CBD Oil for Sleep
How CBD oil can improve your sleep
Sleep is one of those things we foolishly think we can do without, but the effects of going without proper sleep can range from mild to debilitating. Evidence suggests that taking CBD oil for sleep conditions can help people to get a better night’s sleep, without the unwanted side effects caused by the use of traditional pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for sleep issues. In this article, we present research links, as well as anecdotal accounts, and look at how cannabidiol may help people with sleep issues. We also look at how you can get a better night’s sleep by making simple lifestyle changes that won’t hurt a bit. Read on if you wish to understand why cannabidiol is being used by consumers to help them achieve the incredible health benefits to be gained by obtaining a good night’s sleep.
Why is sleep important for health?
Sufficient sleep is probably the number one prescription for better health outcomes. English neuroscientist and world-renowned sleep expert—Dr Matthew Walker, aka The Sleep Diplomat—calls sleep “the elixir of life” and says one in two Americans do not get sufficient sleep. He hammers home the point that a good night of sufficient sleep is more important than diet and exercise in maintaining yourself in a state of good health.
“It’s not the third pillar of good health alongside diet and exercise. It’s the foundation on which those two other things sit.”
How does CBD oil help with sleep problems?
When you look at some of the factors that contribute to a bad night’s sleep (either short or long term) it’s easy to see how CBD oil and CBD products can help sufferers with sleep issues.
What stops us from sleeping?
There are many reasons why people can’t sleep, can’t stay asleep, don’t sleep long enough, or don’t have quality sleep. Here are some of the more common causes of poor sleep.
Stress and anxiety
Affecting something like 25% of Australians, stress and anxiety is a major contributor to poor sleep. Our modern lifestyles—driven by technology and the endless pursuit of just about everything—are winding us up more and more, and we live in this constant state of hyperarousal. With information overload and back-lit screens confusing our poor little brains, no wonder we’re hyped up and can’t sleep. CBD oil is an effective treatment for anxiety, with research behind it. Read more in our anxiety article here.
If you suffer from chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can be. If that’s not enough salt in the wounds, just when you need healing the most, you fail to benefit from the reparative benefits of sleep because the pain keeps you awake or disturbs your sleep, night after night. It’s a vicious cycle. Chronic pain may include: neuropathic pain from a variety of diseases and conditions, arthritic pain, limb pain from Restless Leg Syndrome, back pain, the list goes on. Inflammation is a major cause of many of these pain-related symptoms, and there is an appreciable amount of evidence to support using CBD products for pain and inflammation. Read more in our autoimmune and inflammation article here.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Affecting up to 1 in 12 Americans, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental-health condition that radically affects sleep quality. Dr Walker explains that phenomenon that many of us have experienced, where we don’t sleep very well when we stay in an unfamiliar place, like a hotel. He explains that our brain kicks into survival instinct in unfamiliar sleep situations and actually keeps us half awake during the night, so we can be alert to the threat of danger. So if you are diagnosed with PTSD, one of the debilitating symptoms is being in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. Ipso facto, no sleep. PTSD is a hot research topic, and there is a lot of research discussing the effectiveness of CBD for PTSD-related symptoms, many of which are listed here at Project CBD.
As our population ages rapidly, it is estimated that 1% of Australians over 60 suffer from Parkinson’s disease, and it affects over 82,000 Australians in total. CBD oil is a promising treatment for many Parkinson’s symptoms, and Project CBD provide a good summary of treating many symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease with CBD. REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) is where sufferers physically act out their dreams in their sleep, and it’s a symptom of Parkinson’s that causes potentially harmful sleep issues such as violence, falls, and disrupted sleep. The great news is that a 2014 Brazilian study concluded that “CBD is able to control the symptoms of RBD.”
Pharmaceutical medicines that interfere with sleep
A variety of commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs can interfere with your ability to sleep or sleep well. Some of the main offenders include: meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, heart tablets, corticosteroids for arthritis and asthma, sedation-style antihistamines for allergies, cold and flu preparations, SSRIs for depression, ADHD stimulants, nicotine replacements, and ironically sleeping tablets. Many people report that they reduce the number of pharmaceutical medicines they take when they start using CBD supplements. We always recommend you talk to your health professional before adjusting your pharmaceutical medications.
