CBD curious? What to know if you’re in the market for a good night’s sleep

Daniell Lyttle, 38, of Valley Village, says this CBD vape pen has made all the difference for her, helping with her anxiety and insomnia.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Over the years, Daniell Lyttle has tried everything to get a good night’s sleep.

Finally, she found a remedy that helps both her insomnia and anxiety: CBD.

Lyttle, 38, juggles a jam-packed schedule between work and school — she’s a home health aide and nursing student in Los Angeles. She said she especially gets stressed taking tests, or speaking in front of groups.

She’s been using a CBD vape pen for more than a year to help alleviate her stress, and help her get the sleep she needs to make it through her busy schedule.

“I gave it a shot,” Lyttle said. “It was amazing.”

CBD is short for cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis plants, but it’s usually derived from hemp, which unlike its cousin marijuana, contains little to no THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high.


Products made with CBD — touted as a cure-all for everything from insomnia to epilepsy, from arthritis to ADHD — are seemingly everywhere we look.

Gummies, softgels, dropper bottles and creams once relegated to smoke shops or pot dispensaries now have their own displays at mainstream pharmacies and grocery stores. Sales are projected to hit $5 billion by the end of the year — up more than 700% from 2018 — and could reach $23.7 billion in 2023, according to Brightfield Group, a Chicago-based market research firm studying the industry.

These CBD products hold a special allure for those of us — like Lyttle — who are less interested in a buzz and more interested in some solid zzzzs.

How to wade in if you’re CBD-curious?

Start by being skeptical. And it won’t hurt to talk it over with your doctor.

“Cannabinoids are not a panacea, and they certainly are not snake oil,” said Christopher Gavigan, CEO of Prima, a CBD-focused wellness and beauty brand launched in June, and based in Santa Monica. “The whole cannabis industry has been under social and political stigma for a long time. That’s been lifting and shifting.”

But: “It’s the Wild West out there,” said Aliza Sherman, co-author of the new book “Cannabis and CBD for Health & Wellness.” “Most of the industry is moving so quickly, I don’t think as consumers we’re getting enough information to make good decisions.”

Last year, the FDA approved the use of CBD to treat debilitating seizures in two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, but so far that’s the only federally approved medical use for CBD.

But you wouldn’t know that by looking at store shelves.

“You’d think that CBD cures anything that moves right now,” said Dr. Junella Chin, Sherman’s co-author and an osteopathic physician based in New York. “It’s not regulated well.”

Because CBD has so quickly become mainstream, users might not think to mention it to their doctors, said Ziva Cooper, research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, part of the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.


But she said that conversation is crucial, because the CBD might interfere with other drugs they’re taking.

“We’re in the infancy of this drug, we’re not sure of what the effects are of long-term exposure,” she said.

Many manufacturers say they are eager for FDA guidelines and the certainty that would bring themselves and consumers.

“There’s no denying this is a rapidly growing market, and the FDA knows they need to figure out how to regulate this, because it’s not going away,” Prima co-founder Laurel Myers said. “From our point of view, the sooner the better.”

The alternative, she said, are products that are unethically marketed and sold. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. tested 84 CBD products purchased online; 43% contained less CBD than was claimed on the label, while 26% had more.

Gavigan said the user “needs to be empowered to be their own best advocate.”

He and the others cite a few common-sense guidelines for CBD consumers:

— Look for the U.S. Hemp Authority seal, created by the industry to give approval to products it deems safe, high-quality and legal. (But know that even that seal has generated controversy; small producers say the required fees are unfair to them.)

— Buy from a reputable vendor.

— Read the label to see exactly what’s inside the bottle.

— Look for a QR code that takes you to online information about the source of the CBD and details about independent, third-party testing.

— Delve into a product’s website for similar information.

And remember that nudge to talk it over with your doctor.

For Lyttle, discovering CBD has made all the difference.

“My anxiety goes from a shaky hand to total stability,” she said. “It worked exactly how I needed it to — it relieved my anxiety, with no side effects.”


Over the years she’s used prescription remedies, including Zoloft, Xanax and Wellbutrin, and still takes Lunesta to help her sleep.

But “CBD is like that little extra that I feel like I need, and you can buy it whenever you need it. And it’s affordable.”

CBD advocates swear by it for simpler, everyday complaints — from muscles aches to anxiety to insomnia. Want to get started on that conversation with your doctor? Here are some of the most popular products on the market, and a homegrown brand:

— Green Roads says its Sleepy Z’s gummies combine “the relaxing power of CBD with melatonin.” At $10 for a pack of two, each Z-shaped gummy contains 25 milligrams of CBD and .5 milligram of melatonin.

— Charlotte’s Web says its CBD Oil can help with stress and focus. The tincture can be dropped into food or drink, or directly under the tongue. Recommended dose is 1 milliliter; a 30 milliliter dropper bottle is $74.99.

— San Diego-based CV Sciences commissioned its own double-blind study to prove its CBD supplement can improve sleep. The PlusCBD Oil Gold Formula softgels contain 15 milligrams of CBD each. A package of 60 is $76.46.

— Los Angeles-based Irwin Naturals is a 25-year-old nutritional supplements company that has jumped into the CBD arena. Its CBD+Power to Sleep softgels are said to help “promote restful sleep without causing early-morning drowsiness.” A bottle of 60 softgels runs $22.99. Available from pharmacies, health-food and specialty stores, and online from Irwin Naturals.