We’re no strangers to sleep troubles. Having suffered from stress, restlessness, poor sleep, and insomnia, we’re firmly acquainted with these health issues and the hardship it can bring. Our experiences left us searching for a remedy – anything that would help us finally get to sleep on time and with regularity. After researching and exploring many options – from melatonin to Ambien, yoga and meditation to herbal teas and hot baths. We eventually found what proved to be the most effective. It turns out it’s an all-natural tool to get a good night’s rest. Full spectrum CBD oil for sleep – while often not immediately thought of as a sleep aid – proved to be just what we needed. It helped us to increase our sleep ease, length, and quality. We were able to get rid of our insomnia and get our health back on track. In this review we’ll examine CBD oil for sleep and how it might also help you.
Sleep is critical to overall health and wellbeing – for both the body and mind. Increasingly long-term studies and research are indicating sleep is linked to a range of health outcomes and diseases of both the mind and body. It impacts everything from weight and cardiovascular health to mental illness, Alzheimer’s, mood, and memory function. Most adults will spend about a third of their life asleep. It’s an astounding fact when contemplated.
Yet despite its importance, most of us either aren’t sleeping well enough or for long enough. Between 60 and 80% of Australians will fall into one of these categories – and this is getting worse. About a quarter admit to sleeping less than 6 hours a night. Increasingly younger generations are getting fewer sleep hours, which is correlated with heightened screen times from a younger age. This contributes to an accumulating ‘sleep debt’ on both an individual and societal level. Sleep debt is lost sleep and the health risks it accelerates over time. It’s costing us our health, and costing society billions in lost focus, reduced performance, and mental health worsening. Longer working hours, stressors of modern life and increased use of phones or blue light emitting devices before bed are all contributing to this epidemic. CBD oil for sleep may be the answer we need.
How much sleep do we need?
There has been much discussion about genetics and individual differences when it comes to sleep length and frequency. Recently a genetic variation in a gene called ADRB1 was discovered in some populations, which allows its holders to get away with only 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night without feeling tired and with minimal health consequences. For individuals with this gene, they may be better suited to the modern world where long work hours and daily pressures mean we’re getting fewer and fewer relaxed hours to ourselves.
However, for the vast majority – this doesn’t apply. The gene is rare and you’re very unlikely to have it. For the average person, doctors and scientists use 7-9 hours of sleep each night as the gauge for a healthy sleep schedule and length. Much more or less sleep outside of this window can have dire effects on the brain, body, and wellbeing of people. It’s increasingly being thought to be a large contributor to growing rates of cancer, obesity, and many other health risks.
Why do we need to sleep?
Your brain produces a chemical while awake known as adenosine. Adenosine is being made from when you wake in the morning through to when you sleep. Over this period it accumulates in the brain. This accumulation eventually starts to slow down neuron activity and can even begin to damage neurons if sleep is delayed for too long. In fact, it can degrade brain activity so much that we even begin to hallucinate and can experience psychosis, seizure or even death if sleep is deprived for extreme lengths.
Even a ‘low’ level of sleep deprivation – i.e. staying awake for around 16-20 hours can be a risk to health and equivalent to being drunk in terms of impact to your ability to focus, react quickly and perform in demanding situations. This is why driving when tired or drowsy is not only warned against, but downright flagged as a high-risk danger. In places like Australia it’s regarded as about equal to drinking before driving – more accidents occur due to lack of sleep than alcohol induced crashes.
However even with inconsistent sleeping patterns and ongoing issues with sleep – adenosine can accumulate over time and lead to ‘sleep debt’ for the brain, leading to tiredness, ongoing health problems and mental issues if left unchecked. This also can’t be reversed so needs to be carefully monitored and managed to avoid health risks.
Sleeping effectively ‘heals’ the brain, clearing out adenosine and refreshing the neurons for a new day. But not only does it help the brain replenish and recover, it also similarly helps cells throughout the body replenish and heal, clearing out dead cells and ensuring normal metabolic function.
Some of the important mental and neurological benefits of sleep are:
- Mood and energy – both emotional and mental, allowing us to maintain motivation, relationships and stay upbeat even during tough times
- Focus – sleep and clearing of adenosine is critical for focus.
