Can CBD Help With Sleep? What the Science Says

By | Updated on December 12, 2023

Medically reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon

Evidence Based 33

Key takeaways:

  • CBD can improve your sleep directly and indirectly, by helping with causes of poor sleep like anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and stress.
  • More high-quality studies are needed to understand CBD’s potential as a sleep aid.
  • The effects of CBD vary between individuals and depend on many factors.
  • CBD is generally safe, but high doses may interact with some drugs. It’s best to consult a doctor, especially if you take prescribed medications.

We all know how important sleep is to our overall health. Lack of proper rest leads to negative physical and mental health effects, decreasing your cognitive performance and increasing the risk of serious health issues (1).

The good news is that cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, may benefit sleep. Many people are choosing CBD over prescription sleep aids because it’s natural and has mild side effects.

Research suggests CBD may improve sleep quality and address the underlying causes of poor sleep, like anxiety and chronic pain.

Here’s how CBD might help with sleep, how to best use it, and other helpful tips.

Glossary of Key Terms

  • Randomized controlled trial (RCT): A study where people are randomly divided to test a treatment (like CBD) vs. a standard or “fake” placebo treatment. By comparing outcomes, researchers determine the treatment’s effectiveness. RCTs are considered the gold standard in medical research.
  • Pilot study: A small-scale research project done before a larger study. It’s like a practice run to check if the main study will work well.
  • Review paper: Unlike original studies that present new findings, a review paper summarizes the current state of knowledge on a specific topic, providing an overview of key concepts and discussing findings from multiple studies.
  • Receptor: A structure inside a cell or on its surface that binds with specific molecules (like cannabinoids), triggering a response in the cell.

What Does the Research Say?

Although further high-quality clinical research is needed, multiple studies show the potential of CBD in helping people sleep better. The evidence suggests that CBD can improve sleep quality directly and may also help by improving problems that lead to poor sleep, such as anxiety and chronic pain.

CBD’s Direct Effects On Sleep

The strongest evidence for CBD’s sleep benefits comes from a large 2023 randomized controlled trial (RCT). In this study, 1793 adults with sleep disturbances were given one of six capsule formulator for four weeks:

  1. 15 mg CBD
  2. 5 mg melatonin
  3. 15mg CBD + 15 mg CBN
  4. 15mg CBD full spec + 15 mg CBN
  5. 15mg CBD + 15 mg CBN + 5 mg CBC
  6. 15mg CBD + 15 mg CBN + 5 mg melatonin

The study found that most participants (56-75%) saw improvements in sleep quality, concluding that low-dose CBD is as effective at improving sleep quality as 5 mg of melatonin. The addition of CBN and other cannabinoids did not cause additional improvements (2).

Another 2023 pilot study of six insomniacs found that combining pure CBD (300 mg) and eight terpenes improved restorative sleep (3).

Additionally, numerous studies of high-dose CBD have reported sedation and tiredness as side effects, providing further evidence for its sleep-promoting properties (4).

Meanwhile, a 2023 review of 34 studies concluded that “…CBD alone or with equal quantities of THC may be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of insomnia” (5).

Also, one small 2004 study of 8 healthy adults found that 15 mg of CBD had the opposite, wakefulness-promoting effect (6). So, it’s possible that small doses of CBD can make you feel more awake.

CBD’s Indirect Sleep Benefits

CBD can also help by addressing the common causes of poor sleep, namely anxiety, stress, chronic pain, and depression:

  • In a 2022 study, 14 people with moderate-to-severe anxiety were treated with full-spectrum CBD oil. They experienced improvements not just in anxiety but also in sleep and depressive symptoms (7).
  • A 2019 study of 97 chronic pain patients who were taking opioids found that CBD-rich hemp extract capsules reduced opioid intake and improved sleep quality (8). 
  • Another 2019 study of people with post-traumatic stress disorder reported that 38% of the 21 participants had better sleep after CBD treatment (9).

All these findings show that in addition to improving sleep directly, CBD may also help indirectly, by tackling the underlying causes of poor sleep.


