Have you ever stared up at your ceiling for hours on end, completely unable to fall asleep?
Or felt so paralyzed by fear that you were unable to speak or move in a social setting?
What I have described for you are the realities of those living with insomnia and anxiety.
Both can be debilitating, impacting everything from relationships and job performance to physical and mental health.
Now imagine a miracle product capable of treating both simultaneously; a product that is safe to use, non-addictive, and even cost-effective.
According to several studies and literature reviews, that mystery product is CBD.
CBD Treats Several Anxiety Disorders
A comprehensive review of 49 studies from several databases “found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment” for the following anxiety and anxiety-related disorders:
●Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
●Panic disorder (PD)
●Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
●Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
●Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
In the conclusion of the review, researchers reveal “CBD’s anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) actions appear to depend upon CB 1Rs and 5-HT1ARs in several brain regions,” referencing cannabinoid 1 receptors and the serotonin 1A receptor. Serotonin is often referred to as “the happy chemical” because it is a mood stabilizer associated with happiness and wellbeing.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for many regulatory functions, such as mood, anxiety, stress response, and circadian rhythms.
According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), “research indicates that the cannabinoid CBD may interact with specific receptors, potentially affecting the sleep/wake cycle.”
CBD Combats Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in Teenagers
CBD has been proven to reduce anxiety and aid in emotional regulation in teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD).
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 37 18-19-year-olds in Japan with SAD received either 300mg/day of CBD oil or an olive oil placebo over a 4-week period.
The FNE is described as “a 30-item measure of apprehension and anxiety over anticipated social evaluations” using a true-false scale. The higher the score on the 30-point scale, the higher the levels of social anxiety.
On the other hand, the LSAS is outlined as “a short questionnaire to assess the range of social interaction and performance situations feared by a person” in order to diagnose them with SAD. Patients rate their anxiety and avoidance of 24 list items to produce a composite score between 0 and 144, with a score of 80 or higher regarded as “severe social phobia.”
In the end, “CBD significantly decreased anxiety measured by both scales,” indicating “CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety.”
Additionally, the results may be attributed to an increase in teenagers’ ability to regulate their emotions while taking CBD.
Researches discuss how CBD has been “found to exert a significant effect on increased brain activity in the right posterior cingulate cortex that is thought to be involved in the processing of emotional information.”
CBD Improves Anxiety and Sleep Scores
If you suffer from persisting anxiety or poor sleep, CBD can provide long-lasting relief.
In a retrospective case series at an outpatient psychiatric facility in Fort Collins, CO, researchers examined the impact of CBD on anxiety and sleep scores.
72 adult patients with primary concerns of either anxiety or poor sleep were given between 25-175mg of CBD daily in capsule form. The time of the dosage was dependent on the primary issues of the patient: if the patient suffered more from poor sleep, the CBD was administered in the evening, whereas predominantly anxious patients took their capsules after breakfast.
During monthly follow-up visits, researchers employed the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) to assess the severity of anxiety symptoms. The HAM-A consists of a scale of 14 items which describe mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. Patients rate the severity of their symptoms from 0 (not present) to 4 (very severe) on each item, and receive a total score within the range of 0-56. A patient scoring 25 or above “indicates severe anxiety,” warns the study.
To monitor sleep concerns, practitioners administered the PittsburghSleep Quality Index (PSQI). When completing the PSQI, patients answered 19 self-rated questions about their sleep habits over the past month. The questions form seven different components, such as “sleep duration” and “daytime dysfunction,” with scores ranging from 0-3. The combination of all seven component scores results in a global PSQI score between 0 and 21. “A score of five or greater indicates a “poor sleeper,”” the study claims.
Results of the study support the use of CBD to curb anxiety over a sustainable period of time, as well as improve sleep quality.
Researchers reported that “anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration.” Additionally, it was noted that “sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%).”
It is important to note the dosage used in this study (25-175mg/day of CBD) was much smaller than in other clinical trials (which may use up to 600mg/day), supporting the efficacy of lower, more cost-effective doses.
