Non-psychoactive cannabis constituent CBD might aid sleep in people with anxiety, and act as a sedative at higher doses.
CBD is a compound found in cannabis plants that is known for its non-intoxicating, medicinal effects. It may help with sleep through:
- Reducing anxiety. CBD may improve sleep for individuals with anxiety problems.
- Acting as a sedative. Higher CBD doses seem to function as calming, sleep-inducing agent.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid after THC in cannabis plants. CBD’s health benefits, which include improvement of anxiety, depression, pain, and inflammation – coupled with its lack of psychoactive effects – have made it a popular supplement for dealing with a variety of medical concerns. Indeed, unlike its close relative tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – which is responsible for the high experienced with marijuana use – CBD does not cause any intoxicating, mind-altering effects.
CBD is most commonly used to help with anxiety, depression, seizures, arthritis, chronic pain, and other conditions. It is also growing in popularity as a nootropic.
Although THC is better recognized as the ingredient responsible for the sleep-inducing effects of marijuana, it appears that CBD has some sleep benefits as well. More specifically, CBD functions as a sedative when used at higher doses. In addition, CBD seems to be a particularly promising sleep aid for people who suffer from persistent anxiety. It should be noted that this second effect does not induce sleepiness per se, but rather provides a calming effect that can help people with an anxious, overactive mind.
How CBD Might Help With Sleep
CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety via multiple mechanisms:
- Interacting with serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, which are known to regulate mood, stress, and emotion 1
- Boosting adult neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells in the adult brain 2
Acting as a sedative
High CBD doses (160 – 600 mg) have been reported to act like a sedative, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. 3
CBD Sleep Uses & Benefits
As a sleep aid, CBD is is popularly used to fight insomnia and improve overall sleep quality. More specifically, it can be used to promote healthy sleep in two ways:
- Indirectly aiding sleep by improving anxiety, resulting in tangible benefits such as reduced time to fall asleep and fewer sleep disturbances
- Directly improving sleep duration and quality by acting as a sedative at higher doses
In addition, it’s also theoretically possible that CBD can aid sleep for people with conditions marked by chronic pain, since it is well known to act as an analgesic (pain reliever). 4
Numerous rodent studies have examined CBD’s effect on sleep. Findings indicate that CBD may:
- Block anxiety-induced sleep disruption in rats 5
- Increase total sleep time in rats at higher doses6
- Promote wakefulness at lower doses7
- Reduce anxiety in mice and rats, which can aid sleep indirectly8 9
Early clinical research indicates that low CBD doses can actually promote alertness and wakefulness, whereas larger doses act a sedative. Moreover, CBD’s well-known improvement of anxiety may aid sleep indirectly in people with anxiety disorders.
This paper reviewed a number of clinical trials of CBD. In one of the trials, 15 insomniacs were given placebo or CBD (40, 80, or 160 mg). The 160 mg dose resulted in longer sleep time, less interruptions of sleep, and higher sleep quality in most of the participants.
- The researchers concluded that “160 mg cannabidiol significantly increased the number of hours the subjects slept, and all three doses decreased dream recall, which could be the consequence of less sleep interruptions during the night’s sleep. ” 10
In this double-blind study, people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) were given placebo or CBD (400 mg) and were examined using brain imaging. Compared to placebo, CBD was found to significantly decrease subjective anxiety, an effect the researchers attributed to changes in regional brain activity.
- The researchers concluded that “CBD reduces anxiety in SAD and that this is related to its effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas.” 11
This double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study examined the effects of THC and CBD on sleep in 8 young adults. They found that when combining the two cannabinoids at a dose of 15 mg each, CBD tended to counteract the sleepiness induced by THC.
- The researchers concluded that “Fifteen milligrams THC would appear to be sedative, while 15 mg CBD appears to have alerting properties as it increased awake activity during sleep and counteracted the residual sedative activity of 15 mg THC.”12
Dosage for Sleep
- Research studies have used doses as low as 15 mg to as high as 400 mg of CBD
- CBD supplements typically provide 20 – 25 mg doses of CBD, taken as as CBD hemp oil or CBD extract capsules
- In general, CBD seems to act as a mild wakefulness-promoting agent at lower doses (15 mg +), and as a sedative at higher doses (100 mg +)
Supplements in Review Says
- CBD as oil 20 – 160 mg for sleep.
CBD may help anxious people fall asleep, and act as a general sedative. If anxious thoughts keep you awake at night, CBD seems like a great option. And even if anxiety isn’t the problem, CBD functions as an all-around sedative at higher doses.
There is too little research to recommend a specific dose, so it’s best to start low. Most CBD supplements recommend starting with doses of 20 – 25 mg, which can be further raised to 160 mg and beyond for desired effect.
- Blessing EM et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Oct;12(4):825-36. ↩
- Campos AC et al. The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Jul;16(6):1407-19. ↩
- Zuardi AW et al. Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers. Braz J Med Biol Res. 1993 Feb;26(2):213-7. ↩
- Ethan B Russo. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008 Feb; 4(1): 245–259. ↩
- Hsiao YT et al. Effect of cannabidiol on sleep disruption induced by the repeated combination tests consisting of open field and elevated plus-maze in rats. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1):373-84. ↩
- Chagas MH et al. Effects of acute systemic administration of cannabidiol on sleep-wake cycle in rats. J Psychopharmacol. 2013 Mar;27(3):312-6. ↩
- Murillo-Rodríguez E et al. The nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent cannabidiol is a wake-inducing agent. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Dec;122(6):1378-82. ↩
- Guimarães FS et al. Antianxiety effect of cannabidiol in the elevated plus-maze. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1990;100(4):558-9. ↩
- de Mello Schier AR et al. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-60. ↩
- Carlini EA and Cunha JM. Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981 Aug-Sep;21(8-9 Suppl):417S-427S. ↩
- Crippa JA et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jan;25(1):121-30. ↩
- Nicholson AN et al. Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2004 Jun;24(3):305-13. ↩