Connect with us


CBD and sleep: What does the research say?



CBD can help ease a number of symptoms which contribute to a good night's sleep
Listen to this article

Increasing numbers of people are reporting that CBD helps them switch off and drift off, but is the evidence there to back it up?

A good night’s sleep is crucial for both our physical and mental health, with ongoing sleep deficiency being linked to a number of high-risk health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. 

Despite National Sleep Foundation guidelines advising that healthy adults should aim for between seven and nine hours, previous studies have shown that, on average, Brits are only getting around six hours and twenty minutes shut-eye each night. 

With the Covid-19 pandemic and tolls of 2020 wrecking further havoc with our patterns – research from a team at Southampton University found a sharp rise in the number of Britons suffering from insomnia and anxiety-induced sleep problems – more and more are left searching for new methods to combat sleep issues. Could CBD be the answer?

While the effect of cannabis on sleeping patterns remains an underdeveloped area of research, interest is certainly growing as we search for natural alternatives to potentially addictive sleep aids such as diazepam (Valium) and zolpidem. 

The most common sleep condition in adults is insomnia, which is thought to affect around a third of people in the UK. The severity of the condition varies, ranging from mild insomnia symptoms of struggling to drift off and waking up frequently, to the most serious cases struggling to sleep for an entire night. 

The symptoms of insomnia can be caused by a number of external factors, such as too much caffeine or noise, but the most common cause is thought to be stress and anxiety. The stress hormone, cortisol, is usually at its highest level in the morning, however those with insomnia or other similar conditions will likely experience higher than normal levels at night. 

Early research into this area looks promising, with a 2019 study which retrospectively reviewed monthly documentation of anxiety and sleep quality in 103 adult patients finding that anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 79.2% of patients, and sleep scores improved within the first month in 66.7% of patients.

Meanwhile, a paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that systemic acute administration of CBD appears to increase total sleep time, in addition to increasing sleep latency in the light period of the day of administration. 

It has also been noted that in smaller doses, CBD stimulates alertness and reduces daytime sleepiness. While it may seem counter-productive to increase alertness in insomniacs, this is actually very important for daytime performance and to improve strength and consistency of the sleep-wake cycle, therefore improving sleeping patterns. 

A review from 2017 echoed these sentiments, with researchers noting that preliminary research into CBD has found that CBD “may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia” and that it “may hold promise for REM sleep behaviour disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness”.

Another way in which CBD may help those suffering from poor sleep is by aiding relaxation. While CBD won’t get you high like THC, the main psychoactive ingredient cannabinoid found in cannabis, it can provide similar feelings of relaxation. 

CBD is a CB1 antagonist, meaning it blocks or modulates intoxicating or euphoric effects, leading many to believe that the remedy is a good way to decrease the negative side effects of THC and instead help users relax and de-stress, which can be crucial when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.  

While it’s clear more research is needed to determine the exact effects CBD has on sleep, it’s important to note that preliminary findings are heading in the right direction to show that it could be an alternative, natural remedy for those suffering with disorders. 

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health.Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained.She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa.Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag