Does cannabis lead to better sleep?

CBN sleep study

From old-school stoners who rip a bowl before bed to the new-age consumer with a specially formulated gummy, the plant has been a sleep aid for generations. As access to the plant grows, research is starting to tell us why so many sleepless people reach for their pot. A recently published study examined the connection between cannabinol (CBN) and sleep, a cannabinoid found in the plant in small quantities.

The study’s goal was to understand how CBN affects sleep and if CBD might enhance the effect. Turns out, the minor cannabinoid may play a role in getting a good night’s rest. Researchers behind the double-blind, placebo-controlled study shared affiliations with cannabis corporations Canopy Growth, Charlotte’s Web, and Wana Brands.

The cannabinoid research plan

There were five arms to the cannabis sleep trial: the placebo group who got no cannabinoids, 20 mg CBN, 10 mg CBD + 20 mg CBN, 20 mg CBD + 10 mg CBN, and 100 mg CBD + 20 mg CBN. Originally, researchers hoped to get 75 participants in each arm, pursuing participants through fliers, local radio, internet ads, and social media posts.

Some hopeful participants were excluded. Those who consumed cannabinoids in the previous 30 days, got a positive screening for a few sleep disorders, or any changes to medications or routine during the testing period were turned away. Researchers passed on those with diagnosed sleep disorders to hone in on over-the-counter applications for the cannabinoids. Due to a lack of participants, researchers were forced to start with 65 participants per arm.

Before starting, participants set a sleep baseline for three days. They were asked to fill out three sleep-focused assessments to gather data. A form identifying fatigue was filled out 90 minutes before bed each day. Within an hour of waking up, participants filled out a core sleep diary and at the end of the three days, a survey on how sound the rest was.

During the next seven-day period, participants did the same, journaling and self-assessments while taking specially formulated gummies. They filmed themselves taking the gummies each night, recording time-stamped video entries. No major adverse reactions (AE) were recorded. Around 20 percent of each arm experienced some minor side effects like drowsiness and/or headache.

Do CBN and CBD help sleep?

The data gathered in these surveys were analyzed by statisticians who found there was no statistically different sleep quality between groups. However, the CBN-only group experienced fewer sleep disturbances compared to the placebo group, and overall more restful sleep according to participant self-sleep assessment. This means consuming CBN alone could lead to counting more vivid sheep, but doesn’t improve sleep overall.

There are some other limitations worth mentioning. For example, only one dose of CBN capsules was lab-tested from the lot of formulations. Also, there was only subjective sleep analysis as participants self-reported in the fully remote study. A more comprehensive study including an objective perspective would provide a truly holistic view of the data.

Researchers believe more data on sleep issues as a part of withdrawal from CBN, knowing that THC withdrawal can cause sleep disturbances. Even with these limitations, findings were interesting from this look into CBN and sleep.

This study offers insight into how CBN works when it comes to sleep and shows where other cannabinoids could fill in the gaps. For example, would adding THC, CBG, or another cannabinoid make CBN more apt to kick in the entourage effect and improve sleep overall? As more cannabis brands craft sleep-focused products and consumers seek a restful night, studies like these lead us in the right direction to finding out.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.