Editor's Note: Always talk with your healthcare provider before taking any medicines, vitamins, or herbs while pregnant or breastfeeding. In October 2019, the FDA issued an advisory warning that the effects of CBD during pregnancy or breastfeeding are unknown, indicating that the safety, doses, interactions with other drugs or foods, and side effects of CBD are not clinically defined and may pose a risk to mothers and infants. So stay on the safe side and avoid use. Note that over-the-counter CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled for strength and contents.
Why are you awake? I dunno, stress? An irregular sleep schedule? Worrying about...well, everything? It's not you, mama, it's life—and sometimes the daily overloads the nightly, making it hard to get the sleep that you need. Insomnia can darken your daytime hours and impact your ability to function and parent at your best. So if you are starting to consider CBD as a sleep aid, we get it. And there may be good news for you: Using CBD for sleep might just be what you need to help you fall asleep and stay asleep when the bed is crowded with worry or discomfort.
When any one of the stressful elements of life and parenthood is making it hard to fall asleep—or stay asleep—you might feel like you need a little nudge. Oftentimes a glass of wine is in order, but actually, it can have the opposite effect: Sometimes alcohol can keep you awake. And using an over-the-counter sleep aid can be unpredictable or unhealthy for your system in the long run.
Lack of quality sleep can result in daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and prickly irritability. And if that's not bad enough, ongoing sleep deprivation can significantly decrease your quality of life, lower your sex drive and response and harm your overall health by compromising your immune system; It can also negatively affect your hormones and increasing your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain.
You need sleep so you can function, and CBD could be what you need to sleep better.
Researchers have discovered that people who take CBD for medical problems often report sleep improvements. CBD is one of the many cannabinoids derived from the Cannabis plant that can be used medicinally, and as a sleep aid for insomnia. CBD has been shown to help your body regulate a wide range of essential processes that need to be in balance, like your sleep-wake cycle, for you to be able to sleep well.
So, how does using CBD for sleep work?
You have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that makes and uses cannabinoids in specific ways to connect and regulate your body's organs to manage stress, keep your systems in balance and ensure that your body functions at its best. By binding to tiny receptors found in your central nervous system and other tissues throughout your body, endocannabinoids switch receptors on or off to maintain or regulate body functions including sleep, appetite and immune response, among others. While researchers are still trying to understand exactly how it works, CBD appears to provide several therapeutic effects by acting upon those receptors to maintain the balance of your body's systems.
Another way scientists think CBD can help promote and maintain sleep is by working with the ECS to affect the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) found in the hypothalamus of the brain. The SCN is an internal master clock that controls the timing of the sleep-wake cycle by regulating the circadian rhythms of your biological functions over a 24-hour period.
Events that happen during the day cue the ECS to release endocannabinoids that modulate the activity of neurons in the SCN to alter clock timing and regulate the sleep-wake cycle. ECS receptors found all over the body serve as a link between these circadian regulators. CBD is chemically similar to the endocannabinoids naturally produced by your body, which allows it to interact with the ECS's cannabinoid receptors as chemical messengers that influence their signaling to help balance systems that affect the sleep-wake cycle.
Here are five reasons to consider trying CBD for sleep, after consulting with your healthcare provider, of course.
1. CBD won't get you high.
The other commonly known cannabinoid is the psychoactive delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD and THC both affect receptors in your brain, but they operate in opposite ways. Generally, THC activates these receptors, which makes you feel high, and CBD blocks intoxicating effects caused by the receptors, so you don't get high.
2. CBD is generally considered safe.
A review of 132 original studies of CBD use across a broad range of strengths found that generally, CBD is safe and well-tolerated at daily dosages as high as 1500 milligrams (most people take only 20 to 100 milligrams of CBD per day). And CBD is non-addictive. According to a report from the World Health Organization, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential." Additionally, "There is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
3. CBD has few side effects.
Also in the review, it was found that when compared to placebos, CBD does not affect your ability to think or move. Other small studies and research support these findings, whether CBD is taken occasionally or daily, indicating that CBD may be safely taken without affecting your ability to go about your day.
4. A little bit of CBD goes a long way.
There are many kinds of CBD products to choose from, but the most common ways to consume CBD are through oil or edibles, like gummies. More research is needed to determine the right amount of CBD to take to promote good sleep, so it's best to start slow and take a small dose (10 to 15 milligrams) to see how it makes you feel, then gradually increase the amount over a few days until you find the dose that gives you the results you're looking for; and certainly consult your healthcare provider for guidance here, too. The peak concentration of an oral dose of CBD normally occurs one to two hours after eating, so taking CBD about 20 to 60 minutes before sleep gives it time to start working.
5. CBD is becoming easier to get.
CBD products range from foods, dietary supplements, topical applications to cosmetics, driving commerce and legislation. CBD has become easier to obtain since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes a provision that legalizes the cultivation, possession, sale and distribution of the hemp plant. A cousin of the cannabis plant, marijuana, hemp-derived CBD has no more than 0.3 % THC, is legal on the federal level, but is still illegal under some state laws. However, marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level but are legal under some state laws. Be sure to check the laws where you live and travel.
At the end of the day…
Even though using CBD for sleep is gaining momentum and preliminary results are promising, most of the research so far has been limited to lab and animal studies, so there's some catching up to do in terms of clinical research on humans.
According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors do not recommend using sleep medication for more than a few weeks because it's better for you to get to the root cause of your sleep problems. Some studies have found that long-term use of CBD can actually keep you awake, so even though it can be effective for you in the short term, getting support for sleep is better for you in the long run. Studies suggest that trying meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises for stress reduction provide similar effects.
As a mama who has spent more than a few nights tossing and turning till twilight, I can attest that any help, especially a natural one, is worthy of consideration if it can possibly give me a few more Zzzs to help me feel better till sundown.