo by We-Vibe Toys  - Does CBD help with sleep?

The first thing to realise about this question is that the mechanisms of both ‘sleep’ and ‘CBD’ are very complex.

Achieving a good night’s sleep or overcoming sleep issues can come about in many different ways, depending on what the cause of the problem is in the first place and as such, a solution that might work wonders for one person might not necessarily work for another. For example, waking up in the night or struggling to drop off could be caused by anxiety, or pain, or hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause. It could also be triggered by a deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin, GABA or endocannabinoids. It could be that you’re drinking too much caffeine in the day, have an uncomfortable bed or young child! So, it can be very helpful to try and ascertain what you think might be the root cause of the issue before trying to deal with it.
 
However, figuring out what the problem is can be extremely difficult – impossible in many cases without thorough testing. And, although many people do experience lots of different reasons for poor sleep, there are some causes that are more common than others.

CBD for Sleep: A multitude of mechanisms

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Photo by Rosie Steggles - full spectrum CBD oil

CBD oil, particularly full or broad spectrum CBD oil (which offers not only the actions of cannabidiol but that of a variety of other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant) has become a very popular sleep aid. This may very well be because rather than targeting one single issue, cannabis works via a multitude of mechanisms and molecular pathways to bring every aspect of the body back into balance. So, regardless of the cause (perhaps aside from extrinsic factors like a lumpy mattress) there’s a good chance that taking a regular dose of CBD could help. For many, it could even target the primary issue and restore equilibrium, which is why many CBD fans find it so beneficial for sleep.
 
But what are these mechanisms CBD oil works through? Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting findings within the scientific community.

Does CBD increase melatonin?

CBD oil isn’t the only supplement people search for when hunting for a sleep solution. Over the past 12 months, there have been 1.28 million online searches for Melatonin – a hormone which should be naturally produced by the pineal gland that is essential for getting to sleep and staying asleep. But did you know that CBD oil has been shown to naturally boost melatonin production?

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 Photo by Sammy Williams - CBD for sleep

How does CBD support melatonin production?

The CBD molecule directly activates serotonin receptors, which releases serotonin into the body. This particular neurotransmitter plays a vital role in may bodily functions, including mood, digestion, sexual function, and sleep.

The reason serotonin is needed for sleep processes, is that serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, which then works to regulate the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
 
It’s also worth noting that take a regular dose of hemp seed oil (which contains no CBD) has also been shown to boost melatonin, thanks to the unique combination of amino acid L-Tryptophan and vitamin B6, which are also required for melatonin production.

Sleep and Anxiety – Can CBD help?

Anxiety and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Sometimes it’s that constant worries cause your lack of sleep in the first place, or lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety. It’s a vicious circle.

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Photo by Alexei Maridashvili - CBD oil for sleep 

Fortunately, CBD and a number of other compounds in the cannabis plant (found in full and broad spectrum CBD products) have been very well studied to determine their positive effects on anxiety – and anxiety induced sleep disorders. One 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal found that upon testing a large case series for the effects of CBD on anxiety and sleep, the first monthly assessment after the start of CBD treatment saw 79.2% of all patients experience an improvement in anxiety and sleep. On average, anxiety and sleep improved for most patients, and these improvements were sustained over time.

Sleep and the Endocannabinoid System

The aforementioned activation of serotonin receptors is one way that CBD oil can help elevate mood, although that alone could actually cause anxiety! Too much serotonin can be negative, just as too little can be. It’s all about balance, which is one key reason why full spectrum oils may be a wiser choice for a more rounded effect. But the main mechanism to look at when it comes to using CBD for anxiety and anxiety related sleep issues is the endocannabinoid system – especially the endocannabinoid anandamide, which acts like a gatekeeper for stress in the brain.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

When endocannabinoid levels are depleted, which can occur as a result of lack of sleep and chronic stress, anandamide levels are lacking and as a result there’s nothing to prevent the unnecessary cascade of the fight or flight response. When you take a regular dose of CBD oil, anandamide levels are kept in check and therefore so is your anxiety!

CBD for Sleep: What’s your dose?

There are many, many more ways in which CBD oil might help you sleep, including the wide ranging properties of the of 100s of terpenes cannabis has to offer. But it’s important to know that CBD is biphasic too – meaning it can have different effects at different doses. When it comes to sleep, one study revealed that low dose CBD (15mg) actually led to increased wakefulness whereas a high dose (160mg taken throughout the day with a higher dose before bed) led to longer sleep time and less wakefulness in the night. The key is the find the dose that suits you, and build up gradually, because everyone is totally unique!

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