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Cannabis Use Linked To Worse Sleep, Study Finds

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 8 2021, 12:15 UTC
Smoker.

The National Sleep Foundation advises that healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Image credit: Tunatura/Shutterstock.com

Cannabis is often touted as a relaxing aid that helps users unwind and drift often into the land of sleep, but a big new study throws a bucket of cold water over that idea. New research suggests that using cannabis is linked to a reduced quality of sleep, with smokers tending to both over- and under-sleep.

Published in the BMJ's Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, scientists studied a sample of approximately 21,700 adults in the US, 14.5 percent of whom reported recent cannabis use in the past 30 days. These recent users were 34 percent more likely to report short sleep and 56 percent more likely to report long sleep than those who had not used cannabis in the past 30 days. 

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For moderate users, defined as using cannabis on fewer than 20 out of the past 30 days, they were 47 percent more likely to sleep nine or more hours a night compared with non-users. Things were even worse for heavy users, defined as using 20 or more out of the past 30 days, who were 64 percent more likely to suffer from less sleep and 76 percent more likely to experience oversleeping compared with non-users. 

All of these statistics take into account other potentially influential factors, such as age, race, lifestyle, broader health, and recent use of other drugs. The study, however, did not look to explain why cannabis appears to be associated with a reduced quality of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation advises that healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. However, it’s thought that over a third of people in the US are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. This is particularly worrying since not getting enough sleep is associated with an unpleasant array of health concerns, ranging from obesity and diabetes to strokes and mental health problems. On the flip side, sleeping too much isn’t much better. Studies have linked frequent over-sleeping to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even premature death.

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Off the back of their new study, the researchers argue that more work needs to be done in exploring how cannabis user affects peoples’ quality of sleep. It also calls into question many new experimental treatments that look to cannabis as a possible aid to sleep problems. 

“Increasing prevalence of both cannabis use and sleep deprivation in the population is a potential cause for concern,” the study authors explain. 

“Despite the current literature demonstrating mixed effects of cannabis and various cannabinoid formulations on sleep architecture and quality, these agents are being increasingly used as both prescribed and unprescribed experimental therapies for sleep disturbances.”

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“Our findings highlight the need to further characterize the sleep health of regular cannabis users in the population," they continue. "Sleep-wake physiology and regulation is complex and research about related endocannabinoid pathways is in its early stages.”


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