Getting a good night’s sleep helps your day-to-day mood and productivity. It’s also crucial to your mental and physical health, diet, and interpersonal relationships. But good sleep isn’t always easy to come by.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is now widely touted as a helpful sleep aid. Many people prefer it for its easy and versatile ingestion methods, as well as its easy-to-personalize dosing options.
But how exactly can CBD help improve sleep, and will it work for you? To try to understand everything about CBD and sleep, we’re going to take a deep dive into the topic.
CBD Oil for Sleep: Our Team's Top Picks
Looking for the best CBD oil for sleep? The CBD Hacker team has selected a few of our highest-ranked products that have specific ingredients chosen to promote sleep and relaxation. Check them out below, or see our full ranking of this year’s best CBD oils to learn even more.
Mission Farms, Rest CBD Oil
Mission Farms created this CBD oil blend with sleep in mind. To help you relax and wind down at the end of the day, it offers bergamot, orange, lavender, and chamomile essential oils in every dropper.
Of these, lavender has the strongest demonstrated benefit for sleep.
Finally, chamomile also has very mild sedative properties that can help you get some rest.
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cbdMD Sleep Aid CBD PM
This CBD oil has been formulated to promote sleep by adding melatonin. This compound occurs naturally in the body and is involved with regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
The additional array of plant-based substances — chamomile, valerian root extract, passionflower, cascade hops, and lemon balm — boost the sleepy potential even further.
Valerian root, which may be a familiar all-natural sleep aid, is known to help you both fall asleep and experience more restful sleep. There is also evidence that passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, and hops can all promote better sleep, especially when combined with valerian root.
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Joy Organics: CBD Softgels with Melatonin
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CBDistillery: Nighttime Gummies
If you like to indulge in a sweet treat before you doze off at night, gummies are a popular choice.
These tasty candies combine a potent dose of CBD isolate. That’s combined with melatonin, which is also used as a standalone sleep aid.Shop Now
Lazarus Naturals: Lavender CBD Balm
It contains lavender oil, an essential oil that may be able to promote more restful sleep.
Many users also appreciate this product as a massage balm. The lavender oil provides a relaxing aroma as your skin absorbs the CBD oil.
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Table of Contents
- About sleep and insomnia
- About CBD oil
- CBD for sleep
- CBD and sleep medications
- Types of CBD products
- Safety, side effects and other concerns
About Sleep and Insomnia
Sleep may seem simple, but there are many ways it can get complicated. To understand why you may have trouble sleeping, let’s start with the fundamentals.
Sleep is the result of a variety of neurotransmitters being present in different levels in the brain. You may be familiar with serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that play key roles in the sleep-wake cycle. These chemicals are at lower levels when you’re asleep and at higher levels when you’re awake.
Other neurotransmitters, such as melatonin, affect how drowsy or sleepy you feel. Melatonin levels are high at night and low during the day. They’re a popular all-natural supplement people may take to try to induce a feeling of sleepiness if they have trouble falling asleep.
The amount of sleep and sleep quality we need each night largely depends on age. According to the American Sleep Association, Infants need about 16 hours, children and teenagers need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8. When we don’t get sufficient sleep, we accrue a sleep debt that we’ll eventually need to pay off.
Sleep deprivation, whether caused by bad habits, life circumstances, or disorders like insomnia, can be dangerous.
Being sleep deprived impairs your driving ability, similarly to if you were intoxicated on alcohol. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatigue behind the wheel is responsible for approximately 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths per year.
Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy, happy lifestyle. While sleep deprivation isn’t necessarily deadly on its own, it has been implicated in other medical conditions. Animal studies have even shown that rats deprived of sleep have about 95% shorter lifespans.
About CBD Oil
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a chemical compound found in cannabis plants.
Although CBD oil has many different effects, it primarily interacts with the body through cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is present in most animals. The ECS is not a singular, contained body part, but rather a network that exists across the nervous system and elsewhere in the body. It plays a role in a variety of bodily functions, including mood, appetite, and sleep.
CBD products are sold in three main varieties: CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD, and full-spectrum CBD.
