The popularity of CBD oil is booming. In addition to helping with chronic pain and anxiety disorders, the oil is claimed to improve insomnia and sleep disturbances caused by various conditions. But is the use of CBD oil as a sleep aid backed by science? And what’s the best way to take it? Read below to find out.
What Is CBD Oil?
Although CBD oil is most commonly used for chronic pain and anxiety, in an online survey ~25% of the 1,483 people who reported that they used CBD oil for a medical condition, responded that they used it for insomnia and other sleep disorders .
According to another study on almost 100 people using medical marijuana for sleep disorders, most preferred CBD- over THC-rich varieties. This was especially the case in people with insomnia, taking longer to fall asleep, or using marijuana frequently .
CBD Oil for Better Sleep: Does It Work?
Cues from Studies in Healthy People
A series of small clinical trials from the 70s on 40 healthy people given CBD found increased drowsiness as an occasional side effect [3+].
In turn, low doses of CBD suppressed the sleep-promoting effect of THC in a clinical trial on 8 healthy people .
Hints from Early Animal Studies
In an old study in rats, injected CBD increased the duration of the highly restorative deep sleep and reduced wakefulness after 5 hours but had no effect on REM sleep .
In a longer study (48 hours), CBD increased total sleep at various dosages. At high doses, it also increased deep sleep. But there’s a downside: giving the rats high doses during daytime increased their REM sleep latency–the time it takes to go into the dreaming phase of sleep .
Other studies in rats found that CBD promoted wakefulness.
Moderate IV doses at the start of the day increased levels of the wake-promoting neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine and its cholinergic activity also enhances cognition and learning .
What’s more, direct CBD injections into the brain reduced the duration of REM and deep sleep and promoted the buildup of adenosine and dopamine in two wake-inducing brain regions (lateral hypothalamus and dorsal raphe nuclei) [10, 11, 12, 13].
Comparison to THC
THC reduces REM sleep. But unlike CBD, it triggers a fuzzy high and impairs sleep quality in the long run. This might explain why heavy marijuana-smokers rarely dream. But when they stop marijuana, they often have vivid, strange dreams [14, 15, 16].
Different Doses, Opposing Effects
Because its effects on the sleep-wake cycle greatly vary with the dose and timing, CBD has been proposed to have a biphasic effect: that is, low doses promote wakefulness while higher doses increase sleep [17+].
Circadian Rhythm Dominance
Here’s another extraordinary fact: the effects of CBD may be dependant on your circadian rhythm.
More precisely, the 24h light/dark cycle (so-called diurnal rhythm) directly affects the activity of your cannabinoid receptors. This might explain why CBD promotes sleep later in the day, but energizes you in the morning. Scientists first discovered this link in 2017 and have yet to look into it in more detail .
Benefits for Insomnia
CBD is well-known for its exceptional safety and calming effects. Few studies have looked at its benefits for insomnia, while more focused on its anti-anxiety effects. However, many people with anxiety suffer from insomnia. If you’re one of them, you’re likely to get the most out of CBD oil .
In a small trial from the 80s on 15 people with insomnia, CBD improved sleep quality and reduced dream recall, suggesting the participants got more restorative deep sleep over REM [3+].
In a large 2019 case series on 72 people with anxiety and sleep disorders, lower-dose CBD capsules improved sleep quality in 2 out of 3 people. However, the effect on sleep disorders was not sustained over time; CBD was more effective for anxiety than sleep disorders in the long-term .
Another recent study used a mobile app to track over 1k people in the US with insomnia who use medical marijuana. They discovered that people who use CBD-rich strains sleep better than those who use strains high in THC. Both groups experienced similar side effects .
Sleep Issues from Other Health Conditions
CBD oil is most commonly used for chronic pain and anxiety, which are often accompanied by poor sleep. Most CBD clinical studies investigated sleep disorders as a secondary issue. We’ll dive into these studies to uncover additional cues about CBD’s sleep-enhancing potential [15+, 21+].
1) Chronic Pain
Chronic pain reduces sleep quality. In 5 clinical trials on over 800 people with chronic pain – from nerve injury, repeated nerve cell stimulation, and diabetes – different cannabis preparations improved sleep quality. However, those containing only THC or a combination of THC and CBD were more effective than CBD alone [22, 23, 24, 25, 26].
2) Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease. It causes nerve pain, involuntary muscle contraction, and bladder issues, all of which also reduce sleep quality. In 8 trials on almost 1.5k people with multiple sclerosis, only cannabis-based medicines combining THC and CBD in different proportions reduced sleep disturbances [27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34].
In 2 studies on over 100 people with IBD, cannabis (both oils and joints) improved sleep quality. However, the effects were reduced by over 50% in people smoking joints from THC-free flowers [35, 36].
Severe epilepsy is often accompanied by reduced sleep quality due to seizures. In 3 studies on over 200 children with treatment-resistant epilepsy, CBD-enriched cannabis preparations helped the children sleep better in ~50% of cases [37, 38, 39].
A range of traumatic experiences can lead to PTSD in some people. PTSD is tightly linked with insomnia, anxiety, and changes in REM sleep. In 2 studies, 9 out of 22 people said they slept better after taking CBD oil as an add-on therapy [40, 41].
In rats with PTSD, CBD preserved normal REM sleep but failed to affect other measures of sleep. It probably works by reducing the anxiety component of PTSD, which helps some people get decent sleep .
6) Parkinson’s Disease
People with this condition physically act out their vivid dreams and nightmares, often in a violent manner. They move their limbs, shriek, or even get up to engage in activities while the dream is taking place. The body should normally be paralyzed during REM sleep – the dreaming phase – but this starts to backfire in people with RBD .
