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Does CBD Help with Sleep? It May Depend on the Problem

CBD may help with sleep, especially for those with sleep disorders and anxiety. But more research needs to be done. Consider sleep hygiene as a safe sleep aid.
Published
2022-10-26
Updated
13 MINS
Woman adding cbd oil to tea to help with sleep

Even though sleep is essential to our health, it isn’t always easy to get. Many of us have trouble sleeping and either struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or generally get the sleep we need to be our best. And while there are plenty of sleep aids on the market, CBD is hailed as a natural, healthy option that can help. Plus, it’s said to have other health benefits like reducing anxiety.   

A 2021 survey found improving anxiety was the most popular reason for using CBD — but improving sleep was a very close second. 

But is there any truth to the claims? Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research to say for sure whether CBD improves your sleep. But what we do know so far has promise, but the studies are also small, rely on self-reported data, or are on populations with pre-existing sleep disorders or health conditions.  

Below, we’ll dive into the research on CBD and sleep, cover what you can try before turning to CBD, and how the RISE app can help you get a good night’s rest. 

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that bind to receptors in your central nervous system and interact with the endocannabinoid system in your body.

CBD isn’t the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets you high — that’s tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD is instead known for making you feel relaxed and less anxious, and it may have some pain relieving properties, too. CBD may also help with health conditions like epilepsy and schizophrenia

If you use cannabis, you’ll be getting some CBD — the amount all depends on the strain you’re consuming. Indica strains typically have more CBD than THC, while cannabis sativa plants have more THC than CBD.

But CBD can also be extracted from the plant or made in a lab and sold as a product by itself. Nowadays, you can find CBD in products ranging from gummies to droppers, sprays to capsules, vapes to topical creams and lotions. 

CBD is available in countries where cannabis is illegal, like the UK, and in the US, it can be sold legally if it’s extracted from the hemp plant. But CBD isn’t regulated, so the benefits that some products promise may not be true. It’s currently classed as a supplement, not a medication, so in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the products. 

We break down what we know about whether cannabis helps with sleep here. 

Does CBD Help with Sleep?

More research needs to be done to determine whether CBD can help with sleep, but here’s what we know so far. 

The Good

CBD may be able to: 

Improve Sleep for Those with Sleep Disorders 

A 2018 study found CBD was associated with greater symptom relief in insomniacs than THC. 

And a meta-analysis found a 160-milligram dose of CBD increased sleep duration in insomniacs. The 160-mg CBD dose was compared to smaller doses of CBD, a placebo, and to nitrazepam, a prescription sleep aid

Another review found CBD oil reduced insomnia symptoms in PTSD-related sleep disturbances. And it also found that CBD may help those with Parkinson’s and REM sleep behavior disorder and those with excessive daytime sleepiness. 

Improve Sleep for Those with Anxiety or Chronic Pain

CBD may also help to improve anxiety. And as anxiety impacts sleep, this may indirectly improve sleep issues this way. 

CBD has been shown to help with many anxiety-related conditions — including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

CBD may be a better option than many anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. One study found CBD didn’t impact participants’ sleep-wake cycles like benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can. 

Finally, a 2020 survey of people taking prescriptive CBD found patients with non-cancer chronic pain and mental health symptoms experienced improvements in pain, depression, and anxiety. Improved sleep and appetite were also positive side effects. 

Improve Sleep in the General Population

CBD has also been shown to improve sleep in general. Here’s what the research says it may help to do: 

