People are turning to CBD oil to fall asleep, but is it the best remedy?

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Sleep aids are readily available on the market and claim to put you to sleep, but how do you know which one is best for you?

If you struggle with insomnia or have sleep problems, you may have turned to melatonin or even prescription medication like Ambien. But CBD oil is also starting to take over the sleep aid market.

“Sleep ended up being a lot more important than we thought,” Justin Butler said.

Butler works at Healing Hemp of Arkansas. The store opened its Little Rock location in September and he said a very large majority of his customers are coming in for their sleep problems.

“I just wasn’t expecting as many people to be looking for relief from sleep as I was for them to be looking for relief from anxiety or just pain and inflammation,” Butler said.

Butler said he routinely sees people who are on prescription sleep pills. He said many of them are buying CBD capsules with other additives like melatonin, tryptophan and GABA. He said these customers claim these pills work better than the prescription.

“We got people coming in that say Ambien doesn’t work, Lunesta doesn’t work,” Butler said. “Even if melatonin hasn’t worked well for someone before, having the combination [with CBD] can be a new experience.”

But are any of these sleep aids actually giving you a good night’s sleep?

“It’s a band-aid instead of getting to the root of the problem,” Dr. Caris Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is a sleep medicine physician at UAMS and the VA. She said although sleep aids may initially work, they are not a long term fix.

“The brain chemistry is going to swing back the other way. Overtime the more you’re exposed to that, the more your body kind of needs it for a normal night’s sleep,” she said.

Dr. Fitzgerald said prescription pills like Ambien sedate the brain. She said sedation is not the same as sleep.

“When you sedate your brain, you’re kind of giving it a membrane signal of stay asleep, stay asleep,” she said. “This prevents you from getting into a natural deep sleep, where you’re actually rejuvenating the cell and repairing the cell and doing all the things that need to be done.”

When it comes to CBD oil, she said certain types of it may be more helpful than others. She said studies are still being done to understand the effects of it.

Butler said CBD work great at putting people to sleep, not so much keeping you asleep.

“Most of these products work well for the half-life of about four to six hours, but getting that carry over of 8 hours of sleep is where we find people have problems,” Butler said.

As for melatonin, Dr. Fitzgerald said there are no studies that prove it has any long-term effects on the brain, but it will act as a cover up when trying to get you to sleep.

“Instead of hitting specific receptors in specific parts of the brain, [melatonin] blankets the receptors. You don’t quite get the same entrance into sleep as you might otherwise,” Fitzgerald said.

Instead of reaching for a sleep aid like melatonin in the supplement aisle, it may actually be more beneficial to reach for the magnesium instead. Fitzgerald said it is still being studied, but low magnesium could affect your sleep pattern.

“There are certain diseases that might lower the amount of magnesium in your system, especially if your diet is poor,” Fitzgerald said.

Dr. Fitzgerald said it is fine to use a sleep aid every once in a while, but if you are using it every night, it might be more beneficial to figure exactly why you can’t sleep. 

She said in her clinic, the common most offender for poor sleep is sleep apnea. She said the second most common offender is behavior which includes anxiety.

“So, a person is spending an excessive amount of time in bed maybe, trying to obtain sleep and possibly engaging in other activities that are unhealthy for sleep,” Fitzgerald said.

Dr. Fitzgerald said if you struggle with falling asleep, you need to get on a more consistent schedule. She said your circadian rhythm is an important part of your sleep drive.

“One of the big things I talk to patients about is trying to get a super set wake time, regardless of the weekends. Try not to vary your wake 30 minutes in either direction,” Fitzgerald said.

Dr. Ftizgerald also recommends shutting off all lights at least thirty minutes before bed. This includes TV, computer, call phones and long form lighting.

“Those kinds of bright lights end up inhibiting the release of melatonin,” she said.