“Why Do I Use CBD for Sleep? It Turns Off My Racing Thoughts.”
“CBD slowed things down almost immediately. It doesn’t make me stupid — I can still think. I can write coherently and could theoretically do algebra, if I remembered how that works. But my thoughts don’t overwhelm me anymore.”
The following is a personal essay, and not a medical recommendation endorsed by ADDitude. For more information about CBD, speak with your physician.
My ADHD often sparks racing thoughts and restlessness. Sometimes, my brain simply refuses to turn off. I fall down one rabbit hole, only to find that it leads to another, then another. Anxiety can be the culprit: 31.4% of people diagnosed with ADHD — and 36% of women with ADHD — also have an anxiety disorder. But, usually, my brain’s just working overtime. It whirs with ideas. It churns up plans. It simply won’t stop humming, and I can’t sleep. So, I turn to CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a derivative of the cannabis sativa plant. Yes, that means marijuana. Don’t freak out. CBD’s been stripped of THC, or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, pot’s famously psychoactive ingredient. CBD doesn’t get you high.
It’s sold in various forms — oils, gummies, vape pens, capsules. I prefer to use it as a vape pen, partly because, like 40% of adults with ADHD, I once smoked cigarettes. I take a few hits of my vape pen, wait a little bit, then fall asleep. CBD turns off my racing thoughts.
Why CBD for Sleep?
I first tried CBD because, well, I’ve used its big bad brother. I knew that stuff had helped me with my anxiety and racing thoughts, so why not give CBD a try? Marijuana contains a lot of different chemicals — THC is only one of them. Maybe my brain was reacting to more than just the psychoactive component of the drug, I thought.
Maybe I was right, or maybe I got lucky. Either way, CBD slowed down my whirring brain almost immediately. It doesn’t make me stupid — I can still think. I can write coherently and could theoretically do algebra, if I remembered how that works. But my thoughts don’t overwhelm me anymore.
Imagine trying to meditate when you’re freaking out about a big interview. That’s me trying to sleep. Now imagine trying to meditate when you’re calm and relaxed. That’s me trying to sleep with CBD.
No high. No confusion. No dumbed-down thoughts or burning desire for Doritos. Just calm.
CBD Helps Me Stay Asleep, Too
Full disclosure: My husband snores like a congested polar bear. If he flips on his back, he wakes me up, even when I wear earplugs. CBD helps with that, too. I’ve noticed that on nights when I use CBD, I sleep more soundly. It may be psychosomatic: I think I’m going to sleep better, so I do. But turning off those racing thoughts may mean that I’m able to drop into deep sleep quicker and stay there longer.
Like many people with ADHD, I experience very restless sleep. I move around a lot. I kick off my covers. I wake at every sound; I get hot and tear off my clothes, then I get cold and pull them back on. CBD helps me cut down on that restlessness, at least in the beginning of the night. Of course, once it wears off, I’m tossing off my blankets and thrashing around again. But those few hours of uninterrupted sleep are golden.
This is where it gets confusing: CBD with less than 3% THC is legal if it comes from industrial hemp.1 It is considered unlawful to sell CBD in foods and supplements, and in late November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing CBD. 2
However, state laws vary significantly. (Check your own state’s laws; some states that allow THC-containing marijuana may also regulate CBD.) Epidiolex, a prescription drug that treats epilepsy is the only FDA-approved drug product containing CBD. 3
On November 25, 2019, the FDA published a revised consumer update regarding safety concerns about CBD products that said, “Due to limited research data, the FDA is unable to declare CBD products safe, according to the updated statement. The FDA warns that CBD can cause liver damage and increased drowsiness, among other side effects. The impact of daily CBD use over a sustained period is unknown. Likewise, the FDA says there is insufficient research on the effect of CBD on the developing brain, on fetuses, and on the male reproductive system.” 4
Because off-the-shelf CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, it can be hard to tell how much CBD any given supplement contains. One study of 84 CBD products purchased online found that more than 25% contained less CBD than they advertised — and 18 of them still contained THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Eek. So, it’s important — if you do use CBD — to buy it from a reputable source, preferably one that uses outside testing to determine the purity and CBD content of its products.
CBD is not a drug endorsed by any medical body. It requires much more research on long- and short-term effects. That said, CBD has worked wonders for me. It may not work for everyone; these are only my own experiences. But if you are having trouble falling asleep, you may want to discuss this option with your physician.
Whatever you decide, goodnight and good luck.
CBD for Sleep? Next Steps
- Free Download: Natural Approaches to ADHD Symptom Management
- Read: The Damaging Effects of Cannabis on the ADHD Brain
- Read: ADHD and Sleep Problems: This is Why You’re Always So Tired
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1U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021). FDA regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including cannabidiol (cbd). Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
2H.R.2 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. (2018, December 20). https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2
3U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, June 25). FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms”
4U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, March 5). What you need to know (and what we’re trying to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-containing compounds, Including CBD. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis”