In December, a recent study was published in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine of findings that habitual marijuana consumers reported more sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling and staying asleep.
However, marijuana has been notoriously deemed a helpful sleep aid for many years. With the ease of access to cannabis nowadays due to legalization in most US states, many individuals use marijuana for sleep support.
Covid-19 has also disrupted most regular sleep schedules – a recent study showed that insomnia rose 26.7% from 2018 to 2020 as the initial start to the pandemic began, putting a lot of mental strain on millions of Americans.
Analysts at the University of Toronto, Canada, studied information collected on the marijuana consumption habits of over 20,000 Americans in a study representing 146 million Americans.
The data was collected over 13 years by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which the CDC developed.
An anesthesiology student at the University of Toronto and the initial author of the paper, Calvin Diep, noticed others did not take advantage of any of the cannabis information within the survey and saw it as a new research opportunity. Diep expressed that “curiosity really set all this off” in an interview.
Diep believes that the study has opened a space for future studies on marijuana and sleep.
“[Marijuana] is a drug at the end of the day; it’s a chemical agent. Just like all other drugs, we need to do research to figure out where exactly this might or might not fit into the realm of our therapeutic practices,” Diep said. Their study dove into the correlation between marijuana and sleep at a population level instead of an individual level.
Steps for future researchers should include a randomized control trial or clinical trial to control better the finer details such as time of use, strain, and questions asked about sleeping habits.
However, what about the studies that reveal how lighting up some rolling papers can help individuals sleep? Research indicates that cannabis use can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, called sleep latency. Although, this effect can dim if consumption is habitual or chronic. Diep and his colleagues discovered that regular cannabis use and sleep duration are connected.
The way individuals consume marijuana is also a factor that impacts sleep quality.
A 2021 study from the journal, Addictive Behaviors looked into how marijuana consumption affects sleep when people take edibles rather than smoking from glass bongs.
Like Diep and his constituents, more habitual cannabis use correlated with worse sleep quality.
In the past study, the effects were more intense for those who took edibles regularly. This result may be due to edibles delay taking effect after ingestion than other consumption methods.
Their effects can also last longer, possibly disrupting our sleep cycle longer into the night.
Analysts in the study also required participants to report average CBD (cannabidiol) consumption and discovered that those who expressed a higher average CBD intake had better sleep quality.
The data has shown that the sedating effects of CBD can improve partial aspects of sleep. One intriguing find was how older participants were found to see more benefits from CBD consumption than younger participants.
The study’s originators believe this is connected to how our bodies change over time as we age – our metabolism becomes slower as we get older, allowing more CBD to stay in the body.
It is also important to keep in mind that these studies heavily relied on survey material, along with many factors that can hinder a test subject’s reported marijuana use in a survey. One study offered to pay people to consume cannabis for research purposes.
“These are just small pieces of information that people and consumers can use to guide their decision-making and to create an open conversation with their health care provider,” Diep said regarding their findings.
Thanks to their study, they have provided significant insights for future researchers to continue to inquire and discover more information on how marijuana consumption and sleep are connected.