CBD and Sleep Disorder: How CBD May Help with Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorder

About 40 million people in the US suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems. Studies on CBD and its effects on sleep do support CBD’s potential to interact with the sleep cycle. So how can cannabidiol (CBD) help to let you achieve normal sleep?
Written by 
Valerie Usher, Health & CBD Journalist.
|Last Updated:
CBD and Sleep Disorder

Using CBD Oil for Sleep Disorders and Insomnia: Does it Work?

When you have a sleep disorder, finding an affordable and effective solution can be frustrating. Traditional (whether prescription or over-the-counter) sleep medications often come with miserable side effects, the potential for misuse and a hefty price tag. In today’s market focused upon natural health, sustainability and fitness, consumers are looking beyond pharmaceuticals for help with their sleep problems.

One natural substance of public interest is cannabidiol (CBD) concentrate, which is exploding in the natural health field. This substance, extracted from cannabis and hemp plants, has already been proven to aid with epilepsy, anxiety symptoms and pain. Though evidence has yet to confirm its effects on sleep disorders and insomnia, more and more people are turning to CBD for help with sleep. According to a recent online survey given by Consumer Reports, 10% of respondents in the survey said they used CBD as a sleep aid.

But is CBD really an effective sleep aid? While research is currently underway, not enough evidence has yet been gathered to prove that CBD helps patients with sleep disorders. Anecdotal reports, however, do support CBD’s potential for assisting with sleep disorders, and other studies have found critical information suggesting that CBD could play a role in sleep.

What is CBD Oil?

Unlike its notorious sister cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t get you high. Like THC, CBD is naturally abundant in cannabis plants and it binds to receptors in your body to modulate physical effects via the body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD affects receptors differently when compared to THC, triggering beneficial bodily relief effects even without the presence of THC.

You can obtain the benefits of CBD without ingesting THC and experiencing a high feeling because CBD may be obtained from a non-marijuana source. Hemp, a form of cannabis, contains plenty of CBD but only a minimal quantity of THC. When CBD is extracted from hemp plants, the end-product is a concentrate of CBD containing less than 0.3% THC. These types of CBD extracts are legal in most states.

CBD can also be derived from potent THC laden cannabis, so the question of legality comes into play when purchasing CBD products. How do you know if your CBD purchase is legal?

The legality of a CBD product depends on its origin. CBD products are legal in most states so long as they are derived from hemp and contain only a small quantity of THC. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 defined hemp as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC and removed it from classification as a schedule I controlled substance.

THC is still a schedule I controlled substance. CBD concentrate from plants containing THC will inevitably contain the schedule I controlled substance. Unless you live in a state where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, it’s illegal to use CBD products that come from plants producing a high level of THC.

Why are People Using CBD?

So, why is everyone flocking to CBD? The same 2019 Consumer Reports survey revealed that about a quarter of Americans have tried CBD. One out of seven of those respondents further shared that they use CBD on a daily basis.

62% of respondents used cannabis to treat medical conditions. The top three reasons given for the use of CBD as a treatment were pain, anxiety and depression. Almost 36% of respondents said CBD works well on its own as a treatment. Only 4.3% said that CBD didn’t manage their conditions well. And let’s not forget the 10% of respondents who said they use CBD to help with sleep problems.

What Does Science Say?

Research is growing which supports CBD’s potential medicinal benefits, including the ability of the material to help with anxiety, sleep, pain, PTSD and epilepsy. Scientists now understand how CBD reduces inflammation through its interaction with CB2 receptors. A new study in progress specifically shows support for CBD’s ability to aid with sleep and help with insomnia.

Pre-clinical trials and clinical trials have begun to unlock the potential of CBD’s medicinal properties. There is already evidence suggesting CBD’s potential to help with:

  • Anxiety and stress response
  • Pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Neurological disorders

Is CBD Safe?

How do you know whether CBD is safe or not? Evidence so far shows CBD as being a safe substance for human use.

According to a 2018 statement by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD “is generally well-tolerated, with a good safety profile.”

Studies have found CBD is safe because it disperses quickly through the body and has a half-life of nine hours. It has very few side effects. In fact, many people who want to avoid the side effects of medication turn to CBD because it’s generally a very low risk method to try to treat their problem. Reported CBD side effects are not serious and include diarrhea, tiredness and changes in appetite.

To ensure complete safety, you should consult with a physician before you begin taking CBD oil in any form. You may be able to take CBD along with some other medications, but if your doctor says no, you shouldn’t replace your regular medications with CBD oil, particularly if the former are working.

What the Research Says About CBD and Sleep

Research into CBD and its effects on sleep has been varied and inconclusive over the years. There still isn’t enough evidence to say that CBD helps with sleep disorders or insomnia for sure. Studies so far do support CBD’s potential to interact with the sleep cycle. They reinforce the knowledge that CBD works on the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in sleep regulation.

A 2019 study published in The Permanente Journal by Colorado researchers found that “evidence points toward a calming effect for CBD on the central nervous system.”

This study was performed to examine the effects of CBD on both anxiety and sleep disorders. Results showed conclusive evidence that CBD helped patients with anxiety, but those patients who experienced improved sleep didn’t sustain these positive results beyond three months.

These results show that CBD could aid sleep when used as a short-term treatment method. Or, it may aid with anxiety, which prevents some people from falling asleep, thereby increasing their ability to obtain restful sleep.


Multiple studies have also demonstrated that the dosage of CBD is very important with regard to its effects. In trials, when administered at medium- to high-level dosages, CBD was effective at prolonging sleep. However, studies have repeatedly shown that at low doses, it causes consumers to experience wakefulness or alertness. One study found that when insomnia patients received at least 160 mg per day of CBD, their sleep duration increased and they were less likely to awaken during the night.

