I love sleep.
I love getting comfy and feeling myself drifting off; I love dreaming; and, most of all, I love waking up, no alarm clocks in earshot, feeling completely rested.
However, as with most love stories, loving sleep doesn’t equate to having a successful relationship with it – in fact, it’s something I really struggle with.
A few months ago I had a week of such bad sleep that I felt like crying everytime I woke up: enough was enough, I thought, and it was time to make a change.
I’d heard a lot about how CBD can help you not just get to sleep, but have a better quality sleep, but I wasn’t sure if it was a gimmick, so I decided to try it out for myself.
CBD is cannabidiol, one of over 110 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids which are found in the cannabis plant – and it’s everywhere right now.
The CBD market has boomed exponentially over the last few years, expected to be worth £1billion by 2025, and is used most commonly for anxiety, sports recovery, neurological disorders like epilepsy, chronic pain and, of course, sleep.
What does the science say about CBD oil and sleep?
Dr Elisabeth Philipps is a clinical neuroscientist and leading expert in the endocannabinoid system and phytocannabinoids including CBD. She runs a CBD clinic and consults and collaborates with CBD brand FourFive.
She tells Metro.co.uk that, although the human studies around sleep and CBD are only small scale (around 70 to 80 people), many show that people’s sleep improved within the first month of taking CBD.
‘Not only that, but they felt better in the morning as well,’ she says. ‘I think it’s quite important with sleep to look at both how much sleep we’re getting and also, the quality of it.’
According to Elisabeth, there are a number of hypotheses for why CBD seems to work.
The first is that it simply makes us feel more relaxed: ‘There are studies that show CBD can reduce anxiety and help us feel more relaxed,’ says Elisabeth, which is what ultimately helps some people deal with that whirring mind I mentioned earlier.
Another theory is that it helps with chronic pain and, since pain is more heightened at night, the pain relief may help with insomnia.
These are both ‘indirect effects’ that, in turn, help us sleep better, Elisabeth says.
However, a third theory – and one that doesn’t have enough solid research into it yet – is that CBD actually changes our sleep architecture.
This is down to the way CBD reacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, a biological network of receptors and proteins that run through the body, such as in the brain, spine, guts, kidneys and lungs.
‘Our body already has cannabinoids,’ explains Elisabeth. ‘CBD helps to activate and raise the level of these cannabinoids and helps activate the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate most bodily functions.’
According to Elisabeth, the research is expected to show, in just a few years from now, that CBD is actually working in the endocannabinoid system in the brain to improve and support sleep architecture, therefore improving the quality of our sleep.
How to use CBD for sleep
Other than inhaling (or vaping) CBD, the best way to consume it is under the tongue, says Elisabeth.
Drop the oil (you can also find spray bottles) under your tongue and hold it there for one to two minutes before swallowing.
Elisabeth advises doing this around 20 minutes before or after eating and drinking, to ensure you’re not washing it away.
If you’re using CBD predominantly to help you sleep, taking a few drops around 20 minutes before bed is usually the best way to go.
Elisabeth adds that, if your sleeplessness is a symptom of anxiety, taking CBD throughout the day to calm your nerves might also benefit your sleep.
Also, if you wake up throughout the night, you can also take a few drops to either help you get back to sleep or at least make you feel less worried about the fact that you’ve woken up in the middle of the night.
Elisabeth lives by the mantra “start low and go slow,” so it’s a good idea to start with one drop at a time and gradually build it up over the days or week.
I tried taking CBD every night before bed for a month
Studies show that people using CBD notice the sleep benefits in the space of a month, so I thought that would be the perfect time to try out a product.
I used the Mindful Extracts 1000mg CBD oil.
Starting with one drop per night and gradually building my way up to three or four, I placed the oil under my tongue using the pipette (you can also get spray bottles from other brands), around an hour to twenty minutes before I wanted to sleep.
Anecdotally speaking, from her experience running a CBD clinic, Elisabeth says most people are likely to notice an improvement in their sleep after just a few days – this was absolutely my experience.
Week 1: The first week I started taking CBD was admittedly rocky.
I had already been struggling with my sleep for a while and still found myself waking up a few hours too early and unable to go back to sleep.
That being said, actually falling to sleep in the first place was much easier as I felt calmer and much more relaxed.
Week 2: My second week taking CBD I had really started to notice a difference.
Although I would still occasionally wake up throughout the night, I didn’t struggle with getting back to sleep, and I would wake up feeling rested.
Weeks 3 and 4: The last two weeks of my experiment were definitely where the magic happened.
I was no longer worried that I wouldn’t be getting good quality sleep.
Most nights, I would fall asleep upon my head hitting the pillow and wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
If I did wake up, it was only ever to use the toilet, and I would be back to sleep within minutes – something I had always struggled with.
By this point, I’d become one of those irritating CBD converts, raving about it to anyone who would listen.
When my first bottle of CBD oil ran out around the one month mark, safe to say I cracked open another without a second thought.
How to choose a CBD product for you
Like I mentioned earlier, CBD is everywhere and, as Elisabeth puts it, can be quite a “minefield”.
However, when choosing a CBD brand, it’s important to look out for a reputable brand that will be able to show you a certificate of analysis.
‘This shows exactly what is in the product,’ says Elisabeth – and the CBD market isn’t short of fraudsters, so do your research.
You can get bottles with a higher concentrate (usually up to 2000mg) or a lower concentrate (around 500mg).
The main difference between these products is that you’ll need to take more drops of a lower dose to feel the same effect.
So, while higher doses are more expensive, they usually last longer, so the cost balances out overall.
It’s likely a good idea to choose a lower dose for your first bottle – that way, if you’re not a fan, it’s not too much money lost.
The verdict: Can CBD help improve sleep?
I was pretty sceptical when I decided to give this a go, given that most wellness products are gimmicks, but my sleep improved pretty much instantly and I haven’t looked back.
While research is still lagging, I truly believe CBD has changed my sleep – and my life — for the better.
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