In CBD isolate products, the only cannabinoid present is CBD. There is virtually no THC present.
Full-spectrum CBD oil products, on the other hand, contain small amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC. Although THC is psychoactive, the amount of THC in full-spectrum products is not great enough to induce psychoactive effects.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are made to get the benefits of other cannabinoids without the THC. In these products, the THC is removed, but CBD and other cannabinoids are left behind.
CBD for Sleep
There are plenty of anecdotal claims that CBD helps people both fall and stay asleep. But as of now, there is not substantial scientific evidence to back that up.
One of the issues is that there simply haven’t been many human studies that looked exclusively at sleep and CBD. The most direct study was one performed on rats in 2006. In the study, rats had CBD injected into their spinal fluid during different time periods meant to simulate morning and night.
When rats received CBD during the lights-on period, it appeared to make them more alert. But when they were given CBD during the lights-off period, it didn’t seem to make them any sleepier. In the end, the researchers observed that CBD may be more beneficial to people who have trouble oversleeping and need something to help them wake up.
Other papers also point to CBD as having distinct “wake-inducing” properties. A later paper from 2007 noted that it was not understood exactly why CBD can increase wakefulness, but suggested that it may have something to do with changes to dopamine levels.
Is CBD More Effective for Sleep When Combined with THC?
Other cannabis-based sleep research has looked at combinations of CBD and THC.
In a lengthy literature review, researchers found papers demonstrating that a near 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, in the pharmaceutical oral spray Sativex, helped improve sleep in people who suffer from diseases that can obstruct their sleep schedules. These diseases include sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
However, because the THC and CBD were tested together, researchers weren’t able to determine how each substance contributed to the effect.
Compared to CBD, more research has shown that low doses of THC can help people fall asleep. However, THC has also been shown to increase daytime sleepiness, meaning it may make people fall asleep at the wrong time of the day. For this and other reasons, THC is not widely recommended as a long-term sleep aid.
When higher doses of CBD were combined with THC, one study suggested that CBD can counteract THC’s sedative properties.
CBD’s Indirect Influence on Sleep
It seems that CBD’s biggest promise is as an indirect sleep aid.
For instance, an animal study found that CBD could mitigate feelings of anxiety that can keep people awake.
Another study on Parkinson’s patients showed that CBD could treat a side effect of the disease known as REM sleep disorder (RSD), which otherwise could disrupt patients’ sleep. Likewise, CBD’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties may treat various symptoms that could be preventing sleep.
At this time, we cannot demonstrate that CBD on its own is a particularly effective sleep aid. However, it does seem to work well in combination with THC. And if you’re using CBD to treat another disorder that has side effects that keep you up at night, CBD may indirectly help you sleep.
Is CBD a Good Alternative to Sleep Medications?
Sleep medications generally work via two different methods. They either act as mild sedatives or they adjust levels of neurotransmitters that induce sleep. CBD, however, may help you sleep through indirect methods such as treating stress, anxiety, or other interfering conditions.
The most common over-the-counter sleep aids contain either diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Aleve PM, etc.) or doxylamine succinate (Unisom SleepTabs) as their active ingredient. Diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate are both antihistamines that have sedative properties to induce sleep.
While they are effective treatments for insomnia, they have a range of adverse side effects, from daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, and blurred vision, to constipation, short-term memory loss, and impaired motor functions.
Ambien, a common prescription sleep aid, works by interacting with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter to slow down brain activity. While Ambien is a powerful sleep aid, it comes with a number of unwanted side effects. These range from mild things like headaches, drowsiness, and dizziness, to much more serious things like amnesia, depression, and suppressed respiration.
Some people also experience a kind of hangover feeling that makes them sleepy and impairs their driving abilities the next day. Others may also experience sleepwalking, sleep driving, and sleep eating while on Ambien.
CBD, however, has virtually none of these side effects and almost no potential for abuse. Although it may not make you fall asleep as effectively, CBD will not cause you to sleepwalk or impair your driving ability.
