Seasonal depression is more than just the winter blues. Often referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can drastically affect people’s quality of life in many ways. However, a growing body of research suggests that CBD might be able to help.
Recently, numerous studies have linked sunny days with higher levels of serotonin, the brain chemical that makes us happy. Interestingly, these changes in serotonin levels don’t seem to be caused by temperature, but rather by exposure to natural light, an idea first proposed by Hippocrates. It makes sense, then, that shorter, darker days in fall and winter could trigger major depression in many people.
Researchers have also found that an increase in artificial lighting, which is consistent with the winter months, can disrupt your circadian rhythm (commonly known as your “internal clock”), which has a negative impact on sleep quality. The blue light which is emitted from laptops, mobile devices, and televisions is particularly guilty of this. A lack of sleep can contribute to feeling depressed, as sleep plays a major role in mental health.
CBD can help treat seasonal depression in two key ways: by promoting sleep and regulating mood. Scientists believe that CBD does this by boosting the endocannabinoid system, a vast network of receptors which regulates many of the body’s key functions. While the research is still in its infancy, the early results are promising.
A 2017 study from scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that “CBD may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.” Many people who experience depression also experience insomnia, which creates a vicious cycle that can turn mild symptoms into more severe ones. By treating insomnia, CBD can help prevent “the spiral” familiar to anyone who has experienced depression.
CBD may also be able to improve people’s moods. A 2018 study carried out by researchers from Washington State University tested the effects of medical cannabis on people who suffered from depression. They found that a CBD-based treatment reduced depression rates by a staggering 50 percent, while anxiety and stress were reduced by 58 percent.
The factors that cause seasonal depression are complex and can vary widely from person to person. Still, by promoting healthful sleep and positive states of mind, it seems that CBD may have much to offer those of us who are slogging through another grey, gloomy winter.