CBD has also been shown to help with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). RBD is a sleep disorder characterized when people physically act out their dreams.

In a 2014 study, four patients with Parkinson’s disease and RBD were treated with CBD. The researchers found that the individuals had a “prompt and substantial reduction in the frequency of RBD-related events without side effects (10).” 

Meanwhile, a 2021 clinical trial in people with RBD reported improved sleep satisfaction from 300 mg doses of CBD (11).

cbd oil for sleep

How Does CBD Help With Sleep?

Although further research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind CBD’s sleep effects, we do have a general picture. 

CBD seems to work in two major ways: interacting with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and affecting other receptors and systems involved in anxiety, pain, sleep, depression, and other processes.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

One way that CBD can affect sleep is by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This key system is made up of specialized cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made inside our bodies), and the enzymes that build and break them down (12). 

The ECS regulates a wide array of vital functions, including pain, metabolism, immunity, anxiety, stress, and sleep, to maintain homeostasis: a healthy state of balance in the body. 

There’s much evidence that the ECS plays a role in sleep. For one, it may regulate the sleep-wake cycle by interacting with the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of the brain that regulates the 24-hour circadian rhythms (13).

Additionally, studies show that the levels of endocannabinoids, related enzymes, and even cannabinoid receptors change throughout the day, with major differences between day and night (14).

In one study, healthy participants had three times the levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide upon waking up versus going to bed. Also, when they were sleep-deprived, this normal fluctuation was disrupted (15). 

We also know that compounds that activate the CB1 receptor can promote sleep, which is precisely how THC makes you drowsy (16).

In summary, there’s a lot of evidence that the ECS is involved in sleep regulation.

CBD can interact with this system by changing the function of its receptors, suppressing the enzyme that breaks down anandamide, and other effects, which may explain how it can help with sleep problems (17).

endocannabinoid system explained

Other Ways CBD Can Affect Sleep

Another way CBD works to improve sleep is indirect, through interacting with systems involved in anxiety, stress, pain, depression, and other issues. Since these conditions are linked to insomnia and other sleep disturbances, CBD can indirectly improve your sleep by relieving them.

For example, research has consistently shown that CBD interacts with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which is involved in anxiety, stress, sleep, and other cognitive processes (18, 19). We also know that CBD affects many receptors involved in pain, inflammation, and cognitive function (18).

cbd gummies

How to Best Use CBD for Sleep? 

First and foremost, I recommend using a full-spectrum CBD product instead of one made with isolate (pure CBD). 

Research has shown that full-spectrum CBD extracts are as much as four times more effective than CBD isolate, likely because of the synergy between its many active ingredients (20). If you’re sensitive to THC, you can also consider taking a broad-spectrum product.

There are various CBD products to choose from, including CBD oil tinctures, gummies, capsules, and vapes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which are essential to consider to find the best option for your sleep needs.

You should take CBD 30 to 60 minutes before bed to give it time to kick in. For capsules and gummies, 60 minutes is better since they take longer to kick in, whereas vapes and oils work faster, so 30 minutes or less is enough. 

CBD Oil Tinctures

CBD oil is by far the most popular way of taking CBD because it’s absorbed well by the body, has long-lasting effects, and makes it easy to change the dosage. CBD oil takes about 15-40 minutes to take effect, lasting about 4-6 hours (21).

The essential advantage of CBD oil, and the reason it’s more popular than CBD capsules and gummies, is that it bypasses the digestive tract. When you take CBD sublingually (under the tongue), it’s absorbed directly into your blood vessels, allowing for far greater absorption (22).

I recommend using full-spectrum CBD oil as your go-to option for better sleep.

CBD Capsules & Gummies

Consuming CBD through capsules or edibles like gummies is the most convenient method. It’s also discreet, makes it easy to use CBD on the go, and boasts the longest average duration: about 6 hours (23). But it does have one major downside. 

