You’ve tried taking a relaxing soak, cutting off your caffeine habit at 3 p.m., and resisting the urge to TikTok the night away (a feat in and of it self)—all in the name of a good night’s sleep—yet the quest for quality shut-eye continues. Thanks to the $64 billion a year the sleep aid market rakes in, we’ve got our pick of natural sleep supplements that promise a one-way ticket to dreamland. But arguably the top picks that people are adding to their sleep checklist? CBD and melatonin. The question is, which is better to take before bed: CBD for sleep or melatonin for sleep? I sought out experts to put the sleep debate to rest (pun intended). Read on to find out whether CBD or melatonin came out on top to land you in Snooze City.
What is CBD?
From skincare and your favorite foods to wellness products and dog treats, there’s no denying that CBD is everywhere. What was once a controversial, hotly-debated supplement is now a mainstream, even en vogue phenomenon. But what really is CBD and why is it being touted as a cure-all elixir? “CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant,” explained Chester Wu, MD, a double-certified doctor in psychiatry and sleep medicine reviewer at Rise Science. “Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that bind to receptors in your central nervous system and interact with the endocannabinoid system in your body. CBD isn’t the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets you high—that’s tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD is known for making you feel relaxed and less anxious, and it may have some pain relieving properties, too.”
What is melatonin?
Whether or not you’re one of the 84 million Americans who struggles to catch quality Zzzs, you’ve likely heard about melatonin and that it regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, but what does that actually mean? “Melatonin is a hormone that’s made in your brain to help get your body ready for sleep,” described Dr. Wu. “It lowers your body temperature, blood pressure, stress hormones, and how alert you feel, helping you drift off. Melatonin for sleep can also be made in a lab and packaged into everything from gummies to sprays, creams to capsules. In supplement form, melatonin can help you feel sleepy at times you usually wouldn’t, like during the day if you work night shifts, or if you’re battling jet lag or trying to move your sleep schedule.”
Which is better to take to help promote a good night’s rest?
Sleep is individualized, and can be super tricky to pin point. Translation: There’s not a one-size-fits-all sleep solution. “The answer will depend on the underlying issues that might be causing sleep problems,” conveyed Po-Chang Hsu, MD, a medical content expert at Sleeping Ocean. “If a person experiences poor sleep due to anxiety, chronic stress, racing thoughts, or pain, they can try CBD. However, if one can’t sleep because of an inconsistent schedule, shift work, or jet lag, they should try melatonin, as it works with the body’s internal clock.” Tom Greenspan, a sleep expert and sleep science coach and Co-Founder at VS Mattress agreed: “It depends on the individual. Melatonin is more suitable for people with jet lag or shift work disorder. CBD for sleep may be more beneficial for those with anxiety issues or insomnia, due to its calming and anti-inflammatory effects.”
In other words, melatonin and CBD do not have the same function. Melatonin acts as the body’s naturally-produced hormone that tells the body it’s time to go to sleep, while CBD does not tell the body to sleep, but it does help the mind and body relax, which is why it’s promising for people who cannot sleep due to stress, insomnia, etc.
So now you may be wondering why not take both? “Both are popular supplements that may help induce more sound sleep,” affirmed Dr. Sherpa, a holistic physician at Nature’s Rise. “There’s a great debate over which is more effective, but they complement each other. When used together, CBD and melatonin may have enhanced effects. Research has found that using both CBD and melatonin not only led to deeper sleep but also improved the overall duration of rest.”
James Oliver, a sleep lead researcher and Founder at Hey Mattress, also recommended taking both CBD and melatonin in combination as an effective strategy to support better sleep quality: “CBD oil has been known to have calming effects on the body, which can help you relax and fall asleep more easily. On the other hand, taking melatonin before bed can help reset [your sleep-wake cycle] quickly so you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer throughout the night.” Before taking CBD, melatonin, or a mixture of the two, be sure to discuss the options with your doctor to decide which method is best for you, as well as dosage.
Are there any downsides?
While CBD and melatonin clearly have bragging rights for promoting a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed morning, there are some drawbacks to both worth noting. Dr. Wu pointed out that CBD isn’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s important to purchase CBD from a trusted source (we recommend Equilibria). Identifying the exact dosage that’s right for you can be difficult since it’s unregulated by the FDA and products can be inconsistent. Additionally, Dr. Sherpa said there have been reports of CBD interfering with certain medications, so it’s worth reiterating the importance of consulting a doctor when starting CBD supplementation to ensure safe and optimal use.
As for melatonin, Dr. Wu mentioned that the FDA classifies it as a dietary supplement, so there are no strict rules or dosage guidelines regulating it. “As the amount of melatonin and the time you take it can dramatically change the effects, without clear guidance on these things, it’s easy to keep missing the mark when it comes to trying to fall asleep with melatonin,” he said. What’s more, the jury is still out on whether long-term use of melatonin supplements is safe and they may not be suitable for those with sleep disorders like insomnia. Finally, according to Greenspan, potential side effects of melatonin include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty waking in the morning.
Please consult a doctor or a mental health professional before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.