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CBD In Sport Series: Sleep

CBD In Sport Series: Sleep

We start our first CBD in Sport blog series with an important topic that has a significant impact on sports performance...sleep.

For everyone, having sufficient quality and quantity of sleep is necessary for optimum health and for athletes, sleep is a vital aspect of success. Being able to sleep more effectively can improve athletic performance in many ways by enhancing:

  • Reaction times
  • Motivation and focus
  • Stress regulation
  • Muscle recovery
  • High intensity exercise
  • Memory and learning
  • Immune function
  • Weight reduction

At the elite level, optimal sleep is recognised by athletes as the edge for performing at peak capacity and potentially making the difference between winning and losing on game day.
From a scientific perspective, having adequate quality and quantity of sleep is increasingly being recognised for improving athletic performance (Malhotra 2017). Despite the importance, athletes are known to display poorer markers of sleep quality than matched non-athletes (Leeder et al. 2012), particularly endurance athletes who are over-reaching (Hausswirth et al. 2014) or those with early morning training schedules (Sargent et al. 2014). Other factors that contribute to poor sleep among athletes include pre competition anxiety,
caffeine use and long-haul travel (Malhotra 2017).

What does the science tell us about the effect of CBD on sleep in humans? Although the research on CBD and sleep is in its infancy, studies published so far appear to have promising results for those with sleep disturbances. In a cohort of 72 adults with anxiety and sleep complaints, 67% were reported to have improvements in sleep in the first month (Shannon et al. 2019). In a recent review of literature (Babson et al. 2019), it was reported that CBD may have therapeutic benefits for REM sleep behaviour disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. The only study to date in healthy volunteers using a single-dose trial found no
effect of CBD (300 mg) on altering the sleep cycle (Linares et al. 2018), demonstrating that further studies are needed.

For professional athletes, the prevalence of CBD use and associated reasons for use has been studied for the first time in a large cohort (517) of rugby players (Kasper et al. 2020). Of those that had either used CBD (18%) or were still using it (8%), sleep was one of the main reasons (78%) along with recovery and pain management (80%) for CBD use. Interestingly, 68% of players reporting a perceived benefit, highlighting the need for future research to verify the beneficial claims of CBD for athletes.

To conclude, while CBD has known therapeutic benefits for sleep, there are favourable claims for athletes that need further well controlled studies to explore and clarify the potenCal for sports performance.

WRITTEN BY Dr. Nick Kimber
Doctor Nick Kimber


Babson, K.A., Soale, J. & Morabito, D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19: 23 (2017).

Hausswirth C., Louis J., Aubry A., Bonnet G., Duffield R. & LE Meur Y. Evidence of disturbed sleep and increased illness in overreached endurance athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 46(5): 1036–45 (2014).

Kasper A.,M., Sparks S.A., Hooks M., Skeer M., Webb B., Nia H., Morton J.P & Close G.L. High Prevalence of Cannabidiol Use Within Male Professional Rugby Union and League Players: A Quest for Pain Relief and Enhanced Recovery. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 30: 1-8 (2020).

Leeder J., Glaister M., Pizzoferro K., Dawson J. & Pedlar C. Sleep duraCon and quality in elite athletes measured using wristwatch actigraphy. J Sports Sci 30(6): 541–5 (2012).

Malhotra, R., K. Sleep, Recovery, and Performance in Sports. Neurol Clin. 35(3): 547-557. (2017).

Sargent C., Lastella M., Halson S. & Roach G. The impact of training schedules on
the sleep and faCgue of elite athletes. Chronobiol Int. 31(10): 1160–8 (2014).

Shannon S., Lewis N., Lee H., Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J
23: 18-041 (2019).

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