CBD has low oral bioavailability — a fancy term for absorption; think of it as the percent of the CBD you took that is actually absorbed by the body (24). That’s because CBD and indeed most cannabinoids experience what’s called the first-pass effect — a large reduction in the concentration of the active ingredient in the digestive tract and liver before it’s absorbed. 

Research suggests that CBD’s oral bioavailability is only about 6 to 24%, which means you’re losing over 75% of the original amount you took (25).

Vaping CBD

Consuming cannabidiol through vaping is the best option when you’re looking for immediate relief. Having said that, its biggest downside is the shorter duration — its effects will only last about 1 to 4 hours (22).

Another thing to consider is the safety concerns of vaping. Although research is still in its early stages, current evidence suggests that vaping carries certain health risks and that inhaling anything other than good old air will likely harm your health (26). 

Additional Sleep Ingredients

Many CBD products designed specifically for sleep include other beneficial ingredients, such as melatonin and l-theanine, as well as popular sleep-supporting herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower.

Although it’s not required, I recommend choosing products with these added ingredients for greater effectiveness.

A Word on CBN Products

Cannabinol (CBN) is a non-intoxicating minor cannabinoid believed to promote sleep, which is why it’s frequently included in CBD sleep aid products. However, there isn’t much scientific evidence that CBN enhances sleep or has sedating effects (27).

Still, if you’re curious, you can always try a CBN product and see how it works for you.

cbd oil dosage

How Much CBD Should You Take for Sleep?

At this time, there’s no official recommended dosage of CBD for sleep. It’s important to note that the ideal amount will differ for each individual, depending on your age, weight, genetics, and other factors. 

Clinicians suggest a ‘start low and go slow’ approach when taking CBD for the first time (28). Begin with a small dose, like 10-15 mg, and carefully observe the effects for at least two hours, slowly raising it over time until you feel the desired effects. 

You can also use your product’s recommended dosage as a starting point.

Potential Side Effects

In a 2018 safety review, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile (29).”

Its most common side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, and low blood pressure (30), with most review papers concluding that it’s relatively safe and well tolerated (31), especially compared to the more serious potential side effects of common sleeping pills (32).

Still, I should mention that high CBD doses could interact with some medications. One review showed that CBD might interact with antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants, opioid analgesics, and other common medications (33).

It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking CBD, especially if you’re taking prescription medications.

CBD: A Promising Natural Sleep Aid

To sum up, studies suggest that CBD may help you sleep better both directly and by relieving common sleep disruptors such as anxiety, stress, and chronic pain.

Nonetheless, in-depth research on CBD and sleep is sorely needed. We need more high-quality clinical trials before fully understanding CBD’s potential.

If you’re going to use CBD for sleep, I recommend taking a high-quality full-spectrum CBD oil about 30 minutes before bedtime. 