- Memory building – memories are built and consolidated during REM (deep) sleep
- Learning and creativity
- Decision making and cognition
In terms of physical health and recovery, sleep is key towards:
- Cell and metabolic function
- Muscle repair and growth
- Inflammation reduction
- Immune system function
- Gut health
- Cardiovascular health
Why are we struggling to sleep?
The two biggest reasons for our declining sleep health are stress and screens. Stress is the body’s fight or flight response triggering from either environmental factors or our mental state. It causes the release of cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol release is normal at certain times and in low amounts. However chronic cortisol release consistently due to stress or anxiety can have highly detrimental effects on both the mind, body, and our sleep. Typically, cortisol peaks in the morning, and tapers off through the day, easing at night when the body is cooling down and getting ready to sleep. However, if the adrenal glands are overworked and emitting cortisol frequently due to a chronic stressor, the gland will continue releasing it at night, which both prevents sleep as well as causing issues in sleep quality. This often leads to intermittent waking up and low REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep which is when most of the body’s recovery occurs.
Similar problems can occur due to light from screens. To wind down and begin switching off to the unconscious state for sleep, the brain releases a hormone known as melatonin. This hormone has several triggers including food, activity but most importantly – light. Light entering the eyes during the day lets the brain know it’s awake. As night comes around and it gets dark, the brain begins to produce melatonin, leading to sleepiness and yawning. Eventually this will lead to a healthy sleep if darkness is maintained, as the brain will know what is happening. However, if light is re-introduced at night past bedtime through screens which can emit white or blue light, the brain will reactivate and stop producing melatonin. This is of course, not what should happen. It will delay sleep, cause poor sleep quality and result in a bad night’s sleep. There are ways this light can be reduced or mitigated through screen filters or settings on phones to shift the light – but this is still not a complete solution as some light will still enter the eyes. Light and screens must be managed carefully to prevent this, ensuring digital hygiene is paramount and melatonin production can occur correctly in the brain.
CBD oil for Sleep
There are a huge number of different tools at our disposal to help us get to sleep properly and for the right length of time. These range from natural, pharmaceutical drug-free, and fairly mild supplements to heavy duty pharmaceuticals like Ambien which are more suited towards treating bad sleep disorders like insomnia. Some of the top supplements for sleep include:
- Magnesium and zinc
- Prescription sleep drugs like Ambien
- Antihistamines and antiepileptics to stimulate drowsiness
We’ve tried many of these products, but there was one which stood above the rest in effectiveness. Its all natural has high bioavailability as well as miniscule risk of any side effects or adverse reactions. This was of course, full spectrum CBD oil. Known for both its anxiolytic (or anti-anxiety) and ability to help us relax and ease into a restful night of sleep. It is a very safe natural product produced from hemp. It can also be combined with other products like ashwagandha without worrying about risking mixing medications.
How does it work?
Derived from the hemp plant (which doesn’t contain THC), CBD oil is extracted and distilled into a concentrate which is highly beneficial to the mind and body. When consumed, the cannabinoids in hemp oil such as CBN, CBG and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system of the human body. These receptors are located throughout the brain, nervous system and body – known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. They trigger the production of endogenous compounds which have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiolytic and calming effects on the body and mind. These are known as endocannabinoids.
Endogenous means the body is creating the compounds by itself. While individual metabolisms vary and thus effects can vary, CBD may have interactions with serotonin and benefits for mood. The effects and benefits can also vary based on product strength, dosage, and frequency of use. By calming the mind, cortisol levels are reduced and the nervous system is calmed. This helps in increasing sleep length and quality.
Importantly, full spectrum CBD oil has no psychoactive effects or properties – this means its risk of causing issues with mental risks associated with THC are not present. At the same time, it doesn’t have addictive properties or form dependency. Because it’s non-addictive you also won’t experience any withdrawal issues or problems involved in stopping your use. The natural, highly bioavailable nature of hemp oil is also a hugely beneficial factor – it’s highly absorbable by the body, coming entirely from plant sources, being easily metabolized, and used without any additives, preservatives or chemicals needed.
