Here’s the truth about using CBD for sleep: it doesn’t work for everybody.
But, CBD does appear to help anywhere from 50-66% of people sleep better, based on the limited evidence we have available now (much more on this below).
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how to use CBD and sleep. We will:
- Review the current body of evidence around CBD and sleep disorders.
- Help you understand sleep “averages,” so you know where you currently stand when it comes to average time spent falling asleep, waking up throughout the night, and in each sleep stage: Light vs. Deep vs. REM sleep.
- Share some proven strategies to help you form better sleep habits (which is the true “secret sauce” to better sleep).
On a personal note, I have suffered from insomnia for over 10 years. I have had trouble falling asleep and issues with waking up multiple times during the night. I’ll talk about some of the things that worked best for me personally, based on some self-experimentation. I am now sleeping better than I have in years … and I have two young, loud children in my house!
First, let’s delve into the (admittedly limited) research.
What Research Says About CBD for Sleep Disorders
What we know so far:
- A 2019 study of 72 people who took 25 mg of CBD via gel capsule form daily for 60 days found that:
- 66% experienced improvement in sleep after one month.
- 56% reported improvement in sleep after two months of continued use.
- A 2016 research analysis showed that CBD could improve REM sleep, which accounts for 20-25% of time spent asleep in healthy adults (and is the “dream” stage of sleep, during which experts believe you process emotions and solidify certain memories in your brain).
- A Project CBD survey of 1,521 people who used CBD for issues falling and staying asleep found that:
A couple others worth mentioning …
- A 2013 animal study showed that CBD significantly increased total sleep time in rats.
- A study published in the journal Medicines followed 490 people with insomnia from June 2016 to May 2018. Participants rated their symptoms of insomnia on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most severe. Starting symptoms were rated 6.6 on average. After using cannabis (THC + CBD), participants rated symptoms on average to be 2.2, which was a decrease of 4.5. The results indicated the cannabinoids in cannabis decreased symptoms of insomnia. But the study involved using the cannabis flower, which contains several cannabinoids. It’s difficult to determine if relief from insomnia was due to CBD or another cannabinoid.
- A little THC helps boost the effects of CBD, but too much may keep you awake. And too little CBD could interfere with good sleep, while a larger dose may help you snooze longer with fewer overnight wake-ups, a recent Palo Alto University review says.
Before You Take CBD Or Any Other Supplement, Do This
Of course, there are certain risks that come with taking CBD for some (people on blood thinners, women who are nursing or pregnant), so talk to your doctor before taking CBD. If you and your healthcare professional decide CBD is safe for you, then here’s the next step …
Rule #1 of improving your sleep:
Get 30 days worth of measurements so you know:
- How much Light, Deep, and REM sleep you average each night.
- Your average time spent awake per night.
- How long it takes you to fall asleep.
- Your % of time spent below your resting heart rate during sleep.
I see so many people take CBD for a few days and say, “It just didn’t work for me.”
Fine … but if you don’t take CBD for at least two weeks and you don’t have any “before” data, then you’re probably setting yourself up for failure from the get-go.
You absolutely need some type of data so you can compare your before and after results. Don’t just base it on how you “feel” without hard data.
Case-in-point: when I first started using CBD to sleep better, the first couple weeks I didn’t feel any different. But when I looked at my REM sleep data as tracked through my FitBit, I realized I was getting significantly more of this essential type of sleep.
If you don’t want to buy a sleep tracker, then do it old school and at least keep a sleep diary and write down the time you turned the lights off, fell asleep, and woke up each morning, then add a couple notes about how many times you woke up and how rested you feel.
One final point here: you need to take CBD for 15-30 days minimum to allow for it to actually work.
Once you have 30 days worth of hard data, then you will know if CBD is working for you to improve sleep or not.
How Much Time the Average Person Spends Awake and in Deep, Light, and REM Sleep Each Night
- Is in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes per night, but …
- Only gets 6 hours and 38 minutes of sleep (the remaining 55 minutes is spent restless or awake).
- Gets about 4 hours of Light sleep each night (which accounts for 52% of total sleep, on average).
- Gets an average of 1 hour, 37 minutes of REM sleep each night (21% of total sleep, on average).
- Gets 1 hour, 7 minutes of Deep sleep, on average, per night (15% of total sleep, on average).
A few final things to note about sleep stages …
REM and light sleep stay pretty stable throughout a person’s lifetime but deep sleep takes a hit later in life, decreasing from an average of 17 percent at age 20 to 12 percent at age 70. There are two key factors that lead to less deep sleep:
- Pain, Illness, and Medical Problems
And sorry guys, women get about 25 minutes more sleep, on average, each night and log 10 more minutes per night of REM sleep compared to men.
When to Take CBD
The best time to use CBD oil for better sleep depends on the type of product you’re using.
If you’re using a CBD tincture, you can take it right before bed if you apply it under the tongue for 30-60 seconds. It will work within minutes if applied under the tongue like this or may take up to 30 minutes if swallowed immediately.
If you’re using a CBD gel capsule, take it 30-60 minutes before you want to fall asleep to allow time for it to work.
Check out our CBD dosing article for more information!
Top 10 Ways to Develop Good Sleep Habits
These are the things that have worked the best for me personally (and the strategies most documented by scientific studies):
- Figure out your optimal daily sleep goal. Everybody’s number is different but a large study that looked at data from 71,455 people found that 6 to 8 hours is probably best for heart health. The CDC recommends 7+ hours for adults.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try going to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than normal each night. Dr. Meeta Singh, a sleep disorder expert at Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Center says “If you increase your time in bed by even 15 – 20 minutes, you will notice a difference.”
- Don’t eat or drink caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Cut it out after 3 p.m.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. 1 or 2 drinks a night should be your limit. Any more and your sleep will suffer.
- Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. I have two young kids, so I know “quiet” is relative for many of us. But a room darkening shade and/or a sleep mask is a great investment if you don’t have them. And to drown out those loud kids, pets, partners, use ear plugs.
- Invest in a white noise machine and ear plugs if needed (check out the links for the ones I use). The Lectrofan white noise machine is the loudest and best white noise machine I’ve used … we have four of them in our house!
- Cut out screen time while in bed. Watch TV, check your phone, or dabble on your tablet outside of the bedroom. Studies show technology in the bedroom negatively impacts sleep.
- Spend 15-30 minutes winding down. Read, do yoga, stretch, foam roll, or meditate to wind down before bed. People who do sleep better.
- Invest in a good pillow and mattress. Think about how much time you spend in bed. A good mattress will probably set you back $1000+, but upgrading your pillow is a super easy sleep hack. I recommend the Coop Home Goods Pillow and body pillow. They’re highly rated on Amazon, hypoallergenic, and you can adjust the amount of memory foam inside to your liking.
- Use a sleep tracker. There are many sleep tracking products on the market now. I have used both the FitBit Charge 2 and Charge 3 with success, as well as the Withings Sleep Mat. All are $150 or less. I’ve heard good things about the Oura Ring too, but it’s a bit more expensive.
- Try CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat insomnia, probably because it focuses on changing habits that disrupt sleep. Research shows CBT is more effective and safer than prescription or OTC sleep drugs, which can lead to dependence and pose a risk of overdose, adverse effects, and even death.
Whether or not CBD works for you, using these strategies above will help. Let us know what has worked best for you … we’d love to hear your feedback and share success stories!