March 29, 2022


Do THC and CBD help you sleep?

Read Time 3 minutes

This audio clip is from our sleep series with Matthew Walker, Ph.D., episode #49 — Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part III of III: The penetrating effects of poor sleep from metabolism to performance to genetics, and the impact of caffeine, alcohol, THC, and CBD on sleep. This episode originally aired on April 15, 2019.


Show Notes

The efficacy of THC and CBD as sleep aids [1:05:30]

Review of the literature on THC and CBDCannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature.


  • THC is not a good sleep aid for a teenager (because their brain is still developing)

Does THC help sleep in adults?  ⇒ “No. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable in suggesting that it’s a pro sleep compound.”

What about different strains (sativa vs. indica)? ⇒ Not enough data to differentiate among strains

What does THC do for sleep?

THC tolerance

  • With regular use of THC…
    • you start to lose the sleep latency benefit
    • And if you try to quit using it, many people get “rebound insomnia

Cannabidiol (CBD)

  • There’s not enough data yet on CBD as a sleep aid, although the data is more promising than THC
  • But it’s very hard to get studies funded because of the “moral” factor
  • Matthew would love to do a study on CBD (is considering something like Kickstarter to crowdsource the funding)

What the early data on CBD is showing:

  • Falling asleep faster with CBD
  • Early tentative preliminary evidence suggests it does not have the same negative impact on REM
  • Also fewer dependency issues and don’t get insomnia rebound
  • CBD might also benefit some sleep disorders
  • Caveats
    • It’s dose dependent, and it’s not clear at this point what the optimal dose is
    • There may be other doses that are actually detrimental to sleep and we need to stay away from them
    • So it might that there is a U-curve with a “sweet spot” for dosing with other doses being detrimental to sleep

Does CBD increase your deep sleep?

  • Not enough evidence to say it definitely increases the amount of deep sleep
  • But there is some promising data (one single, small study)

By what mechanism is CBD potentially improving sleep?

  • Lowering core body temperature
    • One hypothesis is that CBD may decrease your core body temperature, leading to better sleep
  • Anxiety
    • Another is indirect benefits through its reduction of anxiety, for which evidence is strongest right now
    • Anxiety is a major cause of insufficient or poor sleep
    • If you lower the “fight or flight” response, you get a more parasympathetic state and/or your core temperature drops

Peter has seen some anecdotal evidence of impressive results with CBD

  • Seems to especially work for people with existing sleep issues
  • For those who sleep well already, CBD doesn’t seem to improve it
  • And it does not work for everyone
  • But Peter has seen patients for which medications won’t work for them but CBD oil does, it’s not clear why

Selected Links / Related Material

Review of the literature on THC and CBD: Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. (Babson et al., 2017) [1:06:15]

THC will decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep: Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. (Nicholson et al., 2004) [1:06:45]

THC is a very robust blocker of your dream sleep (REM sleep): Sleep Disturbance in Heavy Marijuana Users (Bolla et al., 2008) [1:07:15]

Insomnia due to the quitting of marijuana (THC) usage: Cannabinoid abuse and addiction: Clinical and preclinical findings (Panlilio et al., 2015) [1:07:45]

Potential benefits of CBD on sleep (fall asleep fasting, increase in REM sleep, no dependency issues, PTSD-related sleeping issues): Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. (Babson et al., 2017) [1:12:00]

CBD oil for sleep problems related to PTSD: Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report (Shannon et al., 2016) [1:12:30]

CBD as wake-promoting: Potential Effects of Cannabidiol as a Wake-Promoting Agent (Murillo-Rodriguez et al., 2014) [1:12:30]

Different doses, different deep sleep (in rats)? Hypnoticlike effects of cannabidiol in the rat (Monti, 1977) [1:13:00]

THC & CBD and body temperature (in mice): Absence of interaction between δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in aggression, muscle control and body temperature experiments in mice (Ham and Jong, 1975) [1:13:30]

CBD and anxiety: Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients (Bergamaschi et al., 2011) [1:14:15]

CBD and anxiety: Inverted U-shaped dose-response curve of the anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol during public speaking in real life (Zuardi et al., 2017) [1:14:15]

CBD and anxiety: Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series (Shannon et al., 2019) [1:14:15]

Matthew Walker Ph.D.

Dr. Walker earned his degree in neuroscience from Nottingham University, UK, and his PhD in neurophysiology from the Medical Research Council, London, UK. He subsequently became a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, USA. Currently, he is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.

Dr. Walker’s research examines the impact of sleep on human health and disease. He has received numerous funding awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and is a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Walker is the author of the International Bestseller, Why We Sleep. It has a singular goal: to reunite humanity with sleep.

In addition, Dr. Walker is an internationally recognized speaker, a successful entrepreneur, and a Sleep Scientist for Google.


Twitter: @sleepdiplomat

Center for Human Sleep Science:

Matthew’s publications:

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