Best CBD for Sleep: Choosing a Delivery Method
Deciding which CBD application works best for your sleep needs can be tricky. To help, we put together a short breakdown of the different categories of CBD applications, along with descriptions of how you might best be able to use them as sleep aids.
Sublingual CBD Oil Drops for Sleep
You can take sublingual oils by placing a few drops under your tongue. When you hold it there, the blood vessels in your mouth absorb the CBD.
These products consist of CBD hemp extract blended with a carrier like hemp seed oil, MCT oil, or vegetable glycerin. In addition, they often contain essential oils, flavorings, or other ingredients, such as peppermint or vanilla.
Some of these additions — like lavender or melatonin — may have their own sleep-boosting properties. Others may help with related issues like pain relief or relaxation. You can either look for high-quality products with these ingredients, or choose unflavored, pure CBD products to get the effects of CBD alone.
Sublingual oils have a comparatively high level of bioavailability, meaning much of the CBD in the tincture actually ends up in your system. The effects tend to kick in more quickly than those of capsules or edibles, although not as quickly as inhalation.
Oils are well-suited to taking before bed, and their effects typically last for a few hours.
CBD Vape Oil for Sleep
Depending on the exact product and how much you inhale, CBD vape products can have extremely high bioavailability. That’s because you absorb CBD directly through the blood vessels in your lungs.
The effects from vaping CBD don’t last as long as those of CBD oils or tinctures. But if you’re looking for fast-acting relief, vape oils are a good choice.
Vaping devices do not heat the vape liquid to a point where it smokes or burns. Therefore, they don’t create the carcinogenic particles associated with inhaling smoke. But vaping CBD may present its own health concerns. Research that aims to better understand the safety profile of vape pens and e-liquid products is ongoing.
CBD Creams, Balms, and Transdermal Products for Sleep
While these products are all applied to the skin, there can be big differences in their bioavailability.
Most topical CBD products don’t penetrate beyond the upper layers of the skin. This makes them well-suited for treating localized pain and inflammation, but it also means that they’re not necessarily ideal as sleep aids.
However, if you have sore muscles or achy joints that make sleep difficult, a topical CBD cream, salve, or massage oil may be just what you’re looking for.
Transdermal creams and gels, on the other hand, penetrate through the skin to reach the bloodstream. This means that they don’t just affect one part of the body — your circulatory system carries the CBD throughout your body.
If you want continual CBD treatment, transdermal patches may be a good choice. You can apply a patch before going to sleep, so that you can absorb CBD continuously throughout the night.
CBD Capsules and Softgels for Sleep
Capsules and softgels are a discreet alternative to oils. Some manufacturers offer products that are specifically formulated for sleep with ingredients like melatonin or essential oils.
CBD capsules and softgels offer some specific benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side, their lack of flavor and aroma make them a good choice if you’re not fond of the taste of hemp.
CBD capsules generally have a slower onset time because the digestive system must break them down before they can enter the bloodstream. This process also destroys some of the CBD before the body can absorb it.
That slower onset means that they may not act quickly enough if you need help falling asleep. If, on the other hand, you need help staying asleep, these can be a good choice. That’s because when the effects kick in, they tend to last longer than with other methods.
CBD Edibles for Sleep
Edibles behave like capsules, because your body must digest them before the CBD reaches your system. This means that they have similar benefits and drawbacks. They have a slower onset compared to other methods, but the effects may last longer.
And while capsules use a shell to deliver CBD without the taste of hemp, CBD gummies and other edibles use flavoring to enhance or mask the natural taste of cannabis.
Edibles like baked goods often contain smaller doses of CBD. So, make sure the amount in the product is high enough to actually help you sleep. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for other ingredients like sugar or caffeine that might disrupt your sleep.
Smoking or Vaping CBD Flower for Sleep
The flower refers to the part of the cannabis plant that people smoke and which produces the majority of cannabinoid content in the plant.
Although a typical “marijuana” flower has a high amount of THC and low amount of CBD, there are some varieties of cannabis that produce high levels of CBD and very little THC. The flowers from these strains are increasingly available for smoking or vaping, and many are low enough in THC to legally qualify as hemp.
