By: Alex Dimitriu, MD, January 6, 2019
With the rise in states legalizing the use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana, more attention is now being given to a component of the cannabis plant that’s been scrutinized for decades – CBD, or cannabidiol. But far from seeking a “high,” many of those giving fresh consideration to using CBD – available in supplement form and legal in all 50 states – are pursuing another elusive benefit: a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, insomnia continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States and elsewhere. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, millions of people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep every night. For about one-third of them, the problem is short-term, but 10% have chronic insomnia lasting at least 3 months.
There’s nothing like ongoing sleep deprivation to spur a search for something, anything, that will lead to restful sleep. The big question is, is there a place for CBD in treating insomnia?
Research Spotlights Potential for Sleep Improvement
It’s important to understand some basics about CBD, which is one of the most active ingredients in medical cannabis. Cannabinoids, including CBD, are used for a range of conditions that include pain, anxiety, cancer side effects, and yes, sleep disturbances. Far from being a fly-by-night treatment, cannabinoids have been investigated by scientists for more than 50 years for their potential ability to ease various symptoms and fight disease. Along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – which offers the “high” of using marijuana – CBD has become the most well-researched of all the 80-plus cannabinoids.
What’s the consensus so far? While research on CBD use specifically for insomnia is still relatively young, its calming, anti-anxiety effects appear to help some people fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality. CBD also has been shown to lower insomnia in those with chronic pain and reduce REM sleep disturbances common to Parkinson’s disease.
Predictably, however, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. The effects of CBD greatly rely on dosing, which ranges from 10 mg to 600 mg and higher for sleep problems. Side effects are generally few, but can include dry mouth, lightheadedness, sluggishness and low blood pressure.
All of the information at hand underscores the bottom line: You need to consult your doctor before you begin taking any supplement, including CBD. But if you’re one of the millions experiencing chronic insomnia, it’s worth a conversation with your health care provider about how CBD might make sleepless nights a thing of the past.
Alex Dimitriu, MD, is founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, CA. He is dual board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine.