Your Guide to CBD for Sleep

Table of Contents
CBD and Sleep

You may have heard all kinds of claims about CBD and what it can do for you. Your friend takes it to ease their stress and your cousin gives it to his dog on car trips… But can you take CBD for sleep? And does it actually work?

If you’re brimming with questions, you’re in the right place. We’ll give you the lowdown on CBD: how it affects your body, what CBD dosage to use for sleep, any side effects to watch out for, and if CBD can improve your snoozing.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately. Additionally, restrictions and regulations on supplements may vary by location. If you ever have any questions or concerns about a product you’re using, contact your doctor.

Long Story Short

  • CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the cannabis plant and may have many beneficial effects in your body.
  • Taking CBD for sleep may or may not work for you — the research results are limited either way.
  • Stay safe taking CBD by running it by your healthcare provider, researching your CBD manufacturers, and starting with a low dose.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which comes from the cannabis plant. Cannabis gives us over 500 different naturally-occurring chemicals – including CBD and THC. (1) Among other properties, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has psychoactive effects and is one of the key active ingredients in cannabis, the type of cannabis that gives you a “high.” (2)

CBD and THC are two separate compounds that come from the same plant. THC, or “weed,” is still illegal in 24 states and the District of Columbia, so be sure to check out your local laws on THC before you head to the closest cannabis emporium. (3)

CBD, on the other hand, has none of the psychoactive effects of its brother, THC. In fact, more and more researchers believe CBD may offer benefits not only for sleep, but for a myriad of other health concerns.

Some CBD products have a mix of other components of the cannabis plant, so it’s important to understand the different CBD types.

Different Types of CBD

Cannabidiol products can sometimes bring a friend or two to the party: other cannabis compounds. Here’s how CBD types shake out: (4)

  • Full-spectrum CBD: All parts of the cannabis plant can be in this type, and it includes a little THC – up to 0.3 percent, which likely isn’t enough to cause psychoactive effects. (5)
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: This type includes most cannabis plant compounds, but should, in theory, have no THC (0 percent THC). 
  • Isolate CBD: Including no other cannabis compounds, isolates contain only CBD.

The CBD type you choose will likely depend on why you’re using it. For example, CBD with higher levels of THC may increase anxiety, so a broad-spectrum or isolate — the options with minimal or no THC — may work best for anxiety symptoms. (6

To understand how CBD can affect your sleep, it helps to understand how your endocannabinoid system works.

The Endocannabinoid System and Sleep

Apart from being a rather long word, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a network of neural pathways in your brain. (7) These pathways do a lot more than deal with cannabis plant compounds — the ECS helps regulate: (8)

  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Emotional processing
  • Temperature control
  • Pain response
  • Inflammatory and immune response
  • Eating

The ECS also affects sleep. “Our natural endocannabinoid system is thought to be a sleep stabilizer and a wake stabilizer,” says Dr. Audrey Wells, MD, sleep expert and founder of Super Sleep MD. (9

How does it do this? Some experts suggest the ECS connects closely with our circadian rhythm, which governs our natural sleeping schedule. (10)

With the confirmed connection between your ECS and sleep, it may seem logical to think CBD could affect your slumber. But experts say it’s tricky. Studies on CBD and sleep have yet to clearly show a benefit, Wells says, but we’ll dig into that a big more below.

A Note on CBD Regulation

Even though the FDA does not regulate CBD the way it does pharmaceutical medications, farmers do their best to grow their crops with higher concentrations of certain cannabinoids. (2) But without strict federal regulation, you may not know for sure if you’re getting what’s printed on the bottle or package. Many CBD producers use third-party testing to ensure accurate reporting of active and inactive ingredients listed on their label, so be sure to do your research and look for those tested brands.

Is CBD approved by the FDA?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never approved any plant products, including cannabis for any disease or condition. They did approve a cannabidiol medication called Epidiolex (for rare seizures) and three other synthetic THC drugs, but anything else falls outside of the FDA approval umbrella for the time being. (2)

As a result, CBD can be considered a “use at your own risk” product, like many other supplements  — all of which are not FDA approved. Before making any purchases, Wells encourages everyone to do plenty of research on the companies selling CBD products to make sure they’re being as responsible as possible. 

Specifically, you can check if they provide a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) from an independent, certified testing laboratory. With a positive CoA “report card,” you’re much more likely to get the dosage you want.

CBD Effects on the Body

So what does CBD actually do to you? To be honest, experts are still figuring that out. (11) We do know that cannabis products hook up with receptors in your body and brain. (5) THC connects to the brain receptors, and that’s where they have their biggest effect. (10)

CBD, on the other hand, interacts with both kinds of receptors in different ways that experts are still trying to understand. (12)

Even though we need much more research to prove how CBD works, some small preliminary studies suggest CBD may be of use regarding:

  • Chronic pain relief (13)
  • Mood disorders (13)
  • Anxiety (14)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (15)
  • Cancer management (16)
  • Nausea (17)
  • Multiple sclerosis (18)
  • Heart disease (19)
  • Blood pressure (20)
  • Substance addiction (21)
  • Sleep disorders (22)

Let’s take a closer look at how CBD can help with your sleep.

How CBD Can Help with Sleep and Sleep Disorders 

We all need good sleep to function at our best, so if CBD can help you reach that goal, you may feel excited to try it! So far, CBD’s effects on sleep are a kind of good-news/bad-news situation. 

Can CBD Help You Sleep?

