How CBD works to improve sleep

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How CBD works to improve sleep

Even studies that conclude that CBD can improve sleep aren’t always able to say why this is the case.

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What to know about CBD and sleep

People have long used the cannabis plant for medicinal and recreational purposes. Compounds called cannabinoids in the plant are responsible for the effects on the brain, and the two most abundant of these are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC and CBD are both psychoactive, but they affect the brain differently. Unlike THC, CBD is nonimpairing.

People use CBD for a variety of reasons, including reducing seizures, anxiety, and pain.

Some studies have demonstrated that CBD may also be a sleep aid. In this article, we look at whether it works and any associated risks.

What the research says

In the last decade, growing public interest in the benefits of marijuana, and CBD in particular, has encouraged researchers to study its effects.

Early studies indicate that high dosages of CBD may support sleep.

One investigation found that, compared with a placebo, a CBD dosage of 160 milligrams (mg) increased sleep duration. The researchers also concluded that the placebo, 5 mg of the insomnia drug nitrazepam, and 40, 80, and 160 mg of CBD helped the participants fall asleep.

The stress hormone levels of cortisol are typically peak in the morning, but people with insomnia may have high cortisol levels at night. Independent of insomnia, having high cortisol levels at night is associated with an increased nighttime awakening.

In one study on the effects of CBD, researchers found that cortisol levels decreased more significantly when participants took 300 or 600 mg of CBD oil. These results suggest that CBD affects the release of cortisol, possibly acting as a sedative.

A more recent analysis of CBD and sleep recruited 103 participants who had anxiety or poor sleep. The researchers studied the effects of CBD combined with those of other prescribed medications.

The CBD dosages ranged from 25–175 mg. The researchers found that 25 mg was the most effective dosage for anxiety and that addressing troubled sleep required higher dosages.

During the 3-month study, the investigators followed up with the participants monthly. At the first follow-up, 66.7% reported an improvement in sleep, but 25% had worsened sleep. 56.1% of the participants reported improved sleep at the second, but 26.8% had worsened sleep.

The researchers conclude that although CBD might help people sleep in the short term, the effects may not be sustained.

Side effects and other risks of CBD

Overall, the available evidence suggests that CBD is well-tolerated.

Some people report fatigue and mental sedation with CBD use, but researchers believe this may be related to the dosage.

Taking 10–400 mg of CBD per day for an extended period and by different routes did not have a toxic effect on participants in a large retrospective study. Even dosages of up to 1,500 mg per day were well-tolerated, other researchers report.

However, determining whether there are long-term risks of CBD use will require further studies.

So far, no reports of lethal CBD overdoses exist. Some researchers may be concerned about CBD abuse, but information on significant complications is limited.

One study indicates that dosages of 400–700 mg of CBD, which is considered high, can aggravate cognitive deficits in people with schizophrenia. Combining CBD and THC may, however, improve cognition.

Researchers do report that CBD may cause other adverse effects, including:

• alterations of cell viability in studies conducted in cell cultures

• decreased fertilization capacity

• inhibition of drug metabolism in the liver

• reduced activity of P-glycoprotein and other drug transporters

If these effects on drug metabolism and transportation are confirmed, it would indicate that CBD interferes with other medications. Overall, more research is necessary.

Still, it is suitable for anyone who wants to use CBD to speak with a healthcare provider first.

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