CBD Fights Insomnia
If you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or returning to sleep, you may be a part of the 19.2% of American adults suffering from insomnia.
In a review of literature determining the role of cannabis and cannabinoids on sleep, researchers examined the effects of CBD on insomnia.
The literature review expands on the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) on sleep, stressing “the ECS is a critical system involved in the regulation of the circadian rhythm sleep-wake cycle, highlighting the importance of examining the impact of cannabinoids on sleep.”
The use of CBD affects rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deepest sleep stage. In one study, “CBD blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression,” allowing the user to enter REM sleep. REM sleep is “key to mental and overall well-being and health,” as it “increases brain activity, promotes learning, and creates dreams.”
Additionally, researchers stated “CBD oil reduced insomnia symptoms and PTSD-related sleep disturbances.”
In a case study of a 10-year-old girl with PTSD-related insomnia and anxiety, 25mg of nightly CBD and 6-12mg of CBD taken sublingually throughout the day resulted in “a gradual increase in sleep quality and quantity and a decrease in her anxiety.”
For people with insomnia, CBD may be the key to achieving valuable, deep REM sleep, as well as improving overall sleep quantity and quality.
How to Use CBD to Treat Anxiety and Improve Sleep
CBD can easily be added to your daily routine to reduce any feelings of anxiety and promote better sleep.
When using a tincture bottle, filling the dropper completely allows you to quickly add a 1mL dose of CBD to your morning coffee or tea. CBD oil can also be added to baked goods and other foods. In edible form, CBD takes about one to two hours to “kick in.”
For fastest results, take the CBD sublingually (“under the tongue”) to feel the calming effects within 15 minutes.
Additionally, CBD is available in topical form, such as lotions, ointments, and bath products. Apply a topical CBD product or soak in a relaxing CBD bath approximately two hours before going to bed to enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
The Bottom Line
If you suffer from an anxiety-related disorder or insomnia, CBD is a safe and effective tool for treating your symptoms with powerful results.
Wondering if CBD treatment may be right for your anxiety or insomnia? Quiz Yourself!
Several of the questionnaires used by researchers in the studies explored in this article are linked below as PDFs so that you may perform your own self-assessment before, during, or after CBD use.
Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE) (page 450, Table 2)
ASA Authors & Reviewers, Sleep Physician at American Sleep Association Reviewers and Writers, Board-certified sleep M.D. physicians. (2020). CBD: For Sleep and Insomnia. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-treatments/cbd/
Babson, K. A., Sottile, J., & Morabito, D. (2017). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: A Review of the Literature. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(4). doi:10.1007/s11920-017-0775-9, from https://www.med.upenn.edu/cbti/assets/user-content/documents/s11920-017-0775-9.pdf
Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
Hamilton, M. (1959). Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A). Retrieved 2020, from https://dcf.psychiatry.ufl.edu/files/2011/05/HAMILTON-ANXIETY.pdf
Liebowitz, M. (1987). Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. Retrieved from https://physicians.utah.edu/echo/pdfs/liebowitz-social-anxiety-scale.pdf
Masataka, N. (2019). Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466/full
Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.opapc.com/uploads/documents/PSQI.pdf
Shannon, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal . doi:10.7812/tpp/18-041, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
Shannon, S. (2016). Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. The Permanente Journal . doi:10.7812/tpp/16-005, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101100/
Valley Sleep Center. (2020, February 18). 3 Things You Should Know About REM Sleep. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://valleysleepcenter.com/3-things-you-should-know-about-rem-sleep/
Watson, David & Friend, Ronald. (1969). Measurement of social-evaluative anxiety. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 33. 448-57. 10.1037/h0027806, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/17374704_Measurement_of_social-evaluative_anxiety
About the Author
Lily Kiepke is a freelance writer and blogger based in the Denver metropolitan area. She enjoys using CBD to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. When she is not writing about cannabis, she can be found hiking in the Rocky Mountains or curled up with a good true crime book.