Sleep Apnea

Another common sleep disorder that patients may seek to treat is sleep apnea. The current therapy for this condition uses a machine called a CPAP, which is often uncomfortable for patients. Is CBD a suitable alternative treatment? Studies performed so far only found success in treating sleep apnea with synthetic cannabinoids. The study suggested that THC-type synthetics could hold potential value for treatment of sleep apnea. There’s just not yet enough data to determine whether CBD can help with sleep apnea.

What Form of CBD is Best, and How Much Should I Take?

Epidiolex is currently the only CBD product on the market approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This regulated pharmaceutical is used to treat two forms of epilepsy. All other forms of CBD in the U.S. aren’t regulated, so it’s difficult for consumers to be confident concerning the quality of CBD products they purchase.

Before you decide to try a natural remedy such as CBD, you should talk about it with your physician. Your doctor can give you valuable advice from a medical perspective, and possibly give you recommendations on dosage and which form to use. Even then, it’s important that you take care when selecting a CBD product. They are sold in many forms, shapes and sizes, and they are not one-size-fits-all.

CBD is usually extracted from the cannabis plant (generally industrial hemp) using either a solvent or steaming method. There are two main types of CBD oil available on the market right now: full-spectrum oil, which contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant, and CBD isolate, which contains only the CBD molecules. Researchers are finding that full-spectrum oils provide more effective results due to the mechanism behind how all of the plant molecules work together.

Here are some of the common formats for CBD extracts:

  • Tinctures. These are created when CBD is extracted into a liquid such as alcohol, vegetable glycerin or vinegar. This method doesn’t destroy the other important molecules, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids. Tinctures can be taken in drops, either straight under the tongue or mixed with food or drink. They’re also available in spray forms.
  • Edibles. When food is made with oil containing CBD extract, it can be an effective way to dose CBD oil. It’s easy to control your intake. It’s important that any CBD oil added to food be measured and made from food-grade materials. Make sure to eat only the recommended dosage of edible product as it takes a while to start working
  • Lotions, balms and creams. There’s a whole market for bath and massage products made with CBD oil. Skin has receptors that absorb CBD, which can act topically on pain.
  • Vaping. Many CBD users are vaporizing, or vaping, their products. This means CBD is combined with a carrier liquid (usually vegetable glycerin), heated until it turns into a vapor and then inhaled. It’s a very effective method, delivering CBD throughout the bloodstream almost instantly.

Which CBD form is best for you? The answer will be different for each individual. The inhalation of CBD by vaping provides the fastest onset of effects, but blood CBD levels spike relatively quickly and begin to decline faster than they do with edible products. When you consume CBD products internally via tinctures and edibles, the cannabinoids are slowly digested and sent through your system, creating longer-lasting and steady effects. When applied topically to the skin, CBD creams and lotions can offer local pain relief almost immediately because of their anti-inflammatory effects.

How Much Should I Take?

The amount of CBD needed by each individual for different conditions varies. It depends on body weight, CBD tolerance and the type of CBD product you use. Experts generally recommend starting at a low dosage with a product containing 10 mg per dose. It’s then recommended to gradually increase the dosage as needed.

Tips for Choosing a CBD Product

When it comes to choosing a CBD product, there are many brands out there. The market isn’t regulated, so you need to know how to find trustworthy products.

Here’s a list of important aspects to consider when shopping for CBD oil:

  • Is it clean? You’ll want to know that your product has been handled with care to avoid contamination, like microbial growth. Examine the packaging of any CBD product you buy to ensure it’s legitimate. Look for seals and logos from third-party testers.
  • How strong is it? CBD can be formulated at different strengths. It’s important to start with a low dose and work your way up to your needed dosage. Some brands may label dosages incorrectly, as the field is unregulated.
  • Is it pure? Is the product a pure extract from a hemp plant? If it’s from a full-spectrum cannabis plant, it could contain the federally controlled substance THC and may or may not be illegal in your state. You want to ensure the product you buy isn’t synthesized and does not contain pesticides either.
  • Is it third-party tested? Reputable companies have their products tested by a party unconnected to their business. Customers who can see verified test results feel confident in the products they buy.

Various test results a company may choose to display include:

  • Cannabinoid profile and potency
  • Terpenes profile
  • Presence of residual solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Microbial contamination

When buying CBD products, look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA). Performing a chemical and microbial analysis is not a requirement but a best-practice used by reputable companies. If a company doesn’t have a COA or refuses to share it, it’s best to shop somewhere else. It’s always best to have assurance that what you’re consuming is pure.

Is the company reputable? Do a little research on a company before you buy. Check out customer reviews. Don’t just settle for the cheapest product, but rather shop around until you find a brand you trust.

The Future of CBD

CBD has already proven itself helpful in neurological disorders like epilepsy, and it’s shown promise in the relief of anxiety symptoms. Research into CBD’s effectiveness for sleep is still only in its infancy. As we continue to gather data on CBD’s effects, it’s important that individuals take care when buying CBD products.

As more research about CBD emerges, it’s likely that CBD products will become more widely regulated and available. With time, scientists should uncover information concerning CBD’s health properties, and it should be safer for consumers to use CBD products for disorders such as insomnia.

Valerie Usher
Valerie Usher
Health & CBD Journalist
Valerie Usher is a health journalist who covers the topics of CBD, mental health, women’s health and careers. In 2017, she graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a degree in Integrative Studies. Her concentrations were in health and society. In college, Valerie excelled in scientific research study and soon began reading studies on CBD. She’s been ghostwriting and content writing about CBD and cannabis since 2017. Valerie is mainly interested in the way CBD aids in mental health.

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