CBD for sleep problems

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CBD may be a natural sleep aid that could help you get more rest. In a 2019 study published in The Permanente Journal, of people taking CBD for sleep problems, 80 percent reported less anxiety and 67 percent showed improved sleep scores. Individual sleep scores did fluctuate over the course of the study, according to the researchers, and they note that the “results must be interpreted very cautiously” because the study was not a randomized, blinded trial. (Check out these other natural sleep aids that may work.)
However, there are some reasons why CBD might help you sleep. “The brain is loaded with cannabinoid receptors that when activated, enhance brain function and produce a calming effect, dialing down stress and inflammation,” says Mary Clifton, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor practicing in New York City, a recognized expert in medical marijuana and CBD, and co-author of The Grass is Greener: Medical Marijuana, THC & CBD Oil. “CBD products activate those receptors in the brain and nervous system, which can lead to a sedative effect,” says Dr. Clifton, who is also an advisory board member for ZoneIn CBD, a CBD company.
CBD also may help with depression and physical pain, says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, who uses CBD products as part of some of her treatment plans and is the owner of BZ Nutrition, a nutrition counseling service.
“CBD can help alleviate some of the main issues that typically cause insomnia; I’ve found most of my clients suffer from insomnia as it relates to their anxiety, PTSD, sometimes depression, and/or physical pain,” she explains. “CBD oil has been shown to help alleviate anxiety, which helps to relax people into slumber a bit more easily. CBD can also help ease some physical pains, which can keep people up too.”
What type of CBD is best for insomnia?
There are hundreds of different brands of CBD, all with different formulations and promises, and they are not all created equal, says McKenzie Mann, hemp researcher and product development manager for Blue Forest Farms, a farm that grows high-CBD hemp and sells CBD products.
“CBD is kind of the wild west these days,” Mann says. “Anyone can get in the business and there are a lot of so-called CBD products with little or no actual cannabidiol in them,” he explains. Mann adds that there’s a big difference between a bottle you grab at the gas station and a high-quality, independently tested product.
In addition, different strains of hemp plants have different chemical makeups, making some better suited for helping with insomnia than others, Mann says. “Look for a strain higher in terpenes, a compound that has been shown to improve sleep,” he recommends, adding that a tiny amount of THC will compound the sleep-promoting effects (as long as it’s legal where you live).
Another option Mann suggests is to look for cannabinol (CBN) oil. CBN is a compound extracted from the hemp plant, similar to CBD oil, but has an even more powerful sleep-promoting effect.
“A full-spectrum oil will give you the CBN and terpenes along with the CBD so that’s always my first recommendation,” Mann says.
Types of CBD extracts
There are actually four types of CBD extracts, according to Mann.
• Full spectrum. This is the most natural oil. It’s extracted raw from the plant and contains a full spectrum of compounds, including CBD, CBN, THC, terpenes, chlorophyll, minerals, and other parts of the hemp plant. “This is usually the best for most people and what we recommend—it’s the ‘entourage effect’, all the compounds in the plant work best when they are together,” he explains. Mann adds that this is what he recommends first for insomnia, but because it does contain some THC, it may not be legal where you live.
• Full spectrum isolate. This CBD contains just the cannabinoids (CBD, THC, and others). The other compounds, including terpenes, chlorophyll, and minerals, are removed, which also mellows out the flavor. So, if you don’t like the strong flavor of a full spectrum, this might be a good option for you, Mann says.
• Broad spectrum. For places that do not allow THC, this is basically a full spectrum product, but with the THC removed. CBD products need to contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be sold anywhere in the U.S., according to the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. A higher amount of THC in the CBD product will make it more effective for insomnia. However, if you live in a state where marijuana is not legal, this is a good option, he says.
• “Pure” CBD isolate. These products are 99 percent straight CBD with all other compounds removed. But, while this might look like what you want—especially as it’s often labeled “pure CBD”—it’s the least effective form, Mann says. However, it still can have some effect on insomnia so it’s worth trying.
For the best results treating insomnia, Mann recommends looking for a full-spectrum CBD product with 3:1 or even 5:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
How to use CBD for insomnia
“I recommend starting with 20mg taken one hour before bedtime, many people will see improvements just at this starting dose,” Dr. Clifton says, adding that if you aren’t seeing an effect after two weeks, you can start to increase the dose incrementally.

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