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CBD is becoming quite a popular supplement among the young and the restless (and everyone in between). Millions of Americans have reported trying CBD and many have said that it helps them with their sleep. But why is that? Are CBD and circadian rhythm linked?
In this post, we’re going to talk about,
- What CBD is
- What your circadian rhythm is
- And how CBD might help your circadian rhythm and ultimately, your quality of sleep
Disclaimer: This piece was written for purely informational purposes. The efficacy of CBD has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. CBD is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. There is no guarantee that CBD will help you get to or stay asleep.
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol and is one of the 100+ naturally occurring compounds called cannabinoids produced by mature hemp and cannabis plants. Unlike its well-studied counterpart, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t induce intoxicating effects when you consume it.
Learn more about how we extract CBD from hemp plants.
CBD & Sleep
A recent survey published in the Journal of Cannabis Research suggests that many CBD users are self-medicating with CBD to help manage their sleep issues. Of the 430 respondents, 42.5% said that they had or do use CBD to “improve sleep quality” or to treat self-perceived insomnia.1
There are a number of reasons that CBD may help a person fall asleep, whether that’s making you drowsy or addressing the root causes of restlessness like stress and anxiety. Researchers aren’t certain yet, but we do know that 40% of respondents from that same Cannabis Research survey said that CBD improved their sleep.
Related: CBN The “Sleep Cannabinoid”
What Is The Circadian Rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is an internal, roughly 24-hour clock that regulates your body’s physiological, metabolic, and mental processes. It’s kept ticking by a small region in the brain’s hypothalamus and is sometimes called “the master clock.” We’ll talk about why in just a minute.
Essentially the circadian rhythm is why you feel drowsy when the sun sets and why you feel more awake in sunlight. Light-sensitive cells in your eyes send cues to your hypothalamus so that you can sync up with the day-night cycle. But, even when you aren’t exposed to natural light, your circadian rhythm keeps you on track by making you feel drowsy or awake when you normally would.
Ever wonder why you can’t sleep in on the weekends? Yeah, that’s your circadian rhythm at work.
What Does The Circadian Rhythm Do?
Aside from rousing you from sleep and making you drowsy, the circadian rhythm is important for many bodily functions including,
Many endogenous hormones like cortisol, melatonin, and human growth hormone follow your circadian clock. We’re told as children that we need to get our rest to recover and grow big and strong. That’s true thanks to our circadian rhythm which signals the release of human growth hormone as we sleep.
Our body temperature fluctuates daily, contributing to our wake-sleep cycle.
Just as we feel alert or drowsy around the same time every day, our circadian rhythm also affects metabolism and digestion which means that you’ll likely feel hungry around the same time every day.
What Does A Deregulated Circadian Rhythm Do?
Keeping time and maintaining a well-running circadian rhythm is crucial for staying healthy and happy. Imagine trying to run your car without your timing belt— pistons would misfire and you’d be in a world of trouble. The same is true about your circadian rhythm. Studies have linked circadian rhythm deregulation to disorders like,
Probably the most obvious on this list. Circadian rhythm disorders like insomnia, REM behavior disorder, and shift work disorder can lead to excessive fatigue during the day and sleep deprivation which in and of itself can lead to a whole new host of issues.
Some studies have linked irregular circadian rhythms to mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.2,3
Some believe, based on emerging research, that circadian rhythm deregulation (and by extension sleep deprivation) may play a role in obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.4
CBD & The Circadian Rhythm
While CBD research is still in its infancy, researchers are actively looking into cannabidiol’s relationship with sleep. While we can’t say for sure how CBD affects our circadian rhythm, we can speculate how it might influence our master clock based on some existing studies.
Several studies, like the survey mentioned at the beginning of this post, suggest that CBD may have a positive effect on sleep quality.
Because our sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm are related, it’s plausible that CBD might directly or indirectly influence our circadian rhythm, too.
Stress & Anxiety
Ever lay your head down on the pillow and every thought and anxiety from the day rushes back to you? You’re not alone. It’s quite commonplace for stress and anxiety to negatively impact our circadian rhythms.
Some research suggests that CBD might be able to reduce our stress levels and quiet those incessant before-bed thoughts leading to better sleep.6
Chronic stress has also been linked to an imbalance in our endogenous hormones and neurotransmitters, both of which are important for the maintenance of our circadian rhythm.
Some research indicates that CBD might affect retinal function and our eye’s sensitivity to light, specifically natural light. It’s possible that CBD’s influence on our sensitivity to light may impact our circadian rhythm. But, that research is still inconclusive.
Using CBD For Your Circadian Rhythm
While cannabidiol shows potential in supporting better sleep and a healthy circadian rhythm, CBD isn’t a cure-all for sleep disorders.
Before you jump into the world of CBD, try adjusting your sleep hygiene, also known as your before-bed routine. Avoid screens, stimulants, and adhere to a strict sleep schedule. If that isn’t enough, then look into CBD and ask your doctor if it will interact with any of your prescriptions.
If you ultimately decide that you want to try CBD, source it from sustainable and reliable sources. For more information about how to do so, check out our handy CBD buying guide and become a better-informed shopper.
- Moltke, J., Hindocha, C. Reasons for cannabidiol use: a cross-sectional study of CBD users, focusing on self-perceived stress, anxiety, and sleep problems. J Cannabis Res 3, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00061-5
- Germain A, Kupfer DJ. Circadian rhythm disturbances in depression. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2008;23(7):571-585. doi:10.1002/hup.964
- Gold AK, Kinrys G. Treating Circadian Rhythm Disruption in Bipolar Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019;21(3):14. Published 2019 Mar 2. doi:10.1007/s11920-019-1001-8
- Zimmet P, Alberti KGMM, Stern N, et al. The Circadian Syndrome: is the Metabolic Syndrome and much more!. J Intern Med. 2019;286(2):181-191. doi:10.1111/joim.12924
- Kaul, M., Zee, P.C. & Sahni, A.S. Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep and their Therapeutic Potential for Sleep Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 18, 217–227 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-021-01013-w
- Spinella, T.C., Stewart, S.H., Naugler, J. et al. Evaluating cannabidiol (CBD) expectancy effects on acute stress and anxiety in healthy adults: a randomized crossover study. Psychopharmacology 238, 1965–1977 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-05823-w