Other causes of poor sleep
Too many to name (and you’ll find quite a few listed on the Sleep Health Foundation website), but other causes of sleep issues include: jet lag, sleep apnea, dementia, grinding your teeth, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), menopause, depression, and pregnancy.
Research supporting use of CBD Oil for sleep
Here is a summary of some of the publicly available research available to help you decide whether CBD oil might help you manage your sleep-related issues.
A research review published in 2017, by the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs National Center for PTSD, noted that, “preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
A 2013 Brazilian study concluded that CBD was found to “increase total sleep time” in rats.
A 2018 Brazilian study reported that CBD does not “alter sleep architecture” which is really good news in terms of the quality of sleep you might obtain from taking CBD, as opposed to the unnatural way sleep is induced using pharmaceutical medicines such as benzodiazepines and SSRIs.
Perhaps even more interesting (and potentially confusing) is that CBD can promote alertness during the day, which then naturally lends itself to improved sleep during the night. When you supplement your diet with plant cannabinoids from cannabidiol (CBD), it helps your endocannabinoid system (ECS) to maintain balance in the body. According to Project CBD, that restoration of balance—called homeostasis—positively affects your sleep-wake cycle.
We have listed a number of other research references here relating to medicinal cannabis and its effects on sleep and insomnia.
Is CBD good for insomnia? Practical dosing advice
For insomnia, you will need to experiment to see what works best for you. Some people report that taking CBD makes them more alert, so taking it at bedtime has the opposite effect to what they want. Others find taking CBD just before going to sleep works best. Try taking CBD just before bedtime, and if that doesn’t help, switch your dosing regime to the morning only.
Start around 2-3 drops. Increase or reduce your dosage as needed. You can also try taking CBD spread throughout the day so you maintain a more even amount in your system at all times.
If CBD is making you alert, just avoid it in the evenings. Take a morning dose, an afternoon dose, and skip the evening dose. CBD can support your body’s natural sleep cycles so it doesn’t matter so much when you take it. You can also try taking a little less to see if that makes any difference. Keep a diary of your dosage regime, and make notes of any improvements or times when you had worse sleep. Also note your diet, exercise and stress levels. A simple change there can also have a massive influence on your insomnia. By experimentation and adjusting your doses, you should be able to find what gives you the best results.
A final thing to check, if nothing works, is whether the CBD you are using is RAW or DECARBOXYLATED. Each has a slightly different effect on different people. Try switching products or using one in the morning and the other in the evening. Also give it time, find a dosage regime that works, and then keep on it for a few weeks. Sometimes it takes a while for the CBD to rebalance everything.
Testimonials from patients who use CBD as a treatment for their sleep conditions
Users of CBD report that it helps them sleep better at night. Some people who use CBD oil for other issues have found better sleep to be a welcome side effect of using CBD products, even though they don’t consider sleep issues to be their primary reason for using cannabidiol. Here are just a few.
“Sleep was immediately improved”
“I find that I sleep much better and wake up fully refreshed”
“Sleeping has improved so much”
“Her sleep is deeper and better”
“She has long restful nights of sleep”
“I sleep wonderfully through the night”
Side effects from pharmaceutical sleeping pills
Traditional medicine treats sleep issues with a variety of pharmaceutical drugs collectively known as hypnotic sedatives or downers. Sleeping pills tend to be benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Valium) and barbiturates (e.g. Amytal, Nembutal). The problem with these drugs is that sufferers report that they have a number of unwanted and potentially serious side effects, including feeling groggy during the day, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, and the icing on the cake is that they can be fatal in high enough doses. Doesn’t sound like the basis for a productive day’s work or a good night’s reparative sleep to us.
Does THC help with sleep disorders?
Probably not. Whilst CBD can help manage health issues that stop you from sleeping well, it’s thought that the psychoactive cannabinoid, known as THC, interferes with sleep long term. Dr Walker says that whilst people who smoke or take THC might find it puts them to sleep quicker, somewhat like a sedative, it’s not ‘natural’ sleep, because THC disrupts your all-important REM sleep. This is why people who abstain from THC then find they have wildly vivid dreams, because the brain reboots the system and tries to catch up on REM sleep by going into REM overdrive.