Because of these powerful properties full spectrum CBD oil for sleep is seeing explosive use and popularity. It’s also led to many more trials and studies being rolled out for the product – some of the most promising have shown with very strong evidence the neurological benefits of hemp’s nutrients such as seizure and anxiety reduction. More studies are investigating the efficacy of hemp oil in aiding sleep and potentially even treating insomnia, but these are still ongoing, and more is yet to be known here. A major study on CBD for sleep recently started in Australia and is ongoing.
Does it really work?
Anecdotally, and from a huge range of testimonies our answer is a definitive ‘yes’. However, there is a caveat here around individual differences and dosage. Let’s look at a study – while there is a limited number of studies to date specifically on sleep and full spectrum CBD oil, this promising area is rapidly developing.
The study in question recruited 103 participants who had sleep disorder due to anxiety. Researchers had combined full spectrum hemp oil with other prescribed medications for sleep to study the effects on the brain and sleep patterns. The doses researchers used in that investigation hemp oil ranged from 25 to 175 mg – or around three to six drops. They found out in the recruited participants that CBD was effective for reducing anxiety levels and helping manage cortisol. Whereas sleep disorders and poor sleep patterns required high doses of CBD oil to influence – but it did help in both sleep length and quality. The research study continued for 3 months and the investigators or researchers followed up all the recruited participants monthly for 3 months.
At the first follow-up with the participants, investigators found out that almost 67% of the participants reported improvement in sleep; on the other hand, 33% had worsened sleep. At the second follow-up, investigators had found out that 57% of the participants reported improvement in sleep, but 28% had reported worsened sleep. At the end of the conducted research, investigators had concluded that although hemp oil has short-term benefits on the brain as well as sleep, it does improve poor sleep problems and helps those with short term sleep issues cope and get rest. This study showed it may also help with insomnia but couldn’t address the underlying cause in many cases and typically stronger or prescription medication was needed. Exact mechanics behind the effects were not fully understood but it’s believed to be related to cortisol and stress reduction, helping the mind relax into sleep.
For those just wanting better sleep quality but not suffering from disorders, it may still add value and improve recovery by lowering stress. This type of stress typically relates to anxious thoughts, which can be pervasive at bedtime when no other stimulus is present and can impact our sleep timing, interrupting the natural sleep wake cycle. Stress and anxiety related sleep problems are often better supported by hemp oil than other sources of sleep issues. The results of the studies whose main complaint was insomnia or other poor sleep disorders were not clear cut as for people who had poor sleep due to factors outside of anxiety. People with poor sleep reported improvement in their sleep and wake cycle typically only in the first month of the study also. One of the conclusions drawn at the end of the study amongst people who did report improvement in their sleep cycle was due to worrying much less or not at all about their sleep issue which can create a compounding stress.
Other biological explanations for how full spectrum CBD oil can help us sleep are less clear. Scientists have suggested that it may have to do with specific compounds such as Terpenes and Phyto cannabinoids which interact with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system and may help support in anxiety reduction (i.e., reducing worry). So, in summary – does it work? Yes, but for shorter term and less serious sleep problems. Long term issues or serious disorders like insomnia had much lower efficacy. The underlying mechanics are still largely unclear. For insomnia, it is suggested that one should seek a therapist’s or doctor’s help and potentially look at CBT-I therapy which is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. This therapy focuses on mood-changing habits and lowering anxiety that can interrupt and reduce sleep.
Best CBD products for sleep
CBD products that assist with sleep come in many forms – from oils, tinctures, sprays, capsules and more. The most popular varieties you might have seen are:
- CBD oils and tinctures – the most popular and straightforward consumption method. Oil is typically straight hemp oil extract, while a tincture is a mixture of hemp oil, suspended in a carrier oil like MCT or coconut oil. Both will contain cannabidiol that supports the rest wake and sleep cycles.
- Oral sprays – these are like asthma inhalers, being directly inhaled and absorbed by the lungs
- Sublingual’s – ‘sub’ meaning under and ‘lingual’ meaning tongue, these are drops or oil designed to be applied under the tongue or gums for rapid absorption
- Edible goods like gummies and chocolate
- Capsules (similar to fish oil capsules) – great if you don’t like the taste of oil or other products as you can bypass the taste buds.
