cbd cortisol and insomnia blog

The Relationship Between CBD, Cortisol, and Insomnia

Getting quality sleep is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. Unlike traditional sleep medication, CBD can be a safe and well-tolerated option to assist with a good night’s rest. 

Here’s how CBD interacts with our body and cortisol levels to influence our sleep.

The Effects of CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It can be found in a range of cannabis-based products utilized for helping ease numerous health conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia (1).

The potent therapeutic effects of CBD can be attributed to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system found in our body. Our ECS is responsible for controlling bodily processes, including glucose metabolism, energy production, and mood. 

CBD can interact with ECS receptors in our brain and nervous system to influence the reuptake or inhibition of specific compounds (2). This phenomenon is how CBD remains one of the most therapeutic and effective naturally occurring plant compounds. 

CBD and Sleep Quality

Many factors can be responsible for getting a good night’s sleep. Common causes of sleeplessness include a racing mind, anxiety from the stressors of modern life, and muscle aches or pains (3). CBD can help improve sleep quality by targeting multiple factors at once. 

CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which help decrease chronic pain throughout the body as inflammation and pain often walk hand-in-hand (4). When inflammation levels are lowered, pain levels will usually drop, helping you get to (and stay) asleep quicker. 

CBD can also interact with CB1 and serotonin receptors in the brain to promote feelings of relaxation and calm in the brain and body. Serotonin is known as the “happy hormone,” but the activation of serotonin receptors can also alleviate anxiety levels, improving your mood and helping your muscles relax (5). 

Cortisol and Sleep

Another critical factor that affects the quality of sleep is the level of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is your body’s primary stress hormone, and it works in conjunction with your brain to activate your mood and emotions in high-stress situations. 

Cortisol is highly stimulating and can also increase glucose levels in your bloodstream and enhance your brain’s glucose absorption (6). It’s no surprise, then, that high cortisol levels can play an integral part in keeping you awake at night. 

Under prolonged or chronic stress, our adrenal system is constantly signaled to produce cortisol. When cortisol is elevated frequently and over long periods, it can lead to the development of sleep problems, like insomnia. Cortisol can also play a part in a vicious negative cycle, where poor sleep quality can, in turn, negatively affect cortisol levels. 

High cortisol is also associated with other health conditions like obesity, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders (7). While high cortisol levels frequently appear with insomnia, it’s not entirely sure whether it’s a cause or consequence of the condition itself. 

CBD can lower cortisol levels by regulating cortisol output through its interactions with receptors on our hypothalamus, signaling our adrenals to slow down cortisol production (8).

Research on CBD and Insomnia

While the research is still in its infancy, CBD shows promise in improving the quality of sleep in most participants. A 2019 study investigated CBD’s role in reducing anxiety and improving sleep. Participants were given 25mg of CBD in capsules, and the results were positive. Approximately 80% of participants reported lowered anxiety levels and 67% had better sleep (9). 

In another study, researchers found cortisol levels decreased significantly when participants took 300mg or 600mg of CBD oil, suggesting CBD was able to act as a sedative by affecting the release of cortisol (10).

Safety and Dosage

Before you use CBD to improve your insomnia or for quality sleep, check in with a health professional. Research is still limited, and more long-term studies are required before researchers can make any conclusive claims. Generally, CBD is very well-tolerated. It may take some time for your body to get used to the compound, especially if you haven’t taken CBD before. Luckily, you can alter the dosage and start slow for a few weeks until your body gets used to the effects. 

So, when is the best time of day to take CBD? Many CBD experts say that taking CBD a few hours before your expected bedtime is the best way to experience the sleep-inducing benefits it can bring. This will also depend on the type of CBD taken. Edibles like capsules and gummies are convenient and tasty, but they will also take longer to absorb through your digestive system. However, edibles are usually more long-lasting and can be felt for hours after the effects kick in.

Others prefer to take CBD oil sublingually or smoke in a vape for faster absorption. Choosing which method works best for you will require some trial and error. It’s important to note that CBD is not the same as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another popular cannabinoid in cannabis. THC is highly psychoactive and stimulating and may even make your insomnia worse (11). It is best to choose CBD isolate products with minimal contamination from other compounds. 

The Bottom Line 

CBD can influence many body processes, including our quality of sleep and the subsequent development of health conditions like insomnia. 

By interacting with receptors within our body and our cortisol levels, CBD can decrease anxiety, stress and improve our sleep quality.

**Standard Disclaimer: CBD is not FDA-approved. We make no such claims that using our products will guarantee relief. Moreover, research regarding CBD is still ongoing and in the early stages.**

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