When to Take CBD Oil for Sleep

Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
30th March 2022

In 30 seconds

The research is young, but CBD oil is showing some promising possibilities when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of sleep disorders. Some researchers believe that this is because it interacts with the processes in our bodies that are responsible for sleep. Others argue that it improves sleep by helping us overcome conditions like anxiety and chronic pain. Either way, the results appear to be encouraging. 

If you’re wondering when to take CBD oil for sleep, there’s a catch — CBD has been shown to have both alerting and calming effects. And the amount we take appears to influence how our bodies react. 

If you have trouble sleeping, taking CBD an hour or two before bedtime, at a dosage of around 25 milligrams,  is a good place to start. 

But be warned — it’s not without its side effects, so it’s important to use it responsibly.

CBD (or cannabidiol) is one of the key chemicals within the Cannabis plant.  It does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) — the most abundant chemical substance in cannabis. It also does not come with the same risks of dependence that THC does

CBD is legal in the UK and comes in various forms — as a powder and liquid, a food and drink supplement, and in lotions. But it’s most commonly consumed as an oil or an alcohol-based extract called a tincture.

While the Cannabis plant has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times, there has been renewed interest in its potential in recent years. Scientists have begun research on the use of CBD for the treatment of a range of different health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. 

It’s also been reported to have specific health benefits when it comes to dealing with chronic pain and anxiety — and as a treatment for insomnia.

CBD oil and sleep — what we know

Almost one in three of us have trouble falling asleep every night.

According to the Sleep Foundation, there are various ways CBD may work as a sleep aid. It may help alleviate:

The research as to why it helps with poor sleep is still inconclusive. 

Current theories propose that it’s either because CBD is able to relieve pain and inflammation, or because it affects the mechanisms of sleep directly. Either way, it looks promising.

In this 2019 study, CBD was shown to improve sleep quality in 66.7% of the participants in the first month of clinical use. (It’s important to note that these results were not maintained for the duration of the study, but nevertheless, the initial impact was significant.) 

According to this survey, low doses of CBD were reported to be effective for managing sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress. 

The effect of CBD on your brain and body

While some reports state that cannabis is not psychoactive at all, this is controversial. It can make changes to the behaviour of the chemicals in your brain, and may influence your perceptions and behaviour. 

One of the main benefits of CBD appears to happen through its interactions with your endocannabinoid system, which plays an important part in your central nervous system. Endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids — the chemical substances in cannabis — but are produced naturally by your body.

The cannabinoid (or CB) receptors in your brain and body are located mainly in your brain and nervous system, and they help regulate pain and mood, amongst other things. 

While the research is quite young, by interacting with your CB receptors, CBD can help with mood and alter experiences of anxiety and depression. Because mental health and adequate sleep have such strong links, this could have positive effects on your sleep too. 

How and when to take CBD oil for sleep 

To throw a spanner in the works, it’s possible that CBD may have an alerting effect as well as a calming effect, depending on how much you take. This 2014 study showed that it may actually increase wakefulness. 

So where we’re at currently doesn’t point to a consensus that there is one “correct” way to take CBD for sleep, nor one specific type of CBD to use.

If you’re wanting to give it a try, start with 25 milligrams of CBD oil, between one and two hours before bedtime. Placing the drops under your tongue — AKA administering them sublingually — is a popular method, as it may mean that it’s more rapidly absorbed into your system. 

Again, the research is not conclusive on this, but it may appear that lower dosages have a stimulating effect while higher dosages (somewhere between 150 and 600 milligrams a day) may have a sedative effect.

(If you prefer to ingest it through other means, like smoking, know that the effects may come on quicker. Also know that smoking might come with additional side effects and could impact the health of your mouth, throat, and lungs.)

Side effects

Before you embark on this journey, it’s important to be aware of the potential for side effects. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Interactions with other drugs, 

If you’re pregnant or have liver disease, it’s a good idea to avoid CBD altogether. It’s also advisable to steer clear if you are on blood thinners, heart and thyroid medications, and treatment for seizures.

Key Takeaways

The research is young, but many users report that CBD has a positive effect on their sleep. It’s inconclusive whether that’s because it interacts with the bodily mechanisms involved in sleep or because it helps to improve conditions that might be affecting sleep. 

Either way, it’s important to take it with care, particularly if you suffer from liver disease or are on other medications that might interact with it. If you’re looking to try it to get a restful sleep, a CBD dosage of 25 milligrams using a dropper under the tongue, one or two hours before bedtime, is a good place to start.

Is it better to take CBD oil on an empty stomach or after eating?

While the research is still inconclusive, it appears that it’s a good idea to take CBD with food. Not only will this help prevent uncomfortable side effects like nausea and vomiting, it may also improve its efficacy. A recent study showed that the food you eat may have an impact on how CBD is absorbed into your body. Taken with food — particularly one with high fat content — may increase absorption about four times. 

Is it safe to take CBD oil and alcohol together?

Like many things CBD-related, research on the relationship between alcohol and CBD is still in its infancy. One thing we do know is that alcohol and CBD oil may amplify each other’s effects. Because they both have the potential for sedating effects, taken together they could put you at risk for injury and leave you feeling extremely fatigued. 
But there may also be other dangers here. CBD and alcohol have the potential to damage your liver. Particularly if you are already struggling with liver-related illness, it’s best to avoid this combination. There is some research to suggest that CBD can be helpful for those with alcohol use disorder by decreasing the effects of withdrawal.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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