TechnologyCan CBD cause insomnia?

Can CBD cause insomnia?


One of the most popular reasons why people use cannabidiol, or CBD, one of hemp’s (the cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC) primary active cannabinoids, is to assist them in combatting insomnia. Unfortunately, for some, CBD may cause the opposite effect as a sleep aid, ultimately making it harder to get a good night’s sleep after consuming the oil or a supplement containing CBD. 

Like many other compounds derived from the cannabis plant, CBD oil has different effects from person to person. Although scientists widely agree that many CBD products are advantageous for improving your sleep health, there are exceptions to how consumers might experience its benefits. 

To determine whether a CBD sleep aid could possibly help your sleeping patterns, it’s best to learn what the science says. 

Can CBD oil keep me awake at night? 

In general, research on CBD has revealed that this chemical compound is beneficial for several neuropsychiatric disorders, all of which are associated with sleep disturbances, such as:

  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia

What makes CBD effective against these conditions is its “calming effect,” achieved through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system and the central nervous system. 

Programs to research CBD’s value in combatting a common symptom among the three listed conditions, insomnia, have exploded in popularity. Still, the foundation of clinical data and relevant studies on CBD’s precise influence on sleep health is left wanting. Here’s what we know so far. 

Study reveals mostly positive results for CBD and sleep

One 2019 study evaluating sleep health and anxiety symptoms in 72 adults found that CBD may significantly improve your sleep quality. In just one month, 79.2 percent of patients reported that their anxiety symptoms had subsided in some capacity when using CBD. 

Additionally, 66.7 percent of patients reported better sleep within the first month of their CBD treatment. By the second month, 56.9 percent of the patients persisted with their treatment due to the continued positive effects, and in the end, 37.5 percent adhered to the CBD program. 

Unfortunately, CBD wasn’t always good news for all the patients. Some participants experienced worsening symptoms in their sleep and anxiety after consuming CBD regularly. After the first month, 15.3 percent of patients reported worse anxiety, and 25 percent were still having trouble with sleep. 

A few more experienced the same issues by the next month’s follow-up, with 19.5 percent reporting worsened anxiety and 26.8 percent struggling with their sleep. 

One of the primary discoveries in this study was that CBD’s advantages for anxiety seem to be more long-lived than those for sleep. Plus, the cannabinoid also seems more effective for anxiety, as patients displayed much more dramatic reductions in their anxiety symptoms than sleep issues. On the contrary, sleep improvements were relatively mild. 

It’s important to note that the patients’ ages ranged quite widely. Although the average age was 34 years old, all participants fell somewhere between 18 to 70. This might be part of why CBD’s effects varied so drastically between individuals in the study. 

Some trends in biological differences might be to blame for CBD’s hit-or-miss effects, too, as the men and women showed different rates of anxiety and sleep disorders. 

This is only one example of how CBD products can influence patients’ sleep health. Based on this study alone, it seems that CBD can be highly advantageous for most people’s sleep health. However, its efficiency in helping you deal with unpleasant symptoms related to anxiety and sleep may change, depending on your sex, physical and mental health, and age, among other factors. 

Potential differences in CBD’s effects for anxiety between men and women

In the previously discussed study, there were some clear initial sex-related differences in the health conditions that led patients to accept the CBD treatment in the first place. For example, most patients experiencing anxiety were men (59.6 percent), while those with sleep disorders were women (64 percent). This might be part of the reason why CBD’s advantages were weaker for sleep than anxiety. 

A past study investigating cannabinoids’ interactions with male and female physiology noted that the differences in effects could be partially due to “sex-related differences in the brain anatomy and organization,” and there have been many sex-dependent differences in cannabis use. 

For example, cannabinoids, including CBD, impose different physiological and behavioral effects between males and females. More specifically, the impact on males’ food intake and energy balance is more noticeable than for females. 

On the other hand, cannabinoids seem to influence females’ anxiety and depression more than it does males’.  (This finding is particularly interesting, given the 2019 study’s discovery that women with sleep problems may not benefit from CBD use as much as men with anxiety.)

Researchers speculate that this sex-based difference in CBD’s physiological effects is partially due to the varying distributions of muscle mass and fat tissue distribution throughout males’ and females’ bodies. 

Since the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a “lipid signaling system,” meaning it interacts with the fatty acids in your body, directing them to bind to specific receptors to produce desirable effects. The ECS also affects the skeletal muscles, having “endocannabinoid signaling machinery” in the muscle tissues.

With all this said, it’s understandable why all cannabinoids’ individual and collective behavior fluctuate between individuals. 

More research is needed on the effects of CBD in women vs. men

On the one hand, CBD may be beneficial for most women. On the other hand, roughly one-quarter of people report that the quality of their sleep either doesn’t improve or gets worse after consuming CBD regularly. Considering these stats, why do women still comprise the majority of CBD users in the United States? 

(In 2019, over 64 million Americans reported having tried CBD at some point in their lives. Most of them were women.)

Scientists need to gather much more conclusive research to paint a clearer picture of just how CBD operates in the female body. As Dr. Sarah Lichenstein, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, stated, “We need to know much more about what CBD is doing, how it might operate in women, and if this is different in women and men – particularly as millions of Americans are already using it.”