  • Improve sleep efficiency: A 2021 study of cannabis users found higher CBD concentrations were associated with better sleep efficiency and sleep duration. Sleep efficiency is how long you spend in bed actually sleeping, taking into account the time it takes you to fall asleep and the time you spend awake during the night. The higher your sleep efficiency, the better. 
  • Increase total sleep time: A 2017 review found mid-to-high-dose CBD injections given to rats increased their time asleep. The high-dose CBD was shown to increase REM sleep latency, or how long it takes you to reach the REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of sleep, on the day of administration. But mid-range doses of CBD decreased REM sleep latency the day after administration. The review also found studies showing CBD blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression, but had no effect on the other sleep stages, such as light sleep and deep sleep.
  • Improve sleep short-term: A 2019 study looked at CBD use in 72 adults and found about 79% had lower anxiety and about 67% had improved sleep in the first month of use (as measured by The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index — a self-report assessment comprised of 19 measures of one’s own sleep), but those sleep improvements fluctuated over time. Most participants were also taking psychiatric medications, which may change how CBD affects them.  
  • Not change sleep architecture: Research also suggests CBD doesn’t change sleep architecture, or how long you spend in different sleep stages like REM and deep sleep, like other medications can. However, other studies suggest CBD does have this effect. 

The Bad 

While the research into CBD and sleep has promise, it’s not all good news. 

Research suggests CBD can:

  • Decrease deep sleep: The 2017 review we mentioned earlier included a study that showed CBD decreased deep sleep in young adults when used with THC.
  • Increase alertness and wakefulness: A small study found 15 mg of CBD had alerting properties, increased awake activity during sleep, and counteracted the sleepiness effect of THC. 
  • Mess up your circadian rhythms: Although research suggests CBD doesn’t affect the sleep-wake cycle, it may affect other circadian rhythms in the body. Your circadian rhythm is the roughly 24-hour internal biological clock that dictates when you feel awake, sleepy, and when your body makes certain hormones, for example. But you have circadian rhythms in almost every organ system and tissue in your body — these are called peripheral clocks. A 2018 study found CBD deregulated the circadian rhythm in microglial cells, which are found in the nervous system, whereas THC didn’t have the same effect. Your risk of adverse health conditions goes up when your circadian rhythms are out of whack.

The Ugly

There are many problems with CBD research on sleep. 

  • There’s not enough research: More research needs to be done to know for sure whether CBD helps sleep, and what the effects of long-term use are. The 2019 paper we mentioned earlier states more research is needed with “some urgency” too, considering how fast the CBD market is growing. 
  • More research on humans is needed: A 2021 review stated: “Despite this preclinical and experimental research, there is a lack of human clinical trials to establish the efficacy and appropriate CBD indications fully.” CBD products, especially those marketed as sleep aids, are being developed much faster than the research behind them. And the media attention CBD gets as a healthy sleep aid only increases its popularity, despite the lack of studies on it. 
  • Studies are often small or rely on self-reported data: Research is therefore prone to recall bias, where participants can’t remember things correctly. It is well-known, for example, that self-reported sleep duration overestimates actual sleep duration.
  • Studies often focus on how CBD helps those with health conditions: Sleep is often a secondary focus. And many sleep and CBD studies are on those with pre-existing sleep problems, rather than a healthy population.
  • Doses of CBD studied are different from the doses people use in everyday life: For example, most studies use high doses of 300 to 1,200 milligrams, but most people use much lower doses of less than 100 mg. In one survey, 54% used less than 50 mg daily. 
  • CBD affects us all differently: What improves sleep for some, may make it worse for others. It all depends on your own biology, the dose you take, and the way you consume CBD. 
  • There may be a placebo effect: As CBD is so highly marketed as a sleep aid, or at least a health-boosting supplement, it’s also possible that any sleep improvements are simply caused by the placebo effect

As well as problems with CBD research, there’s also little to no regulation in the CBD products out there. You never really know how much of the active ingredient you’re taking. For example, a 2022 study of CBD products in the UK found only 38% of analyzed products were within 10% of the advertised CBD content. Plus, 55% of products contained measurable levels of controlled substances, like THC.

Heads-up: The same goes for melatonin supplements, too. A 2017 study found supplements contained 83% less to 478% more melatonin than advertised on the label. You can learn more about how much melatonin is too much here. 

How to Take CBD for Sleep?

Want to try CBD to improve your sleep? Here are our tips to get it right. 

