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Hemp Oil Is Calming — But Does It Make You Sleepy? What The Experts Say*

Young Woman Enjoying A Hot Drink In Bed
Image by Irina Polonina / Stocksy
October 9, 2021
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For such a popular product, there is still a lot of misinformation—and ensuing confusion—around hemp oil. In addition to questions surrounding legality, psychoactive effects, tolerance, and dosing, we at mbg field a lot of queries about whether it will cause sleepiness and should be taken before bed.

For anyone seeking deeper slumber, here's what hemp oil can and can't do in the zzz's department.*

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So, does hemp oil make you sleepy?

The answer, it turns out, is a bit complicated. But as a rule of thumb, Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a California-based physician and author of Cannabis Is Medicine, says that hemp oil won't be sedating at low to moderate doses.

Before we dive into why hemp oil won't put you to sleep, let's cover what it will do: Full-spectrum hemp oil is rich in healthy plant compounds called phytocannabinoids. While some of its phytocannabinoids are similar to those in marijuana plants (a distinctly different Cannabis plant varietal), hemp oil has an extremely low THC content (and high CBD).

As mbg's director of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, explains, "As for the THC in full-spectrum hemp oil, we're talking trace to undetectable levels. In fact, by law, hemp in the U.S. must contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, while European hemp is even more strict, at less than 0.2% THC."

This is an important distinction because THC, a psychoactive compound, does seem to cause sleepiness and affect sleep quality1 when taken in higher doses. But unlike THC, the phytocannabinoids found in a hemp product don't seem to bind directly to receptors in the brain and shouldn't make you feel profoundly tired, Goldstein explains. Instead, they interact more indirectly with a number of receptors in the brain and body that primarily help regulate things like mood, stress levels, and perceived pleasure.*

Where this gets confusing is that many people do take hemp oil at night and may find that it helps them sleep.* However, that's likely because it can help out with stress management, relax you, and promote a steadier mood.* And as hemp expert Dani Gordon, M.D., has previously told mbg, stress can often make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. So once you get stress levels in check, it would make sense that deeper sleep can follow.

Ferira provides additional nuance, saying "While CBD-dominant hemp oil at low-to-medium doses is going to primarily promote calm and relaxation via the balancing master thermostat known as our endocannabinoid system, high enough doses of hemp oil and CBD are known to tip the balance to sleep. That dosing is highly individual."*

If you're looking to work hemp oil into your nightly routine, you might consider following it up with a targeted sleep supplement.* That way, the calming phytocannabinoids can set the stage for a relaxing and low-stress evening, and the sleep support can kick in from there.* (Psst...if you're curious to give it a try, mindbodygreen's calm+, made with USDA- and E.U.-certified organic European hemp oil (full-spectrum), and bestselling sleep support+ supplements are on sale right now!).*

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A caveat.

Echoing Ferira's earlier insight about hemp oil's personalized potential, Goldstein adds that we all absorb, metabolize, and respond to hemp oil differently, so it's important to see what works for you. If you're new to the product, she recommends trying a low dose at a time to start. Experiment with taking it at different times of the day to see how it makes you feel. You might find it slightly stimulating and prefer to take it in the morning, or it may register as more calming and be a nighttime thing.* Either way, its effect will likely be gradual: Think slow, steady waves of relaxation versus a tsunami of sleepiness.*

The bottom line.

While hemp oil can be used to de-stress and relax, it shouldn't necessarily cause a rush of sleepiness.* This makes it a solid addition to any nighttime routine, and one that can be easily paired with other sleep-promoting tools to set you up for stellar sleep.*

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.