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Sleep Regulation and the Cascade Effect

Sleep Regulation and the Cascade Effect

March 14, 2019

"You lack the season of all natures, sleep." –Macbeth (3.4.140)


It is difficult to encapsulate the importance of sleep. Those individuals who suffer insomnia or other sleep issues likely understand the cascade effect: sleep has the power to improve and enhance (or else destroy) all health and wellness variables.


What are the Consequences of Poor Sleep?

Sleep optimizes the consolidation of memory and catalyzes our ability to gain insights and make inferences [1]. The negative neurocognitive impacts of sleep deprivation include declines in mood, performance, and motor function, and lack of sleep increases the risk of human error and accidents [2]. Deprivation hampers vigilant attention and high-level decision making ability [3,4].

Lack of adequate sleep even contributes to the metabolic dysfunctions that result in obesity and diabetes [5]. It is associated with higher blood pressure and worsened cardiovascular morbidity [6]. Disrupted or restricted sleep results in increases in neuroendocrine stress activity that may lead to physiological stress disorders [7]. Even minor loss of sleep elevates cortisol levels for at least 24 hours [8].


What is Healthy Sleep, and How Do I Regulate Sleep?

The amount of sleep needed varies by stage of development and individual. Babies sleep up to 18 hours a day, children and adolescents roughly 9.5 hours, and adults fall in the range of 7-9 hours. Circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis are the biological regulators of sleep, with alterations in body temperature and hormones playing a significant role. It is common in contemporary society for these natural clocks to become subservient to artificial schedules and work demands [9].

Achieving optimal sleep has a cascade effect on health that is holistic and systemic in scope. In the event of sleep deprivation or insomnia, there are some common tips recommended by national health organizations to regulate sleep [9,10]:


  1. Set a sleep schedule and keep it.
  2. Exercise daily but not within several hours of sleeping.
  3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before sleeping.
  4. Refrain from naps.
  5. Journal or practice relaxation techniques prior to sleep.
  6. Abstain from stimulating entertainment and electronic devices before going to bed.


Can CBD Help with Sleep?

 Although there are a deluge of anecdotal reports regarding cannabidiol (CBD) helping with sleep, the science of CBD and sleep is in its infancy. One case study involving a teenage girl with PTSD reported that CBD curbed anxiety sufficiently to alleviate insomnia [11]. A 2017 review of literature in Current Psychiatry Reports suggests that CBD may be beneficial for insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and daytime sleepiness [12].

One hypothetical explanation for these outcomes is the agonist activity of CBD on 5-HT receptors, the result being anti-depressant and anxiolytic effects [13,14]. Up to 90% of individuals with depression have difficulty with sleep [15]. Reductions in depression and anxiety prior to sleep could account for relaxation and better sleep regulation.

The cascade effect of sleep emphasizes its absolute importance in our lives. In truth, sleep is as essential to survival as food and water. It affects every biological system - for better or for worse.



  1. Diekelmann, Susanne, & Born, Jan. (2010). The Memory Function of Sleep. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 114-126.
  2. Durmer, J. S., & Dinges, D.F. (2005). Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Seminars in Neurology,25(01), 117-129. doi:10.1055/s-2005-867080
  3. Harrison, Y., & Horne, J. A. (2000). The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Decision Making: A Review. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,6(3), 236-249. doi:10.1037/1076-898x.6.3.236
  4. Lim, J., & Dinges, D. F. (2008). Sleep Deprivation and Vigilant Attention. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1129(1), 305-322. doi:10.1196/annals.1417.002
  5. Knutson, K. L., et al. (2007). The Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Sleep Medicine Reviews,11(3), 163-178. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2007.01.002
  6. Mullington, J. M., et al. (2009). Cardiovascular, Inflammatory, and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases,51(4), 294-302. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2008.10.003
  7. Meerlo, P., et al. (2008). Restricted and Disrupted Sleep: Effects on Autonomic Function, Neuroendocrine Stress Systems and Stress Responsivity. Sleep Medicine Reviews,12(3), 197-210. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2007.07.007
  8. Leproult, Rachel, et al. (1997). Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. Sleep, 20 (10);1, 865–870.
  9. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep (2017). Office of Communications and Public Liaison, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. 2017.
  10. Changing your Sleep Habits: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia (2019, January 28). S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from
  11. Shannon, S. (2016). Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. The Permanente Journal. doi:10.7812/tpp/16-005
  12. Babson, K. A., et al. (2017). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: A Review of the Literature. Current Psychiatry Reports,19(4). doi:10.1007/s11920-017-0775-9
  13. Schier, A., et al. (2014). Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis Sativa. CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets,13(6), 953-960. doi:10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
  14. Russo, E. B., et al. (2005). Agonistic Properties of Cannabidiol at 5-HT1a Receptors. Neurochemical Research,30(8), 1037-1043. doi:10.1007/s11064-005-6978-1
  15. Tsuno, N., et al. (2005). Sleep and Depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66(10), 1254-1269.


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