A 2014 review of the sleep literature found that while CBD had “therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia”, THC “could impair sleep quality long term.” Similarly, in 2016 a team of researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health reported that daily users of THC were worse off on the “insomnia severity index” and found that “daily use results in the worsening of sleep.”
What is sufficient sleep?
Dr Walker says that between seven to nine hours’ sleep a night is considered sufficient sleep. Anything less, and you’re on a slippery slope to serious ill health. It seems that just 6.5 hours of sleep every night for a week is enough to descend your health into a sickening spiral of lifestyle diseases.
“The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”
Is insufficient sleep bad for you?
Absolutely and categorically 100% yes! Lack of sleep is a modern health pandemic, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancer. If that’s not enough incentive to get a good night’s sleep, then we’re not sure what is.
“The decimation of sleep throughout industrialised nations…is having a catastrophic impact on our health and our wellness”
Short-term signs of insufficient sleep
Here are some of the things Dr Walker says you will experience when you haven’t had enough sleep. You’ll probably notice these after just one crappy night’s sleep:
- reduced alertness
- lack of ability to concentrate
- difficulty with learning and memory
- behavioural problems
Long-term effects of insufficient sleep
Keep on burning the candle at both ends, and you might find yourself on the pointy end of a few lifestyle diseases, and a few other things you hadn’t thought of.
Probably the ultimate lifestyle downer, Dr Walker bluntly says you’ll be “dead sooner”. Whump whump. Get the point?
“Sleep is the elixir of life.”
Hiding your own Easter eggs might seem like a fun way to spend your time, but dementia and Alzheimer’s is no laughing matter. Dr Walker explains that getting “insufficient sleep across your lifetime” is now considered a significant factor in determining whether you will get Alzheimer’s or not. Everytime you go without sufficient sleep, you are incurring low-level brain damage. Walker says that when you sleep, your brain cleans out all of the toxins that build up during the day. When you go without sleep, your brain can’t adequately flush those toxins out (including the Alzheimer’s- causing beta-amyloid proteins). Think about that for a moment.
“Insufficient sleep across your lifespan…determines Alzheimer’s.”
You can call yourself curvy if you like, but don’t sleep enough, and you’re gonna get fat. Walker calls it a “critical factor in the obesogenic epidemic”. And don’t bother trying to lose weight by extreme fasting because—as Dr Walker explains—your brain will kick the starvation hormones into gear, thereby making you more wakeful so you can go out looking for more food, caveman style. Sleep regulates appetite, so you need sufficient sleep if you’re managing your weight. And not only will you eat more, you’ll eat more of the wrong things. There’s no way around it—or around you for that matter—if you keep going without sleep.
“Lack of sleep has such a strong obesogenic profile.”
Death by drowsy driving
Research conducted in 2008 confirmed that the western world has a staggering problem with death and disablement caused by drowsy driving, particularly in relation to young drivers. Dr Walker says that with drugs and alcohol at the wheel, it’s a case of “under reaction”. But when you bring lack of sleep into it, you start to have microsleeps at the wheel, and then it’s a case of “no reaction at all”. That’s sobering.
“Drowsy driving kills more people than drugs or alcohol combined.”
Death due to medical error
Booked in for a surgery? Maybe ask them how much sleep they had last night before you submit to the anaesthetic. If they’ve had less than six hours’ sleep, you’ve got a 170% increased risk of them making a “major surgical error”, says Dr Walker. A study conducted by a John Hopkins research team, concluded that you’re more likely to die from a medical error than of respiratory disease (the third leading cause of death in the United States before this study). You are only more likely to die of cancer or heart disease. Dr Walker claims that one in five serious medical errors are made by drastically underslept medical residents, and in the United States there are currently over 20,000 medical residents. Do the maths. Walker says that underslept residents are “460% more likely to make diagnostic errors in the intensive care unit.”
“1 in 20 medical residents will kill a patient because of a fatigue-related error.”
