Of all the many reasons people are taking CBD these days, one of the most popular is sleep. Celebrities and regular consumers alike testify that they’re getting better rest using it. For instance, here’s what we’ve heard on this very site:
“I run hard most of the day and still I have trouble sleeping, my mind has too many Star Wars facts to think about! And talk about the long flights, I will snooze thru! CBD alone helps deepen the sleep.” – Nathan Florence, pro surfer
In a cbdMD product review, customer Mich said the relaxation he feels from CBD leads to better sleep. He also said, "I get the best sleep without waking up. I take about 20 min before I plan to be asleep and before I know it I'm out! I wake up feeling well rested. The benefits of the CBD is just a plus.”
But CBD isn’t a sedative – in fact, many people take it first thing in the morning and go about their day with total alertness.
So why do people take CBD for sleep? How does it work? And what’s the best way to use it?
While much research on CBD and sleep is still underway, there is reason to believe that CBD can help people relax, de-stress, and get into a better mood for bedtime. But it’s most effective when used in combination with a nightly routine that helps build good sleep habits, and sometimes with other natural products.
How Good Sleep Works
Going to sleep, simple though it may seem, also involves a rather complicated physical and mental process. Research has found that external signals of nighttime – mainly darkness, cooler temperatures, and surroundings that you personally associate with bedtime – are important in evoking feelings of sleepiness.
When you perceive these signals, the hormone cortisol, which is associated with activity and stress, starts to decrease, while the hormone melatonin increases. Once you’re unconscious you go through multiple cycles of lighter and deeper sleep, typically around 90 minutes each. As morning nears, melatonin decreases and cortisol rises, so you slowly start to wake up.
At least, that’s how it works ideally. Lots of things can disrupt this process, either by keeping cortisol up, inhibiting melatonin production, or both. Chronic sleeplessness is usually the result of some underlying condition, so if you have that, you should seek medical help. But all of us experience more temporary disruptions at times.
Stress is probably the most common. Cortisol is sometimes called “the stress hormone,” so anything that causes stress, whether worries over work or physical pain, can keep cortisol up and make it hard to fall asleep. And when you do get to sleep, the cortisol can prevent you from getting to the deepest part of the sleep cycles, and make waking more frequent.
Melatonin issues more often come from confusion of the day/night signals. The classic example is jet lag: when you travel to a place with very different sunrise and sunset times, the light coming at the “wrong” time can throw your body into confusion. You can also create these problems with too much artificial light and heat at nighttime.
How Are CBD and Sleep Connected?
Elsewhere on this blog, we’ve described how CBD works with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors and transmitters within the nervous system. The ECS helps regulate a large number of bodily processes. Overall it helps keep everything in balance. By supporting this balance, CBD gives many users a feeling of calm and well-being.
CBD’s de-stressing properties can therefore enhance the effects of lowered cortisol levels to make you feel more ready for some shuteye. If you ingest it by taking a CBD tincture or CBD capsule before bedtime, the effect typically lasts six or seven hours, helping you stay on an even keel throughout the night.
Many people find that’s enough to get them through rough patches in their sleep lives. But note that CBD deals with only part of the equation: the stress. What about the rest of it?
Melatonin and CBD for Sleep
The good thing about melatonin is that you don’t have to rely on your body’s own production of it. It also occurs naturally in some plants, from which herbalists can extract it and sell it as an over-the-counter health supplement.
Therefore, CBD and melatonin make a natural combination for sleep aids. They’re sold in various forms. A CBD tincture for sleep is the fastest-acting if you take it sublingually. Squeeze a few drops under your tongue and hold for 30 to 60 seconds to let it absorb, and you should feel the effects in about 30 minutes.
You can also find CBD and melatonin products in capsule or edible forms. These usually take an hour or two to work, because they have to go through your digestive system before hitting your bloodstream. But they can also be more convenient and easier to take, so which kind is the best CBD for sleep is largely a matter of taste and lifestyle.
Developing a Good Sleep Routine With CBD
If you really want to go all out in improving your slumber, though, you can work to improve what the experts call sleep hygiene. Many aspects of modern life are hostile to our natural sleep cycles: electric lights, central heating, alarm clocks, noise, screens everywhere, etc. To get back in harmony with your circadian rhythm, try a few tips:
- Take an evening bath. Recent research indicates that taking a hot bath one or two hours before bed improves sleep, probably because of temperature. Remember how melatonin is signaled partly by cooling? Well, if you heat your body up in a bath and then get out, the cooling in your body might help get the melatonin going.
- Try to keep your bedroom temperature below 70 degrees, for the same reason.
- Exercise can be good or bad for your sleep, depending on when you do it. Overall, regular exercise improves sleep by making your body more tired and ready to relax. But in the near term exercise stimulates cortisol, adrenaline, and other internal stimulants that can take a while to wear off. So schedule your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
- A regular, moderate eating schedule also helps keep your body in balance. Going to bed underfed can keep you awake, while eating too much before bedtime might relax you at first but will wake you up once your body starts converting the food to energy. If you want a relaxing bedtime snack or drink, check out some of our CBD recipes.
- Try to get some sun during the day, then ease off the electric lights after darkness falls. This can help keep your melatonin cycle in sync.
- You already know you’re not supposed to consume caffeine in the evening, right? Actually, stopping it after lunch is best, because it can take up to seven hours to wear off.
- Alcohol is tempting in the evenings because it’s relaxing, but you can get yourself in trouble if you overdo it. It might put you to sleep immediately, but as you rebound from the sedation, it throws off your normal series of cycles. Plus drinking too much dehydrates you, and the thirst can disturb your rest.
Find Your Best CBD Oil For Sleep
As you can tell, there are actually a lot of options when it comes to using CBD for sleep. Everyone’s sleep cycle is unique, so it might be best to try out a few different CBD products and sleep-hygiene practices to see what works best for you. Let us know what you think by leaving a review or tagging us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!