When it comes to choosing the right product, we recommend picking whatever works for you. Oil is our favorite as it can be mixed into coffee (e.g., Bulletproof coffee!), added to smoothies, desserts, shakes and more.
You might also see different products containing cannabis sativa or indica. Typically indica based products are better for sleep due to containing higher THC content which assists in preparing the brain to sleep. In combination with CBD it’s generally considered the best formulation for sleep and what doctors will typically prescribe. In Australia many doctors are already prescribing CBD for sleep and it can now be purchased in pharmacies over the counter after laws changed in 2020.
Another major consideration is whether your product is a ‘full spectrum’ or ‘isolate’ formulation. Full spectrum oils contain the whole profile of natural plant antioxidants, terpenes and nutrients. Some of these such as linalool and caryophyllene actually assist cannabinoids like CBD in activating the sleep function. They also contain minor cannabinoids like CBN that assist in supporting sleep quality. Isolates only contain the active cannabidiol ingredient and remove other plant nutrients so are less balanced but more concentrated.
How to take CBD oil for sleep
Firstly, from a dosage risk standpoint, hemp oil is very well tolerated by the body even at very high dosages. Numerous studies have been done on side effects and physiological effects at varying dosages and even at the upper limits or beyond what is recommended daily there is almost no risk of adverse effects. A big part of this comes down to the product containing no THC and being from natural, plant-based sources.
The important concept when beginning a dosage regime here is loading – best practice is to dose regularly and maintain an ongoing level of full spectrum CBD oil and its beneficial cannabinoids in the body. We cover a range of tips and methods in dosing here. Before this though you should begin with a low dose for the first week – this is to gauge your body’s reaction and ensure you can identify and manage any potential side effects (although these are unlikely) before ramping up your intake.
This is generally the preferred approach for ongoing sleep improvement and ensuring enough dosage to make a difference. However, a short term, high dose approach to fix an interrupted pattern or non-serious sleep issue may work much better for some. Typically, the best results are reported in the first weeks or month of use. Longer term use is generally thought to still help but to a lower degree because fading as the body becomes used to the supplement in month two or three. It can vary heavily by individual and their issue – we suggest testing and seeing what works for you and your situation.
Another key dosage point is taking ‘enough’ oil to make a difference. At lower doses, many reported little to no effects on their sleep or benefit – much higher efficacy is reported amongst higher dosage protocols. In fact, low doses may simply add in another stress or factor influencing the metabolism and mind without having the full calming effect of a high dose, meaning the sleep benefit to the individual is not realized. On the other hand, lower doses amongst those with already healthy sleep might induce a deeper and more restful state, improving overall recovery for both the mind and body.
What side effects are there?
Most users won’t experience any notable side effects or issues associated with dosing CBD oil for sleep. Some report issues with dry mouth, unsettled stomach, or drowsiness at higher dosages. In general, CBD is extremely well tolerated by the body and not containing THC means it has a very low risk factor. There is however risk involved if using other medications with it. Prescription drugs or compounds like ibuprofen can have a heavy effect on the liver and reduce its ability to process other substances. As a result, this can lead to adverse side effects when taken with full spectrum CBD oil – be very careful of this and consult with your physician prior to use, it’s also not recommended for those who are pregnant or immunocompromised to begin a dosage regime.
If you’re thinking about trying CBD oil for your sleep, it’s a strong option to look at. While generally not something that will help or cure insomnia and more serious sleep issues, it’s a highly beneficial supplement to assist with improving your sleep length, sleep quality and reducing stress before bed to nod off easier. We take it every day for sleep and swear by it. Dosages you may want to experiment with. Dosage strategy differs depending on the individual, their own genes and metabolism as well as support needed. A big consideration is also whether you’re looking for long-term or short-term solutions. Generally full spectrum CBD oil is better suited to short term help for a few weeks. Usage over a longer time frame can still be greatly beneficial but may see the body adapt to the dosage. Overall, the product is excellent, being all natural, plant-based and easily absorbed in the body with its bioavailability. It’s also low risk having minimal side effects and issues to worry about. Be mindful of mixing it with other medications. As always – consult with your doctor before using any supplement or if you have a disorder. This article is not medical advice.