Dr. Liechtenstein also noted that most existing CBD studies placed a disproportionate amount of focus on male patients, contributing to the gap in knowledge related to how the cannabinoid affects women’s bodies and minds. 

“If we are to make sure these products are safe and effective – and, if so, determine correct dosing – it is important to complement what has been done in men to understand how CBD affects the brain in women.”

Why does CBD oil keep me awake? 

Interestingly, CBD has also been found to help some people stay awake, making the compound a potential coffee alternative, free of the unpleasant side effects of being buzzed on too much caffeine. 

For instance, a 2014 review of clinical data discussed the contradictory nature of this cannabinoid revealed in studies past. 

The authors noted that a 1977 study showed that regular CBD consumption led to less sleep for patients instead of more quantity or restful sleep. Quite the opposite, a later project in 1981 revealed that CBD helped people struggling with insomnia to get more sleep. 

Yet another study, published in 2004, showed that the administration of 15 mg of CBD increased young adults’ “wakefulness” when it was time to wind down for bed. 

The authors of the 2014 review, led by Eric Murillo-Rodríguez, even noted that CBD exhibited wake-inducing properties in a test with rats during the daytime. Additionally, the cannabinoid decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

This is a fascinating find, as REM sleep is the phase with a closer association to wakefulness. As opposed to non-REM sleep, which is a collection of the more restorative four sleep stages that are considered to be essential for learning and memory, REM sleep is marked by the following traits:

  • Rapid eye movement
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Temporary paralysis across the body
  • Brain waves similar to those active during wakefulness

It was once thought that REM was the most crucial sleep phase. Newer data suggests otherwise. Based on scientists’ growing evidence that REM may be less restful and restorative than previously believed, it is fascinating that CBD would decrease the amount of REM sleep an individual gets. 

Studies like this suggest that CBD causes the patient to get more non-REM sleep instead, which may improve their sleep health, thus allowing CBD to manifest greater levels of wakefulness throughout the following day.

Based on this research, it seems that CBD should not keep most people awake at night. Yet, there might be other factors contributing to its efficiency, or lack thereof, outside your individual physiology. For example, Rodríguez and colleagues noted that variations in how CBD is administered (i.e., intravenously, orally, etc.) might influence its influence on sleep. 

How CBD keeps people awake

At this point, we know that CBD oil has both sleep-inducing and wakefulness-promoting properties that seem to behave differently during the day and night or while you’re asleep versus when you’re awake and active. 

All of CBD’s effects are achieved through multiple interacts with several facets of your nervous system, such as:

  • Hypothalamus: Studies have shown that this organ is partially responsible for managing alertness. 
  • Dorsal raphe nuclei (DRN): The DRN has many roles in your cognitive function, playing a part in learning and memory and even the release of serotonin. Research shows that the DRN is less active during sleep and more active during the waking state. It’s almost entirely absent in REM sleep. 
  • Dopamine: The heightened alertness levels that result from CBD consumption may result in increased dopamine releases. This hormone is associated with high alertness levels following feelings of pleasure or receiving a reward. 

Apparently, CBD oil may be able to help you whether you have trouble sleeping at night or staying awake during the day. In either case, there is not enough evidence showing that its detrimental effects on sleep are widespread or consistent enough to say that CBD causes insomnia. 

For some people, it doesn’t seem to improve sleep. However, they also don’t experience the adverse side effects of cannabidiol. For others, consuming CBD as a sleep aid can backfire and make it harder to fall asleep. So, although you might not want to hear it, the most certain statement that can be made here is that CBD’s effect on your sleep depends entirely on you and your body. 

Does hemp seed oil help with sleep? 

Although CBD does come from the hemp plant, hemp seed oil and CBD oil are not the same things. For one, CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plants’ stalks, leaves, and flowers. Typically, these parts of the plant have a higher concentration of CBD than the rest of the plant. 

On the other hand, hemp seed oil is made from compressing the hemp seeds, which do not contain any CBD. Instead, they’re highly nutritious, having:

  • Oil
  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Moisture
  • Unsaturated fatty acids
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids

With this said, hemp seed oil doesn’t help with sleep directly. Instead, it might help boost your overall health, which might ultimately contribute to improved sleep habits. 

If you do come across claims of how hemp seed oil can improve your sleep, double-check and verify that the label does not read hemp oil. Some people may refer to CBD oil as hemp oil instead, referring to the plant of origin rather than the primary active chemical in the extract. 


Improving sleep is one of the most popular reasons people turn to CBD as a natural solution for sleep disorders like insomnia. Yet, some people’s negative experience with the cannabinoid has led many to question whether CBD actually causes insomnia versus mitigate it. 

While most people do experience better sleep within the first month of consuming CBD regularly, others seem to have a worse time after starting the treatment. The disparities in CBD’s effectiveness depends on various factors, including sex, age, and physical and mental health. 

Plus, CBD seems to behave differently during the day and night and at different points in the sleep cycle, possibly even reducing your REM sleep altogether. Ultimately, all these observations of CBD in the human body go to show that, although it doesn’t cause insomnia, it doesn’t always improve your sleep either. 

Jazmin Murphy
Jazmin Murphy is a trained science writer & reporter who has covered a breadth of topics. She is also a strong supporter and advocate of cannabis for recreational, wellness, and medical purposes.


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