Since smoking creates carcinogenic smoke particles, some people may want to use a dry herb vaporizer, which heats the plant material without burning it. This method is useful if you want the quick onset of inhalation and whole-plant benefits of the flower without the risks associated with combustion.
One of the main drawbacks to using CBD flower is that hemp looks and smells exactly like “marijuana.” And most law enforcement agencies in the US don’t have the technology to test for precise THC content — they can only test for the presence of THC.
Finding the Best Dosage for CBD and Sleep
While it’s important to understand the varieties of CBD products available and how they can help you sleep, it’s just as important to know how much to take.
There is not a consistent dosing guide that works for everyone. However, there is a general sentiment that you should “start low, go slow, and stay slow.”
Doctors can recommend CBD, but it’s up to patients to figure out which dosages work best for them, especially since the dose size may produce different effects.
While some studies have found that low doses of CBD can make you feel awake, a study published in 1981 found that larger doses, 160 mg of CBD daily, helped people sleep better. That means the amount of CBD you take may be an important factor in whether or not it keeps you awake or helps you fall asleep.
Some users claim that CBD helps with mild insomnia or just falling asleep in general. If you have mild sleep issues, CBD may be able to help you. However, if you suffer from severe insomnia, you may be better off talking with your doctor to find more powerful treatments.
The concentration of CBD in a given product is also something to consider. The concentration refers to the total amount of CBD measured in milligrams per serving. In most cases, lower concentrations will be between 5 – 15 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) and higher concentrations can go up to 50 or 60 mg/mL.
CBD affects everybody differently, so a dose that feels high to one person may feel low to another. The best way to figure out the dose that works best for you is to start out low. Then, slowly work your way up until you have a dosing amount that feels effective.
Part of your dosing regimen includes how often you take CBD. Finding a good schedule is also a process of trial and error. The safest way to proceed is by starting out with infrequent doses. After you’re familiar with how CBD affects you, you can start to take it more or less frequently.
Side Effects and Safety Concerns When Using CBD For Sleep
Although the World Health Organization found CBD to have a good safety profile, there are some issues to consider.
One principal concern is that CBD may interact with other medications. This could make the effects of those drugs feel either more or less intense than normal. Before taking CBD for sleep, consult with your doctor to make sure you won’t experience unexpected interactions with other medications you may be taking.
Another concern is whether or not CBD can make you fail a drug test. While drug tests don’t specifically look for CBD, it’s not unheard of for people taking CBD to fail a drug test. Even people taking CBD isolate, with no THC in it, have shared stories of false positive results.
One possible reason is that the trace amounts of THC contained in full spectrum products could build up in the system over time. The body can store THC, and even small amounts could be enough to build up over time and cause a positive result on a drug test.
There is also potential for your digestive system to turn CBD into a THC metabolite. That, in turn, can show up on drug tests. Given the technical possibility that CBD products could make you fail a drug test, many CBD brands now add disclaimers to their labels.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that you choose a high-quality product from a reputable manufacturer. Be sure to look for a company that is transparent about where their hemp comes from, and what extraction methods they use.
And whether the hemp plants come from Kentucky, Colorado, New York, or Europe, the company should use organic hemp farming methods and should publish recent, complete third-party lab test results for their products.
CBD Oil for Sleep: Is it Right for You?
There is certainly more room for research into CBD’s potential as a sleep aid, especially when it comes to human trials.
CBD has the potential to indirectly help treat insomnia and induce sleep by treating inflammation, pain, and anxiety that can interfere with sleep. CBD also appears to work hand-in-hand with THC to promote sleep. Low-THC medical cannabis strains and products that mix higher ratios of CBD to THC may be especially useful as sleep aids.
Considering CBD’s relatively high safety profile, low potential for abuse, and few side effects, it appears to be a good candidate to study further. Prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids have many side effects that CBD does not.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether CBD helps you sleep better. Many people claim it does, but you’ll have to see for yourself how much it can help you. Hopefully this article has given you the information and guidelines needed to make the best choice for yourself.