EducationThe potential benefits and risks of taking CBD for insomnia

The potential benefits and risks of taking CBD for insomnia

8 min read

Sam North

The potential benefits and risks of taking CBD for insomnia

Cannabidiol, otherwise referred to as CBD, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid that medical cannabis produces after THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and the most dominant in hemp varieties. Over the past decade or so, CBD has become increasingly popular as a natural remedy for many health conditions, including insomnia.


One of the main factors behind the huge interest in CBD is that it offers many of the potential therapeutic benefits associated with medicinal cannabis, while also being totally non-intoxicating – unlike THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric ‘high’ associated with cannabis use. This reduces the risks associated with taking medical cannabis, making it more widely accepted as a viable treatment option for insomnia and other sleep-related issues.

The factors that contribute to insomnia are still not particularly well understood. There are many theories, and there is a consensus on some of the main causes, such as stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors, physical issues, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors.

But the actual cause of insomnia is still up for debate and may well be a combination of many of these factors.

There is a growing body of evidence showing the endocannabinoid system (ECS) may play a key role in regulating sleep homeostasis. Evidence suggests that CBD may have the potential to be a safe and effective treatment for insomnia due to its interaction with the ECS, and other regulatory systems.

In this article, we’ll discuss the current science regarding the use of CBD for insomnia and also look at potential benefits and risks associated with using CBD to treat sleep issues.

The Science Behind CBD and Insomnia

Before we dive any further into how CBD may help with insomnia, it’s important to understand the science behind this process.

The Endocannabinoid System

It is now known that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a key role in regulating homeostasis in humans, despite changes in external conditions.

What is homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the process our bodies go through to maintain a balanced internal environment, ensuring optimal functioning.

The ECS works by regulating a range of bodily functions, including sleep. It does this by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain (and the body) that are responsible for controlling appetite, mood, memory, energy levels, inflammation, stress, and other processes.

The ECS is made up of three main components:

  • Signalling molecules, or endocannabinoids
  • Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the brain, and throughout the body.
  • Enzymes

This system works by the endocannabinoids binding to the cannabinoid receptors. This then causes changes in certain pathways that affect many bodily functions, and then the enzymes kick in to break down the cannabinoids once their function has been completed.

How does the ECS regulate sleep?

There is evidence to suggest that the ECS plays a role in regulating how sleepy we feel. This system works by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain – including serotonin, GABA, and glutamate – which are all linked to how alert or sleepy we feel.

CBD, the ECS, and sleep

OK, so this is where it gets interesting. While the need for more research is ever-present in terms of how CBD may help with sleep, the current evidence is encouraging.

It appears that CBD has the potential to modulate neurotransmitters in the brain and to also decrease the enzymatic breakdown of our own endocannabinoids, leading to a greater level of activity within the ECS.

CBD has been proven to boost serotonin production, thanks to its ability to interact with 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our mood and emotions, but it’s also known to have an impact on sleep. Serotonin is needed in the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles and is directly responsible for how sleepy we feel. Serotonin is also responsible for how stressed we feel. When serotonin levels are low, our stress levels may increase and can impact our ability to relax and sleep.

CBD may also be able to influence the production of GABA and glutamate, two other neurotransmitters that are closely related to insomnia. GABA allows the mind and body to relax and become ready for entering the sleep state, with one study showing that people battling insomnia had GABA levels around 30% lower than those sleeping well.

Another study, titled “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series”, came to the conclusion that CBD may very well be a great therapeutic option for those battling both anxiety and sleep issues. It found that almost 70% of participants reported improved sleep when subjected to a dose of between 25 mg to 75 mg of CBD per day. It also found that anxiety levels dropped significantly in close to 80% of participants.

Taking CBD for Insomnia

Again, the figures given in this article are just a guide and not a replacement for consultation with your physician. There is no universal dose of CBD for insomnia, as the effects can vary from person to person and there are many factors at play.

That said, studies suggest a range of 10 mg to 1500 mg per day may be helpful in treating sleep issues related to anxiety or stress. More research needs to be done on this subject before any concrete claims can be made.

Products containing CBD come in a veritable smorgasbord of options. From pure CBD flowers to edibles, vapes, topicals, and tinctures, the range of products on the market is growing all the time.

Here in the UK, only doctors that have registered with the General Medical Council Specialist Register are permitted to prescribe medicinal cannabis. Talk to your GP about getting a referral, or reach out to us here at Releaf for an online consultation if medicinal cannabis interests you. These registered doctors will be able to give you an informed opinion on whether medicinal cannabis is the right option for your sleep issue and recommend a dosage size and delivery method.

CBD vs. Traditional Insomnia Treatments

One of the main attractions of CBD is that it may be a much safer alternative to traditional insomnia treatments, such as certain sleeping pills. Sleeping pills have been shown to have some serious side effects and can even be habit-forming, so it’s no surprise that a natural alternative is rising in popularity.

CBD is non-habit forming, and studies have shown that it is generally very well tolerated when used in a therapeutic setting.

Over-the-counter options, such as melatonin, may also be an option for those battling insomnia. However, it’s not recommended to use melatonin supplements on a long-term basis, as this could throw out your body’s natural rhythm.

CBD may be a better option for long-term use since it targets the underlying causes of insomnia while also helping boost melatonin production naturally.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of CBD for Insomnia

No matter the application, CBD should never be viewed as a magical cure-all.

It should instead be seen as part of a holistic and comprehensive approach to tackling sleep issues.

If insomnia is affecting you to the point that it’s impacting your life, it’s important to address the underlying causes. This could include lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, reducing caffeine intake, and getting into a regular sleep routine. Make sure that you restrict screen time to an hour before your bedtime and try incorporating some form of meditation into your daily ritual, especially just before you head off to bed.

Your sleeping environment can also have a huge impact on your sleep quality. Try to keep your bedroom free from noise and distractions, maintain a cool but comfortable temperature, and ensure that it’s dark for the best possible sleeping environment.

Finally, if you’re going to be taking CBD for sleep issues, it’s essential to buy your products from a trusted source. Look for CBD products that come with third-party lab reports to ensure you’re getting the best quality product available.

CBD for insomnia – The wrap-up

While the need for further research into CBD for insomnia remains, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it may be an effective tool in combating issues related to insomnia. But, with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you.

If you’re considering trying CBD for insomnia, feel free to reach out to us here at Releaf at any time. We have a team of dedicated professionals ready and waiting, and we are one of the few all-in-one medicinal cannabis providers in the UK. We can provide you with comprehensive advice on dosage and product selection, as well as ongoing monitoring to ensure that your journey with CBD is as successful and effective as possible.

Releaf is committed to helping you access the benefits of a medical cannabis service. Our monthly packages are tailored to your cannabis prescription, and we offer specialist consultations for medical cannabis and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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