“CBD theoretically may have a sleep-promoting effect,” Wells says. “But unfortunately, studies on CBD and sleep have yet to clearly show a benefit.” (22) While CBD might help you drift into sleep, it’s unclear exactly how it works, so it may be a tossup on whether or not your provider recommends CBD for you. (10)

Anecdotally, Wells has come across patients who say their sleep has improved on CBD. A smidge of THC can help CBD work better, says Wells, so a full-spectrum CBD may be a good choice for sleep. Just keep in mind, some studies have shown CBD with THC can decrease your deep sleep, so you may think you’re sleeping great, but feel tired during the day. (10)

What About Sleep Disorders?

We don’t know enough yet about what CBD does for sleep disorders, says Wells, who doesn’t recommend CBD for any sleep disorders specifically. “It’s really difficult to study in humans because we are such complex creatures,” says Wells, adding the research on CBD and sleep disorders often shows no effect or even a slightly worse outcome. 

For example, one small study found that CBD improved sleep for the first month, then results were mixed. (14) Another study review agreed that the evidence just isn’t there yet, but they found some promising preliminary results that suggest cannabinoids (including THC) might be used in future therapies for: (22

Okay, so the research on CBD and sleep is preliminary and much of it is still ongoing, but if you still want to try it, we have some recommendations.

How To Use CBD

If you’re new to CBD, all the different delivery systems can feel overwhelming, but you can break them down to a few distinct categories: (4) (21

  • Edibles (like gummies, brownies, lozenges, gum)
  • Sublingual oil 
  • Tablets/capsules
  • Vape juices
  • Suppositories
  • Oral/nasal sprays
  • Creams/lotions/gels 

Gummies, oils, tablets, and capsules are all swallowed, while creams go on the skin (and are not often aren’t used as a sleep aid). You can inhale vape juices through a vaping device, although experts warn vaping safety is unreliable at best. (24) The chemicals in vape juices can cause inflammation in your lungs, coughing, wheezing, and (believe it or not) trouble sleeping. (25

CBD Timing and Dosage

“Start low and go slow,” says Wells, who recommends a first dose of 2.5 milligrams (mg) of CBD an hour before you want to go to sleep. She suggests taking that dose five to 10 nights every other or every third night to avoid tolerance (more on that soon). If you haven’t noticed a difference, increase it to 5mg. After five to 10 nights at that dose, you can increase it to 10mg. 

Of course, everybody is different and providers may have different recommendations, so consider working with your healthcare provider to find the dosage that’s right for you. Generally, it’s a good idea to run any new supplements or over-the-counter medications by a  healthcare provider who knows your history — they can help you decide if it’s safe for you to try. Speaking of safety…

CBD and Tolerance

As with many types of sleep aids, some people worry they might build a tolerance to CBD. Experts tell us that CBD doesn’t cause tolerance, but THC does. (26) (27)

CBD Safety and Side Effects 

Since the FDA hasn’t approved CBD for sleep, you may wonder if it’s safe. The World Health Organization announced in 2018 that overall, CBD is safe and well-tolerated. (28) But the Centers for Disease Control say some people experience these side effects from CBD: (11)

  • Interaction with other medications you take
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Appetite changes
  • Mood changes
  • Liver damage

Liver damage in particular seems to happen with much higher doses (1500 mg/day). (29) Smaller doses should be safer, but if you notice any of the symptoms above, take a break and talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you sort out how CBD is affecting you.

CBD Is Not Regulated as a Drug

Because the FDA doesn’t treat CBD like a medication, the folks who make it for you don’t have to follow the same rules as those who create more regulated substances. (2) That means you can’t really be sure how much CBD (or other compounds like THC) are floating around that oil or colorful gummy unless the brand has undergone rigorous third-party lab testing.

Wells says you’ll stay safest if you get your CBD from a reputable source. Many CBD producers work very hard to regulate themselves, and the best ones also bring in outside investigators to award them a CoA. 

Even if your CBD source has a stellar rep and five stars for safety, still use caution when you try it out and double check with your provider.


Does CBD actually do anything for sleep?

Research on CBD and sleep is still in early days, but preliminary findings from recent studies show some promising results. Everybody is going to have their own individual reaction to any sleep aid, but it may be worth a try!  (22)

When is the best time to take CBD for sleep?

“[CBD] takes a while to kick in,” says Dr. Wells, who recommends taking CBD an hour before you want to go to sleep. Of course, everybody is a bit different, so you may have to experiment with different times to find what works best for you.

Which is better for sleep, CBD or melatonin?

People can respond differently to CBD and melatonin, so we can’t say one will work better than another for you. You can try one or the other under the direction of your provider and see which one your body likes better. Keep in mind, melatonin is not recommended for long-term use — it’s best for short-term sleep challenges or recovering from jet lag. (30)

What type of CBD is best for sleep?

Finding the right CBD for sleep is a trial and error process, says Dr. Wells, who recommends taking detailed notes about the effects you feel on each new CBD you try. Then you can look at your results and decide which one worked best.

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

If CBD can do all it claims to, it seems worth giving it a try. Still feel unsure? That’s okay, too. “Would I recommend this to a family member?” Wells asks. “I think it’s such a personal thing. I’m a big advocate for people taking charge of their own decisions with their health and their sleep.” Start low, go slow, and track how your CBD affects you. You’ll find out soon enough if it’s a keeper.


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          Wells, Audrey, MD. Personal Interview. February 14, 2024.

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy is an RN of 16 years who has worked with adults and pediatric patients encompassing trauma, orthopedics, home care, transplant, and case management. She has practiced nursing all over the world from San Fransisco, CA to Tharaka, Kenya. Abby loves spending time with her husband, four kids, and their cat named Cat.