You don’t need to be a neuroscientist to know that lack of sleep doesn’t put you in a good mood. Sleep and mental health are a bit of a catch-22. Harvard Medical School talks about how your inability to sleep (how much, how well, or both) can increase your risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Not only that, but people with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and ADHD experience sleep problems as part of their condition. Gah. The good news is they say that if you treat the sleep problem, you can help treat symptoms of some of those mental-health issues. Dr Walker calls the prefrontal cortex in your brain, the “emotional gas pedal”, and he says it’s the “first thing to go when you’re sleep deprived.” It’s a pretty cool description, because the prefrontal cortex is what makes you all rational and logical and less emotional and impulsive. It governs that all important organisation, planning, and executive function. It gives us self-control, and if we don’t have control over our frontal lobes, things can get a bit… well um, awks.
“Sleep is critical for emotional first aid and mental health.”
Dr Walker says that lack of sleep makes you immune deficient. A study was conducted where participants were allowed to sleep only six hours a night for one week. They found that after just one week of insufficient sleep, participants’ genes were profoundly distorted in their activity. Dr Walker says that one half of the genes were over expressed, including the ones that are related to the promotion of malignant tumours, chronic inflammation, and cardio-vascular disease; and the other half were under expressed, being mainly the ones that make your immune system work.
Further reading: see our in-depth article discussing how CBD can help with the symptoms of autoimmune diseases and inflammation.
“Insufficient sleep will even erode the very fabric of biological life itself – your DNA code.”
If all of that’s not disturbing enough, in 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organisation) classified shift work as a “probable” carcinogen. This research was somewhat controversial, and a further review of the available literature in 2010 means the jury still seems to be out on whether shift work causes cancer. The conclusion about the WHO classification being that there is no conclusion, and further epidemiological studies are needed. However, Dr Walker explains that after just one night of four hours’ sleep, the natural killer cells in our body (i.e. the immune-system cells that do kind of important stuff like fighting cancer) go into a state of immune deficiency, and there is a 70% reduction in their ability to “target malignant cells”.
“The link between sleep and cancer is strong.”
Productivity at work
If you weren’t feeling bad enough about not getting enough sleep, your chronic, underslept state is contributing to the economic downfall of your country. Your country needs you… to SLEEP. Dr Walker says that we’re more productive, more efficient, and more creative at problem solving when we’re well slept. Research published by RAND Corporation in 2016 quantified the cost to global economies through lack of sleep as 2% of their total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). RAND says that’s $411 billion dollars lost to the United States alone through lack of sleep. Thought of as the hardest working nation on earth, the Japanese lose 600,000 working days per year due to employees’ lack of productivity due to the status and value they put on long working hours and short hours spent sleeping. Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation says that nearly one in three Australians aren’t getting enough sleep, and it’s costing us $66 billion. Lie awake and ponder what those savings could be spent on. Education, healthcare, housing, zzzzzzzz.
“Less sleep does not equal more productivity.”
Benefits of sufficient sleep?
Matthew Walker describes sleep as the “Swiss Army knife of health”. That pretty much says it all. When you get sufficient quality sleep, you benefit from the reparatory function of sleep. Harvard University tells us that getting a good night’s sleep has benefits for many of our body’s big-hitting systems, including: our immune system, our metabolism, our memory, and learning. Not only that, but we generally feel better in our mood, and we’re better at solving problems. Our body and our mind just work better together when we’ve had a good sleep.
Five ways to get a good night’s sleep
Dr Walker says there are five things you can do right off the bat to help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Regularity – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Light – keep it dark. Turn the lights down, and stay away from lit up screens. These can trick your brain into thinking it’s not bed time and you won’t feel sleepy.
- Temperature – keep it cool. Apparently your brain has to cool down by 2-3 degrees to get into sleep mode, so keep your sleeping quarters cooler not hotter.
- Sleep aids – avoid them! Keep away from alcohol and caffeine. Caffeine is probably obvious, but some people actually use alcohol to help them sleep. Not a good idea says Dr Walker, who says it’s a sedative that just zonks you out, and you’ll miss out on important deep sleep.
- Don’t just lie there – if you haven’t dropped off in about 20 minutes, don’t just lie there counting the minutes until you have to get up in the morning. Get up and go read a book in a room with very dim lights. When you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
Do you suffer too?
If you have used CBD oil to help manage your sleep issues, please tell us about it in the comments to help guide and give hope to other sleep-deprived sufferers.