  1. Karna, B., and V. Gupta. “Sleep Disorder.[Updated 2021 Nov 20].” StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing (2022).
  2. Saleska, Jessica Londeree, et al. “The Safety and Comparative Effectiveness of Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoid Formulations for the Improvement of Sleep: A Double-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the American Nutrition Association (2023): 1-11.
  3. Wang, Michael, et al. “A Cannabidiol/Terpene Formulation That Increases Restorative Sleep in Insomniacs: A Double-Blind, Placebo-controlled, Randomized, Crossover Pilot Study.” medRxiv (2023): 2023-06.
  4. Meissner, Hannah, and Marco Cascella. “Cannabidiol (CBD).” (2020).
  5. Ranum, Rylea M., et al. “Use of Cannabidiol in the Management of Insomnia: a systematic review.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 8.2 (2023): 213-229.
  6. Nicholson, Anthony N., et al. “Effect of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults.” Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 24.3 (2004): 305-313.
  7. Dahlgren, Mary Kathryn, et al. “Clinical and cognitive improvement following full-spectrum, high-cannabidiol treatment for anxiety: open-label data from a two-stage, phase 2 clinical trial.” Communications Medicine 2.1 (2022): 139.
  8. Capano, Alex, Richard Weaver, and Elisa Burkman. “Evaluation of the effects of CBD hemp extract on opioid use and quality of life indicators in chronic pain patients: a prospective cohort study.” Postgraduate medicine 132.1 (2020): 56-61.
  9. Elms, Lucas, et al. “Cannabidiol in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a case series.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 25.4 (2019): 392-397.
  10. Chagas, Marcos HN, et al. “Cannabidiol can improve complex sleep‐related behaviours associated with rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder in Parkinson’s disease patients: a case series.” Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics 39.5 (2014): 564-566.
  11. de Almeida, Carlos MO, et al. “Cannabidiol for rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder.” Movement Disorders 36.7 (2021): 1711-1715.
  12. Lu, Hui-Chen, and Ken Mackie. “An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system.” Biological psychiatry 79.7 (2016): 516-525.
  13. Babson, Kimberly A., James Sottile, and Danielle Morabito. “Cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep: a review of the literature.” Current psychiatry reports 19.4 (2017): 1-12.
  14. Valenti, M., et al. “Differential diurnal variations of anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol levels in rat brain.” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS 61.7-8 (2004): 945-950.
  15. Vaughn, Linda K., et al. “Endocannabinoid signalling: has it got rhythm?.” British journal of pharmacology 160.3 (2010): 530-543.
  16. Murillo-Rodríguez, Eric. “The role of the CB1 receptor in the regulation of sleep.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 32.6 (2008): 1420-1427.
  17. Britch, Stevie C., Shanna Babalonis, and Sharon L. Walsh. “Cannabidiol: pharmacology and therapeutic targets.” Psychopharmacology 238.1 (2021): 9-28.
  18. Mlost, Jakub, Marta Bryk, and Katarzyna Starowicz. “Cannabidiol for pain treatment: focus on pharmacology and mechanism of action.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.22 (2020): 8870.
  19. Rancillac, Armelle. “Serotonin and sleep-promoting neurons.” Oncotarget 7.48 (2016): 78222.
  20. Pamplona, Fabricio A., Lorenzo Rolim Da Silva, and Ana Carolina Coan. “Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: observational data meta-analysis.” Frontiers in neurology (2018): 759.
  21. Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management 4.1 (2008): 245.
  22. Hanssen, Arlen D., Douglas R. Osmon, and Robin Patel. “Local antibiotic delivery systems: where are we and where are we going?.” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® 437 (2005): 111-114.
  23. Borodovsky, Jacob T., et al. “Smoking, vaping, eating: Is legalization impacting the way people use cannabis?.” International Journal of Drug Policy 36 (2016): 141-147.
  24. Millar, Sophie Anne, et al. “Towards better delivery of cannabidiol (CBD).” Pharmaceuticals 13.9 (2020): 219.
  25. Birnbaum, Angela K., et al. “Food effect on pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol oral capsules in adult patients with refractory epilepsy.” Epilepsia 60.8 (2019): 1586-1592.
  26. Burrowes, K., Lutz Beckert, and Stuart Jones. “Human lungs are created to breathe clean air: the questionable quantification of vaping safety “95% less harmful”.” NZ Med J 133.1517 (2020): 100-106.
  27. Corroon, Jamie. “Cannabinol and sleep: separating fact from fiction.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research 6.5 (2021): 366-371.
  28. Lucas, Catherine J., Peter Galettis, and Jennifer Schneider. “The pharmacokinetics and the pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 84.11 (2018): 2477-2482.
  30. Huestis, Marilyn A., et al. “Cannabidiol adverse effects and toxicity.” Current neuropharmacology 17.10 (2019): 974-989.
  31. Larsen, Christian, and Jorida Shahinas. “Dosage, efficacy and safety of cannabidiol administration in adults: a systematic review of human trials.” Journal of clinical medicine research 12.3 (2020): 129.
  33. Balachandran, Premalatha, Mahmoud Elsohly, and Kevin P. Hill. “Cannabidiol interactions with medications, illicit substances, and alcohol: a comprehensive review.” Journal of general internal medicine 36.7 (2021): 2074-2084.

Leave a Comment