CBD reduced agitation, aggressiveness, and nightmares during REM sleep in 4 people with Parkinson’s disease and RBD [43+].
In another trial on 6 people with Parkinson’s, CBD oil greatly improved sleep disturbances. According to a questionnaire, it also helped reduce psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions [45+].
7) Complex Movement Disorders
Complex movement disorders are an umbrella term for all conditions with abnormal movements and postures. Such movement disorders are mostly caused by brain injury (especially brain palsy) and strongly reduce a person’s quality of life [46+].
Medical cannabis preparations improved many symptoms of these disorders, including sleep problems, in a clinical trial on 25 children. However, those with the highest CBD-to-THC content were the least effective [46+].
8) Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, but it can also result in sleep disorders. In 3 people with this syndrome, oral CBD-enriched solutions reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality .
9) Sleep Apnea
The latest research reveals CBD can help with insomnia and a range of sleep disorders. How should you use it? Find out here.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, which unpredictably causes breathing to stop at times during sleep. It strongly reduces sleep quality. Although CBD oil is sometimes recommended for this condition, only synthetic THC called dronabinol has been tested for this purpose. Dronabinol reduced apnea and improved sleep quality in 3 clinical trials on over 100 people [48, 49, 50].
Want to Learn More?
If you’re curious about CBD, read about its 24 health benefits in this post.
CBD Oil Dosage for Sleep
The most effective doses to improve sleep quality in clinical trials depended on the condition:
- Insomnia: 25-175 mg/day [3, 19]
- Chronic pain: 15-120 mg/day (combined with THC) [30, 24+, 26+]
- Epilepsy: 0.5-28.6 mg/kg per day [37, 39]
- PTSD: 25-100 mg/day (adults) and 12-25 mg/day (children) [40, 41]
- Parkinson’s disease: 75-400 mg/day [43+, 45+]
- Complex movement disorders: 6-18 mg/day (combined with THC) [46+]
- Fragile X syndrome: 32-64 mg/day 
CBD is extremely safe. In healthy people, only extremely high doses can cause unwanted drowsiness (about 600 mg/day). Overall, CBD will promote wakefulness at low doses (15 mg/day) in people without sleep issues [5, 6].
The dose you should take will also depend on your weight and health condition. Start with a low dose and track your response. If you tolerate CBD oil well, increase the dosage gradually until you achieve the desired effect.
How to Use & When to Take
CBD oil comes in different forms:
- Oil tinctures
- Capsules and tablets
- Mouth sprays
- Gummies and lollipops
- Vaping oil
Your form of choice may depend on your sleeping patterns. Vaping, mouth sprays, and oil tinctures are absorbed more quickly and may be a good choice if you take a long time to fall asleep.
In turn, capsules, gummies, lollipops, and teas release the CBD more slowly and may help you sleep longer and without interruption.
Whatever form you choose, manufacturers often recommend taking CBD oil one hour before going to sleep.
Best CBD Oil for Sleep
In addition to choosing a CBD oil adjusted to your budget (you may want to calculate the price per mL to compare different brands), you should also evaluate the product quality. Here are some parameters to take into account:
- Hemp cultivation: be sure to investigate the conditions in which the hemp plants were grown to reduce your exposure to heavy metals and pesticides.
- Extraction method: some manufacturers extract and process the oil with toxic solvents such as propane and butane. Instead, choose those using safer methods such as alcohol, carbon dioxide, or cold pressed extraction.
- Independent testing: CBD oils tested by third-party laboratories are more likely to be safe and meet quality standards.
- CBD content: make sure that the oil contains enough CBD. The CBD content should be clearly stated on the label. If you want to avoid unwanted effects of THC or drug tests are part of your daily life, choose one with little or no THC.
- Flavor: some CBD oils have added flavors such as vanilla, mint, or cinnamon to make them more appealing. Others are flavor-free. Choose the one you prefer.
- Company reputation: do your homework and investigate the company to make sure it’s a reputable seller.
- Legality: Unlike marijuana-derived products, hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in all US states and in many countries around the world. Go for CBD oil from hemp to stay on the safe side and read through this post to make sure you’re not breaking any regulations.
There are no CBD oil products specifically formulated as sleep aids. Still, many people take CBD oil to improve insomnia and other sleep disturbances. They were generally satisfied and reported good results.
In some cases, the users complained that the oil didn’t work for them. Adverse effects reported in negative reviews included upset digestion, dry mouth, headaches, and fatigue. Depending on the brand, some users complained about its high price or poor customer service.
CBD Oil Side Effects
Overall, CBD oil is exceptionally safe and side effects are rare. In a survey on over 700 people using CBD for different medical conditions, the adverse effects most commonly reported were :
- Dry mouth
- Red eyes
Additionally, CBD may add to the effect of drugs that reduce inflammation and anxiety. It blocks a liver enzyme that breaks down many drugs (CYP2C19) and may increase their effects in the body [51, 52].
Talk to your doctor about your intention to use CBD oil if you’re on prescription drugs. He or she may need to readjust the dosage of the medication you’re taking.
Buy CBD Oil
Vendors sell CBD oil on Amazon, but many of them do not fulfill quality standards. Some don’t even specify the CBD content in their products, while others sell hemp oil with little or no CBD. Most of these vendors are not to be trusted.
We recommend the following brand, which specifies quality procedures and CBD content in their products:
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CBD oil can calm your mind without getting you high or making you overly drowsy. It helps with a range of sleep disorders, from insomnia to sleep issues caused by other health conditions.
However, CBD oil is best at reducing anxiety. It does also improve sleep quality, but its sleep-promoting effects may wane with time. People suffering from both anxiety and sleep problems will benefit from it the most. Take it a couple of hours before bed and start with a lower dosage.