CBD Oil for Insomnia

Each night, millions of individuals in the United States have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. While for some this is a temporary problem, for others insomnia can become a chronic issue that detrimentally affects day-to-day life. An estimated 10% of American adults experience insomnia, which occurs at least three times per week.

According to The 2018 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll, only 46 percent of those who identified as having poor sleep patterns felt that they were very effective in getting things done during the day, compared with 89 percent of those who identified their sleep patterns as excellent.

Restful, nourishing sleep is not only essential to getting things done and performing at one’s best; it also supports optimal functioning of the immune system, mood stability, improved energy and motivation levels, and enhanced overall well-being.

Unfortunately, the quest to achieve a good night’s sleep can see those with insomnia becoming dependent upon or even addicted to sleeping pills, which come with a range of potentially dangerous side effects such as dizziness or daytime drowsiness, and a higher risk of mortality

Anecdotal reports indicate that CBD oil may help to induce somnolence or sleepiness, with no known adverse side effects. Does science support these reports?

Overview of the Research

There is conflicting evidence about the efficacy of CBD to support healthy sleep regulation. Some studies simultaneously show that although CBD oil may help some individuals to fall asleep and stay asleep, it can cause wakefulness or disturbed sleep in others. 

At present, there is also a lack of knowledge about the mechanisms by which CBD modulates sleep. It has been theorized that it may change dopamine levels, or exert effects over the body’s cannabinoid system, including the sleep-wake cycle.

The Studies on CBD Oil for the Treatment of Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is often closely linked to anxiety. Those who experience sleeplessness, or have trouble staying asleep, are often anxious about aspects of their waking life or anxious about their poor sleep patterns. 

A 2019 retrospective case study in the Permanente Journal carried out at an integrative medicine and psychiatric clinic investigated the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep. Twenty-five of the 72 patients surveyed reported poor sleep as a primary concern, while 47 reported anxiety as a primary concern. 

CBD Oil for Insomnia

At the first monthly assessment following the beginning of CBD treatment (25-175 milligrams per day), 66 percent of patients experienced an improvement in sleep, while 25 percent experienced worse sleep. At the two-month mark,  56 percent reported an improvement in sleep compared with the previous month, while 26 percent reported worsening problems associated with their sleep. The patients demonstrated a more sustained response to CBD as a treatment for anxiety than sleep and experienced a more marked reduction in their anxiety than their insomnia.

The authors also noted that the CBD was well-accepted and well-tolerated by the patients in the study, with minimal side effects.

A 2006 study published in the journal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, found that CBD increased wakefulness and decreased REM sleep in rats during their inactive cycle (when the lights were on). REM sleep refers to rapid eye movement, the phase of sleep in which dreaming occurs. No changes in sleep were observed during darkness, when rats are typically active. CBD appeared to increase activity in waking-related areas of the brain, such as the hypothalamus. The study also found that CBD induced an increase in dopamine release. Dopamine is one of several neurotransmitters involved in wakefulness.

This animal study suggests that despite CBD’s popularity to aid sleep, it may in fact promote wakefulness by decreasing REM sleep. However, for those individuals with a REM sleep disorder, this could be beneficial. In fact,  a 2014 study in the journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, researchers reported several case studies where Parkinson’s patients with REM behavior disorder experienced marked improvement when using CBD.

Similarly, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also often have sleep disturbances and nightmares, which occur during REM sleep. In a 2019 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, cannabidiol improved the sleep quality of 38% of the patients with PTSD, and reduced nightmares.

A 2018 randomized controlled trial with human participants published in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated the effects of CBD on the sleep-wake cycle of normal, healthy volunteers. Twenty-seven research participants received either CBD or a placebo over two nights. The study found that CBD did not produce any significant effect, nor did it interfere with the normal sleep cycle of these healthy individuals.

Insomniacs who ingested daily doses of 40, 80 or 160 milligrams of CBD reported having a good night’s sleep and reduced dream recall than those who took a placebo. The authors of the study hypothesized the CBD may decrease REM sleep capacity, or decrease the frequency of periods of wakefulness during the night, which helps with remembering dreams.

Patient Perspectives

For a long time, chronic insomnia severely affected Paul Miller’s waking life. “I had tried melatonin and various herbal teas, but nothing worked. I was stressed out and exhausted, and it was a vicious cycle. The more I couldn’t sleep, the more stressed I became about it.”

When a friend gave Miller a 500 milligram tincture of CBD oil to help with his sleeplessness, he initially set it aside. 

I knew nothing about it and was hesitant to even try it because I had no idea what the side effects might be,” Miller explained to Weedmaps News. 

One restless night, however, Miller was so desperate for sleep he took the CBD oil down from the shelf and tried it.

“It worked so well that I started researching more about it, and that’s what led me to starting our company, Lokus Nutrition, a CBD company. The reason we exist is because of my insomnia.”

Daniel Robbins turned to CBD as an alternative to mainstream sleep medication. 

I have a hard time falling asleep and used to take melatonin or sleep aid, but would have side effects like a racing heart, or waking up very groggy and unable to go back to sleep.”

He started experimenting with CBD gummies, taking 10-20 milligrams before sleep, with no other medication. “At first I noticed a feeling of relaxation and then I would begin to feel sleepy. “I fall asleep faster, with zero side effects. It has done wonders.”

Robbins notes that the CBD also helps to manage his anxiety. “Additionally, I take it in the morning and feel calm when I start to have anxiety coming on as I often get very stressed and anxious.”

Medical Experts Views on CBD Oil for Insomnia

Dr. Steven Zodkoy is a medical advisor to Vitalibis, a premium CBD producer, and is in private practice at Monmouth Advanced Medicine in Freehold, New Jersey. Zodkoy regularly recommends CBD to his patients to help support sleep.

“CBD is unique as a sleep aid because it works on three different levels,” Zodkoy explained. “It relieves anxiety which delays the onset of sleep, it relieves pain which interrupts sleep, and it promotes a sense of well being which allows for a deeper sleep.”

Zodkoy pointed out that CBD is also safe and non-addictive, unlike many sleep aid tablets. For those who are receiving insubstantial benefits from sleeping tablets, he advises starting slowly with CBD.

“I imagine that those who are not getting the benefits of the prescription sleeping medication or those who want to get off medication would try CBD.  They should start off slow, 5 milligrams/ a day, and slowly increase until their desired results are reached.”  

Zodkoy also advised that individuals interested in trying CBD consult with their pharmacist about how to best reduce their prescription sleep medication as the CBD takes effect.

Zodkoy recommends a sublingual tincture as what he thinks is the most effective ingestion method. “The best way to take CBD for sleep is to place 10-20 milligrams under the tongue for 30 seconds and then simply swallow. Patients can repeat nightly for greater effectiveness over time.”

The Bottom Line

Studies show that CBD may support healthful sleep in some individuals, but can potentially increase sleeplessness in others. Further research into appropriate dosages and more randomized clinical trials in the future may offer greater insights and understanding into the use of CBD as a sleep aid.