Health & Diet

I Was a Major Skeptic—But CBD Is Actually Helping Me Sleep Better

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t take supplements or multivitamins. No judgments, but I haven’t seen a lot of evidence they do anything and some contain stuff I don’t want in them. In the same vein, I don’t take a lot of over-the-counter medicines if I can help it.

I will, of course, take a decongestant if I have a cold, or an ibuprofen or acetaminophen if I have a headache—but I tend to use it as a last resort, and to only take the smallest necessary dose when I do.

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All of which is to say that when CBD oils and infused products started popping up everywhere, I was primed to be a skeptic. Is there really a health benefit to taking what amounts to an herbal supplement? I know people who’ve had success treating major ailments with it, but as a relatively healthy person, I didn’t see much reason to, say, add it to my coffee or go out and buy gummies. I mostly decided it was a trend I could sit out.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m not against it because it’s derived from marijuana. I have smoked in the past, and though I don’t do it anymore, it’s a perfectly pleasant way to spend an afternoon when you have nothing to do. But the makers of CBD products are clear that it’s not intended to get someone high, and I never found weed helpful for treating any ailments other than boredom.

Still, the CBD phenomenon hasn’t gone away—if anything, it’s grown. And when one of the video producers here suggested we taste test a bunch for a Cooking Light video series, I gamely gave it all a try. Because we tasted nearly a dozen products, I ended up ingesting about four or five times the recommended dose. The result? A very mild, but pleasant sense of relaxation, and that’s about it. After the test, I was sure I’d probably not take any again.

Watch: Chris and Jaime Try CBD Products

But here’s the thing: For the last few years, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I don’t feel like I’m an overly anxious person, but I lay down at night, exhausted, and find that about 30% of the time, I’m just… awake. For most of the night. I know how important sleep is, and I know it will affect my long-term health if I don’t get enough.

I’ve tried all kinds of products, from soothing pillows, to blankets, to fancy lights, but I’ve stayed away from sleeping pills or over-the-counter medicine—I don’t like how they make me feel groggy in the morning, or the idea of being chemically knocked out.

But after a few particularly troubled nights tossing and turning, I was looking at a bottle of CBD oil left over from the taste test, and I thought: “Sure. Why not. I’ll give it a try.” That night I took a dropper full and felt: Nothing. I felt no different than before. I shrugged my shoulders and went to bed.

And I didn’t sleep a wink. Ah well, I figured. So it goes. But the next night I decided to give it another shot. Since it certainly didn’t seem to have any negative side effects, I knew it wouldn’t hurt. And I thought I should give it another go to make sure it didn’t just take a day or two to kick in. I decided to give myself one week.

But I didn’t need the week. That second night, I went straight to sleep and didn’t wake up until morning.

And I woke up feeling fully refreshed—not groggy in the least—and rested for once. It was great! To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I’ve been taking one dropper full each night right before bed for about two weeks now, and there’s no doubt it’s having an effect. I’m falling asleep easily, and sleeping more or less through the night without trouble.

But here was the real shocker: For the last several months I’ve also been fighting to stay motivated while exercising. I typically run in the mornings, but I’ve been getting up, getting dressed, going outside, and just turning right around and coming back in again.

It’s hard to explain why. Instead of being excited to be out there (or at least neutral about it) I’d feel an overwhelming sense of dread and purposelessness that more or less stopped me in my tracks.

I blamed it on the winter darkness, and the cold, though those things haven’t bothered me in the past. I figured I was just in a funk. I kept getting up and trying to go for runs in the morning, but less frequently, and with an increasing sense of futility. But a few days after starting on my nightly CBD, I got up in the morning, got dressed, and headed out for a run, fully expecting to have the same “I can’t do this” moment—and it didn’t happen. I just…ran. Like I used to. 

Looking back on it, I think the same anxiety that’s been keeping me from sleeping well had started keeping me from exercising. And whatever effect the CBD has, it seems to particularly address that anxiety (recent research supports my experience—at least in the short term). Instead of putting me to sleep, it just lets me relax enough to actually fall sleep when I’m tired. Or run when I’m awake.

And when I’m relaxed, I’m also less likely to stress-eat, or engage in lots of other unhealthy behaviors. So this really does feel like a winner! I may have finally found a supplement that’s worth taking.  

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