CBD and Sleep: An Overview

CBD supplements now are commonly found in the form of gummies, lotions and oils.  Its effectiveness at pain management has been studied for some time now.  However, can CBD supplements help you get better sleep?

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a chemical compound that is derived from the hemp plant. Hemp is used for many purposes, including the production of rope, textiles, paper, biofuels and clothing. It’s a species of cannabis sativa — the same group as marijuana plants. Unlike marijuana, CBD doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical compound that produces a “high.”

A 2017 review from the World Health Organization reported that “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” and notes that “there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” [PDF] CBD has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries, including treatment of anxiety, pain and sleeplessness.

Consumer CBD use has skyrocketed over the past several years. The CBD industry in the U.S. reached $4.6 billion in 2020, an enormous increase over 2018 sales, which were approximately half a billion. By 2025, Forbes projects that CBD sales will skyrocket to $20 billion.  CDB is sold over the counter in a variety of forms, including capsules, oils, creams and gummies.

The Science on CBD

A Harvard Medical School health report notes that while CBD is used for a range of health issues, the scientific evidence is strongest for its efficacy in treating conditions like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Both of these syndromes occur in children with epilepsy and do not respond to antiseizure medications. Research suggests that CBD has been able to reduce or stop seizures.

The report also notes that CBD is frequently used to reduce anxiety and that studies on that “suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep” for patients who have insomnia. CBD may also inhibit the inflammation that people with arthritis experience and treat pain from neuropathy. The Harvard report notes that these are “two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat” and that additional studies are needed to verify CDB’s role in reducing pain.

Possible adverse side effects of CBD use include fatigue, nausea and irritability. Like grapefruit juice, CBD can interact with certain blood thinner medications and raise other medication levels in the blood by dramatically increasing the rate of absorption. For that reason, people who are taking medications to treat heart conditions, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol or taking immunosuppressants, benzodiazepines and other neurological and psychiatric medications should check with their doctor before taking CBD.

Using CBD for Sleep

Hemp farmer holding Cbd oil made of Cannabis sativa plant in a dropper and bottle.

To the extent that CBD can help reduce anxiety, it can contribute to better sleep, and there is some evidence that it may help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. People who successfully use CBD to alleviate chronic pain may also find that they can sleep better. Research suggests CBD can reduce insomnia in people who suffer from chronic pain by relieving the discomfort that causes sleeplessness.

Additionally, CBD can strengthen a healthy sleep-wake cycle by reducing daytime sleepiness. It may also decrease REM behavior disorder, providing relief for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The bottom line on CBD and sleep is that a growing body of evidence suggests it can be help treat certain conditions, including those that cause sleeplessness, such as chronic pain. CBD may also have a calming effect that can promote sleep. That said, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that the CBD industry is largely unregulated because CBD is sold as a supplement, and more research is needed to reach any firm conclusions on its effectiveness as a general sleep aid.