This Article Might Knock You Out

Sleep medications rack up $2 billion in sales for Big Pharma. But the side effects can give you nightmares. Is CBZZZZ the cure for insomnia?
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Anxiety leads to insomnia, insomnia leads to more anxiety. Scientists say CBD can help break the cycle without making you high.

Anxiety leads to insomnia, insomnia leads to more anxiety. Scientists say CBD can help break the cycle without making you high.

CBD’s popularity is skyrocketing, and that’s in large part because people are finding it helps them sleep. How does CBD lend a medicinal hand? Researchers are still digging for clues, but preliminary studies have unearthed a few nuggets that might help you nod off.

Calming Effects 

Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, molecules that make us feel good—the runner’s high, for example—and have a calming effect on the nervous system. CBD is a plant source of phytocannabinoids: molecules that are so similar to our own endocannabinoids that our bodies react to them in much the same way. 

These cannabinoids, whether they’re made by our bodies or obtained from CBD supplements, seem to play a role in regulating our sleep. A University of Paris study of central nervous system cells found that CBD influences certain genes that regulate our circadian rhythms. Early research, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1981, tested different CBD doses on 15 volunteers with insomnia. It found that people slept significantly longer after taking a single 160mg dose of CBD. A few of the volunteers felt drowsy the next day but there were no other side effects, no signs of toxicity, and no psychotropic effects of a “high.” 

Related: Snooze Control

The Sleep-Anxiety Connection 

Research published in the Permanente Journal in 2019 tested a daily CBD dose of 25mg in 72 patients at a Colorado mental health clinic. All were suffering from anxiety and/or insomnia, and were also getting other treatment, including medications in many cases. The study tested patients monthly. 

After one month, 79% of patients felt significant improvements in anxiety, and 66% enjoyed sounder sleep; these conditions worsened among some others in the study. Anxiety improvements continued during the remaining two months of the study, but sleep fluctuated. For anxiety, study subjects took CBD in the morning; for sleep, they took it after dinner. 

The researchers found that CBD was better tolerated than psychiatric drugs and that there was no evidence of any safety issues. They concluded that although there was a significant improvement in sleep among some patients, CBD seemed to hold more promise as a treatment for anxiety. 

Related: CBD Oil: Anxiety Aid & Much More

PTSD and Parkinson’s 

One of the manifestations of Parkinson’s may be significant and disturbing physical movements during sleep because dreams are acted out. Called REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), the movements can be intense and violent. In Brazil, researchers tested CBD on four Parkinson’s patients and found that it substantially reduced the occurrence of RBD. 

Other research has found that CBD reduced nightmares in people suffering from PTSD. In an eight-week study, doses of 25–100mg in capsules at the start, followed by daily doses of 116mg in an oral spray, were found to be effective. The exact doses were based on how individuals responded to the CBD 

Forms and Doses for Better Sleep

Experts typically recommend starting low and going slow, to avoid possible side effects such as drowsiness the next morning.

Here’s an estimate of how long different forms take to be absorbed and produce an effect:

  • Tinctures: Hold under the tongue for rapid absorption. Most see effects within 15 minutes.
  • Capsules: These must be broken down in your digestive system before being absorbed, and you may not feel an effect for up to 2 hours after swallowing them.
  • Food and Drink: Be patient. Your digestive system has to absorb it.
  • Lotions, Balms, and Ointments: Rub topical CBD on the area you wish to quiet down. Feel the effects in about 15 minutes.
  • Doses: The right dose for one person may be too much or too little for someone else. So start with a low dose, see how you respond, then ramp up gradually as needed.