CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of a number of compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or hemp plant and is a popular natural remedy for a wide range of health conditions.
Unlike THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, CBD does not get you high.
CBD is sold as a bottled oil to be taken orally, or added to food and drink, as a vaping liquid and in chewable gummy sweets, capsules and topical creams.
There is increasing evidence that CBD may have therapeutic effects in a number of areas as well as a general acceptance that it displays low levels of adverse side-effects, making it a good candidate for continued research.
Sleeping problems are the third most common reason for using CBD, according to a large-scale 2019 poll of users.
Can CBD help with insomnia and sleep problems?
Sleeping problems can have a number of different root causes. Anxiety and pain are two common reasons that people may struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep, and there is good evidence that CBD can have a beneficial effect on both, which in turn may lead to improved sleep.
A 2011 review of studies into the effect of cannabinoids including CBD on chronic pain found that they had significant success in reducing symptoms and were a safe alternative to existing medications.
A 2015 review of studies looking at how CBD may treat anxiety concluded that the combined research “strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder”.
Meanwhile, a retrospective study of 72 psychiatric patients looked at the effect CBD had on both anxiety and sleep disorders together. It found that almost 80% of subjects saw a reduction in anxiety during their first month of taking CBD while 67% reported improved sleep during the same period.
CBD has also been shown to substantially improve an REM (dream) sleep disorder known as RBD that causes nightmares and active behaviour during sleep in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
A review of research into the effects of cannabinoids on sleep disorders supported the above evidence, concluding that CBD may have potential for treating insomnia, REM sleep disorders and excessive daytime sleepiness but noting that research into CBD and sleep is in its early stages and that further studies are required.
How to take CBD oil for sleep and when to take it
CBD is sold in a range of products including chewable ‘gummy’ sweets, capsules, creams, vaping liquids and bottled oils. When considering taking CBD to help with sleep you are likely to want a relatively fast acting form that can be taken not long before bed. And it’s certainly worth considering which products, and methods of consuming them, are the most efficient – that is, which allow the most CBD to enter your bloodstream without being lost along the way.
Vaping is the fastest acting and most efficient way to take CBD, with any effects potentially felt within minutes and the largest proportion of CBD absorbed. However, the safety of vaping itself is still in question and inhalation may not be for everyone, especially right before bed.
Assuming vaping is not for you, the next fastest acting and most efficient method of taking CBD is to use CBD oil sublingually, which simply means under the tongue. Use the built-in dropper in the CBD oil bottle to place a measured amount of oil under your tongue and hold it there for a minute or two before swallowing. This allows the CBD to penetrate the blood vessel-rich membrane under the tongue where a good proportion of it is absorbed into the bloodstream, usually within 20 to 30 minutes.
You can also swallow CBD oil directly or add it to food and drink but more of the active ingredient will be lost to the digestive processes and what remains will take considerably longer to have an effect, probably measured in hours rather than minutes. It’s also worth being aware of evidence that the amount of CBD absorbed may depend on the food you eat with it. It would be counter-intuitive to drink coffee before trying to sleep anyway but there is some evidence that CBD may start to degrade in any solution at a temperature above 71°F, so a hot drink containing CBD before bed may not be the best method of taking it.
All things considered, drops of CBD oil taken under the tongue perhaps half an hour before bed may be the best option for anyone interested in whether CBD can help them to sleep better.
How much CBD oil should you take? Deciding on dosage
The appropriate dosage of CBD oil for a given individual can depend on a range of factors including age, weight and specific body chemistry.
The best way to find the right dosage of CBD oil for you is to start small and work your way up. Begin with perhaps 5-10mg of CBD and increase it by the same increment every few days. Make a note of any benefits you notice and any possible adverse effects. Continue the process until you reach a dosage that provides you with the optimum improvement without any prohibitive side-effects.
Remember that CBD oils come in different concentrations, usually 5% and 10%, so calculate your dosage based on that.
It’s worth being aware that the UK Food Standards Agency advises as a precaution that healthy adults do not take more than 70mg a day (around 28 drops of 5% strength CBD oil), unless advised by a doctor.
To get a general idea of what might by the right dosage of CBD for you based on your weight, use the Jersey Hemp dosage calculator.
What are the side-effects of CBD oil? Is it safe?
One of the reasons that CBD is so popular among users, and is seen as worthy of study by researchers, is that it generally has a very low level of side-effects. In clinical terms, it is considered ‘well tolerated’, meaning it is rare for a subject to drop out of a trial involving CBD due to adverse effects.
There is also an increasing acceptance from international legal and regulatory bodies that CBD poses little threat to humans. In a report on CBD, the World Health Organization said “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential… there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD”. Meanwhile, the European Commission recently ruled that CBD should be classified as a food stuff rather than a narcotic.
However, CBD does have some side-effects. According to a 2018 study of over 2,400 CBD users, the most common is dry mouth, reported by 11% of those who took part, along with increased appetite (6%), red eyes (less than 3%) and drowsiness (less than 2%). Other sources also suggest that CBD oil can sometimes cause nausea and diarrhoea.
The UK Food Standards Agency advises as a precaution that pregnant and breastfeeding women and those taking medication do not use CBD. In general, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are considering trying CBD oil.