• Rebecca Roberts

CBD for Generalized Anxiety and Sleep Support


Anxiety is a persistent, multi-dimensional and emotional fight-or-flight response without the presence of a direct threat. We know that anxiety certainly feels real, and it is. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that flight-or-flight is a biological response designed to prevent us from life or death situations. Furthermore, anxiety and anxiety related disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric conditions in the United States, according to Skelley et al. In fact, 30% of people in the US have anxiety related disorders. The major existing pharmacological treatments for anxiety related issues have many side effects and are limited in how effective they are. Research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can be a safe alternative to anti-anxiety drugs.

THC and CBD are the two major compounds (out of roughly 400) present in the Cannabis sativa plant. THC is known to cause anxiety and can create a psychological dependence. Since CBD is non-psychoactive, it won’t have the same negative side effects. Research has shown that CBD is able to “modulate synaptic plasticity and neuronal activity involved in the anxiety response. Primary activity of signaling within the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is thought to be because of the action on 2 known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2” (Skelley et al). Research has shown that Cannabidioil (CBD) is like to help ease anxiety symptoms when processed in the ECS.


According to Skelley et al, CBD inhibits the inactivation of anandamide, a neurotransmitter within the endocannabinoid system that precedes activity on the CB1 receptor. When paired with activity on 5-HT(1a) receptors, research has shown this process is crucial in the anxiolytic, anti depressive and neuroprotective effects of anxiety. When this is the case, according to Shannon et al, lower doses have proven more effective than higher doses of CBD. Blessing et al, explains the notion of smaller doses being more effective as CBD having a “bell-shaped response curve.” At higher doses, research has shown that cortisol levels decrease but procure a sedative effect. According to Papa & Barkley, “CBD receptors are present in the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and peripheral nervous systems, and the natural cannabinoids and phytonutrients found in cannabis communicate with these signal receptors of the ECS to help reduce minor aches, discomfort, and normal inflammation.” When CBD oil is introduced in the body, CB1, CB2 and other natural constituents are processed through the ECS system producing beneficial health benefits such as easing anxiety and helping to support sleep.

In a clinical study outlined by Shannon et al that took place at the Wholeness Center in Fort Collins, CO, CBD as assessed in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders. The Wholeness Center focuses on combined Integrative Medicine, practicing psychiatry, naturopathy, acupuncture, neurofeedback, yoga, and other alternative approaches to healing. In this study, 72 different patients diagnosed with either a sleep or anxiety disorder were treated with CBD for their corresponding disorder in addition to the psychiatric medicine they were already on. The study began with most patients receiving 25 mg doses in a capsule. If they had continued issues with anxiety, they would be given the capsule after breakfast. If they continued having issues with sleep, they would take the CBD capsule after dinner. Although each participants CBD dosage was determined by their practitioner, it was used as a tool to try to lessen or do without psychiatric medicines.

During the first month of the study cited by Shannon et al, 79.2% of patients experienced improved anxiety and 66.7% of patients had improved sleep. Overall, the study showed a greater improvement in anxiety than sleep. During the 3 month study, anxiety continued to decrease while sleep didn’t fluctuate too much after the initial month. Two patients stopped taking the CBD within the first 2 weeks of the study because they experienced fatigue. There were no severe negative side effects. It’s important to keep in mind that patients were going to counseling in addition to taking their psychiatric medications. It’s realistic that someone serious about overcoming anxiety should also see a counselor and may also be on other medication. CBD, a natural medicine, is by no means a pharmaceutical and therefore requires consistent, monitored use to be effective. Working with a counselor to measure its effectiveness gives a person a benefit over someone trying to remedy their anxiety with minimal outside help. Although this study dictated minimal results in CBD sleep for sleep, it indicated strong results in being able to calm anxiety. What this means is that if someone experiences sleeplessness due to racing thoughts, a restless brain or anxiety, CBD could help the body calm down and get to a point where falling asleep and getting a good night sleep are possible.


In an article by Papa & Barkley, CBD is described as a tool to help people fall asleep, especially when they have been staring at their phones all day. Especially these days, many of us spend a lot of time in front of blue lights screens (phones, tablets, laptops) and don’t allow adequate time for the body to wind down before bed. Research has shown this can alter with a person’s circadian rhythm dramatically. It’s best to spend less time in front of a screen, specifically an hour or two bed. On the nights where this feels impossible, reach for the bottle of CBD tincture to help soothe the mind after a long day. CBD might be able to help with insomnia, or trouble falling asleep is what’s preventing a person from getting a quality night’s sleep. If it’s difficult to fall asleep because of achy muscles, CBD should help calm and ease muscle soreness. It’s best to pair CBD tincture with a book or other activity that doesn’t involve staring at a screen for optimum effects. Once a person starts to develop a routine of little screen time and CBD tincture right before bed each night, they should see results, motivating them to continue with this routine.

Sources

Blessing, Esther M et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,4 (2015): 825-36. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J 2019;23:18-041. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7812/ TPP/18-041

Shannon, Scott et al. “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series.” The Permanente journal vol. 23 (2019): 18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041

Sepahbodi, Cyrus, and Laine Hammer. “CBD Oil for Trouble Sleeping.” Papa & Barkley, Publisher Name Papa & Barkley Publisher Logo, papaandbarkley.com/learn/cbd-oil-for-sleep/.


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