Study: Low-Dose CBD as Effective as Melatonin for Improving Sleep

Another study adds to the existing literature asserting that CBD indeed can help to promote better sleep.

According to a new study published in the Journal of American Nutrition Association, daily administration of 15 mg of CBD improves quality of sleep for people with a history of sleep disturbances.

Authors themselves state, “Clinical evidence on the use of (CBD) for sleep remains limited.” They add that even fewer studies have looked at the efficacy of cannabinoid formulation within CBD products used for sleep or how they compare to other similar remedies, like melatonin.

To test the effect of CBD, researchers randomly assigned 1,793 adults experiencing symptoms of sleep disturbance to receive a 4-week supply of one of six capsule products. Each capsule either contained 15 mg of CBD or 5 mg of melatonin, alone or in combination with minor cannabinoids. 

They then assessed sleep disturbance over a five-week period, consisting of a baseline week and four weeks of product use, using a Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System sleep disturbance model administered through weekly online surveys. Finally, researchers used a linear mixed-effects regression model to assess the differences in the change in disturbance through time between products.

Findings showed that all formulations had a “favorable safety profile,” with 12% of participants reporting side effects and none were severe. They also showed that all formulations led to “significant improvements” in sleep disturbance.

A total of 56 to 75% of participants, across all formulations, experienced a “clinically important improvement to their sleep quality,” according to the study. However, authors also note that there were “no significant differences in effect” between a 15 mg CBD isolate formulation and formulations containing 15 mg of CBD and 15 mg of CBN, alone or combined with 5 mg of CBC.

“There were also no significant differences in effect between 15 mg CBD isolate and formulations containing 5 mg melatonin, alone or in combination with 15 mg CBD and 15 mg CBN,” authors state. These findings are notable, given that CBN is also regularly marketed as a sleep aid, and many believe that a formulation of CBD and CBN will lead to more significant effects than CBD alone.

“Our findings suggest that chronic use of a low dose of CBD is safe and could improve sleep quality, though these effects do not exceed that of 5 mg melatonin,” researchers concluded. “Moreover, the addition of low doses of CBN and CBC may not improve the effect of formulations containing CBD or melatonin isolate.”

Most researchers agree that more research is needed around cannabis and cannabinoids in general to confirm just how it interacts and aids in health. Some experts suggest that CBD’s relationship with sleep is more indirect. 

Rather than specifically inducing sleep, many studies suggest that it’s a combination of CBD’s other potential benefits that works. Specifically, some scientists cite CBD’s ability to lower anxiety and stress, ease pain and potentially treat involuntary muscle twitching, among others, as reasons it also assists with sleep.

A 2021 study sought to further understand the relationship between cannabis and sleep as a whole, analyzing use of cannabis for sleep among 21,729 adults between 20 and 59. While the results indeed found a correlation, it was unexpected. Researchers found that adults were 64% more likely to sleep less than six hours a night and 76% more likely to be asleep longer than nine hours a night. It also found that people who used cannabis within the last 30 days were more likely to say they had trouble falling or staying asleep.

“The problem with our study is that we can’t really say that it’s causal, meaning we can’t know for sure whether this was simply individuals who were having difficulty sleeping, and that’s why they use the cannabis or the cannabis caused it,” said Calvin Diep, a resident in the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Toronto and the study’s lead author.

However, other recent studies have indeed shown that CBD alone and CBD with melatonin improves sleep quality among insomnia patients. Another 2018 study of Colorado medical cannabis patients, looking at cannabis and cannabinoids as a whole, reported that 84% of patients found it “very or extremely helpful” in promoting sleep. Most taking over-the-counter (87%) or prescription medications (83%) for sleep also reported reducing or stopping use of the medications.

So, while this new study helps to reaffirm that better sleep is indeed a potential benefit of CBD, there is more work to do to fully unravel what that relationship truly looks like.

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