  • Start with a low dose and slowly increase it to higher doses: You don’t know how your body will react, so ease yourself in if you’ve never tried CBD before.
  • Buy your CBD from a reputable company: As CBD isn’t regulated, be cautious about where you buy it from.
  • Experiment with different forms of CBD: You may feel the effects of CBD quickest from vaping, but that may come with health risks. Consider capsules, gummies, and tinctures, and experiment to find the best CBD product for you.
  • Take CBD one to two hours before bed: How quickly you feel the effects will all depend on your method of consumption and your own biology. Edibles will take longer to kick in than vaping, for example. But, in general, take CBD an hour or two before bed if you’re taking it for sleep.
  • Consider CBD as a short-term solution: Experts still don’t know the long-term effects of CBD, so try to get to the bottom of poor sleep without relying on CBD each night.

Heads-up: If you think you’re suffering from a sleep disorder like insomnia or a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, speak to a healthcare professional to discuss treatment options. You should also seek medical advice before taking CBD if you’re on any medication or using melatonin supplements to ensure they can mix.

How to Improve Sleep Without CBD?

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Looking for a way to improve your sleep that doesn’t have the mixed research CBD does? We’ve got the answer: sleep hygiene. 

Sleep hygiene is the name for the set of habits you can do to improve your sleep. But they don’t just take place right before bed. These habits start the moment you wake up and can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and get healthy, natural sleep. 

You can learn more about sleep hygiene here.

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get natural light first thing: This resets your circadian rhythm for the day, setting you up to feel sleepy at the right time later that evening.
  • Avoid light before bed: Light suppresses melatonin production, also known as the sleep hormone. Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses about 90 minutes before bed to keep melatonin levels high.
  • Avoid caffeine, exercise, large meals, and alcohol too close to bedtime: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night. 
  • Make your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Aim for 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit and use earplugs, blackout curtains, and an eye mask to create the perfect sleep environment.

It may sound like a lot to remember, but the RISE app makes it easy to maintain excellent sleep hygiene each day. RISE guides you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and tells you the best time to do them based on your own circadian rhythm, which makes them more effective. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

Sleep hygiene can be better for sleep than CBD because: 

  • It’s proven to help improve sleep. 
  • There are zero side effects.
  • Children and pregnant women can do sleep hygiene safely.
  • You don’t have to worry about doses or mislabeled products. 
  • It’s free.
  • You may find you don’t need CBD for sleep when you improve your sleep hygiene.

Plus, if you do turn to CBD every now and again, excellent sleep hygiene will make sure nothing gets in the way of a good night’s sleep. You don’t want to take CBD for sleep only for late-night bright light or a large meal to keep you up. 

Heads-up: While sleep hygiene is better than CBD for sleep. CBD is most likely better than prescription sleep aids, which come with side effects and can be addictive. You can learn more about sleep aids here.

Swap CBD for Sleep Hygiene

The jury’s still out on whether CBD can help with sleep. Some studies show it may increase sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and help improve sleep for those with pain, anxiety, or a sleep disorder. But more research needs to be done.

If you want a guaranteed way to improve your sleep, turn to sleep hygiene. To get the most out of these sleep habits, use the RISE app to practice 20+ sleep hygiene habits at the exact right time for your circadian rhythm. This will help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and get enough sleep night after night, all without relying on CBD.

Go Deeper: Do These Sleep "Aids" Help With Sleep?

Summary FAQs

When to take CBD oil for sleep

Take CBD oil 1 to 2 hours before bed to get the sleep-boosting benefits. CBD affects us all differently, however, so you may need to experiment to find the best timing for you and whether it can actually improve your sleep or not.

Effects of CBD

The effects of CBD can include reduced anxiety and pain, and increased sleep duration and sleep efficiency. The side effects include dry mouth, diarrhea, drowsiness, and lightheadedness.

Does CBD make you tired?

While CBD can make some people feel tired, it can make others feel more alert. It all depends on the dose and your individual biology.

Does CBD help with anxiety?

Yes, CBD has been shown to help with anxiety. Research shows it can help with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Best sleep aid for adults

The best sleep aid for adults is sleep hygiene, the set of daily habits you can do that will help you fall asleep easier and wake up less often during the night. Unlike other sleep aids, sleep hygiene doesn’t have any side effects. The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and the best time to do each one.

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About Rise
Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
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