Recent Cannabis Use Linked to Extremes of Nightly Sleep Duration

Summary: Recent cannabis use can impact sleep duration, a new study reports. Recent cannabis users reported experiencing either too little, or too much sleep.

Source: BMJ

Recent cannabis use is linked to extremes of nightly sleep duration—less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours—reveals a study of a large representative sample of US adults, published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

This pattern was even more pronounced among heavy users—those using on 20 out of the previous 30 days, the findings show.

Cannabis use in North America continues to increase, with around 45 million adults in the U.S. reporting this in 2019, which is double the figure reported in the early 2000s.

This change has partly been driven by widespread decriminalization in many states over the past decade, as well as research suggesting that cannabinoids may have therapeutic value for pain relief and possibly anxiety and sleep disorders as well, say the researchers.

Cannabis has become popular as a sleep aid, particularly as the prevalence of sleep deprivation and insomnia has increased. Only two-thirds of Americans get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and almost half report daytime sleepiness every day.

But the evidence to date on the impact of cannabis on the sleep-wake cycle has been equivocal.

The researchers wanted to see if cannabis use might be linked to nightly sleep duration in a nationally representative sample of US adults (aged 20-59) who had taken part in the biennial National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 2005 to 2018 inclusive.

And they wanted to know if respondents reported difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or slept too much in the preceding 2 weeks; whether they had ever consulted a doctor about a sleep problem; and whether they regularly experienced daytime sleepiness on at least 5 of the preceding 30 days.

Survey respondents were characterized as recent or non-users if they had or hadn’t used cannabis in the past 30 days. Sleep duration was defined as short (less than 6 hours), optimal (6–9 hours), and long (more than 9 hours).

Information was gathered on potentially influential factors: age; race; educational attainment; weekly working hours; a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease; weight (BMI); smoking; heavy alcohol use (4 or more drinks daily); and prescriptions for opioids, benzodiazepines, ‘Z drugs’ (approved for insomnia), barbiturates, other sedatives, and stimulants.

Some 25,348 people responded to the surveys between 2005 and 2018, but the final analysis is based on 21,729 who answered all the questions, representing an estimated 146.5 million US adults.

The average nightly sleep duration was just short of 7 hours across the entire sample. Some 12% reported less than 6 hours, while 4% reported more than 9 hours a night.

This shows a sleeping man
Cannabis has become popular as a sleep aid, particularly as the prevalence of sleep deprivation and insomnia has increased. Image is in the public domain

A total of 3132 (14.5%) respondents said they had used cannabis in the preceding 30 days. Recent users were more likely to report not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.

They were 34% more likely to report short sleep and 56% more likely to report long sleep than those who hadn’t used cannabis in the preceding 30 days, after accounting for potentially influential factors.

And they were also 31% more likely to report difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much in the preceding 2 weeks, and 29% more likely to have discussed a sleeping problem with a doctor. But recent cannabis use wasn’t associated with frequent daytime sleepiness.

Further analysis of the frequency of cannabis use revealed that moderate users, defined as using on fewer than 20 out of the past 30 days, were 47% more likely to sleep 9 or more hours a night compared with non-users.

Heavy users, defined as using on 20 or more out of the preceding 30 days, were 64% more likely to experience short sleep and 76% more likely to experience long sleep compared with non-users.

These findings differed little across the survey years.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause, or reverse causality, for that matter.

The researchers also point to several study limitations, including the reliance on self-reported data and the lack of information on cannabis dose. The historical and the historical and ongoing stigma associated with cannabis use may also have affected the responses to questions about cannabis use, they suggest.

But they say: “Increasing prevalence of both cannabis use and sleep deprivation in the population is a potential cause for concern.

“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.”

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

About this sleep research news

Author: Press Office
Source: BMJ
Contact: Press Office – BMJ
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The findings will appear in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.
  1. In your study, did you test the strands. Different strands will give you different experiences. I am 62 years old. I used cannibal to get through menopause when the manufactured drugs caused unwanted side affects. I currently use Cannabis, bought legally, and the people who work there are knowledge about their products. I have PTSD, anxiety and depression. I use the prescribed drugs as well, however if medical marijuana was available I would only need that, with no side affects. But that would make prescription medication a dinosaur, can’t have that, huh.

    1. Does this study examine PTSD and other trauma that also limit sleep in conjunction with use…a lot people with cards have untreated mental illness due the horrendous mental health care low pay and lack of experienced help

  2. Ok where is the type and strain of Cannabis used? I am a smoker for over 30 plus yrs. – here’s the real on this
    Smoke a sativa strain you’re going to want to get up and do things – not sleep
    Smoke a nice Indica strain and you will mellow out and drift off to sleep.
    But how about doing some yoga to up the chemistry in the brain and body so it runs properly anyway. These ‘studies’ are jokes and those who believe them …..please learn to think for yourself

  3. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Try actually talking to marijuana smokers first before you blab nonsense. Fake news is all we ever see anymore. Big Pharma is the problem. Not marijuana.

  4. Why do we always try to blame our own poor choices on something else? If you’re not getting enough sleep, don’t stay up so late you only get 4 hours of sleep. You’re sleeping too long, don’t be so lazy and get yourself out of bed. I have smoked daily for 15+ years and I have never tried to blame my own stupidity on pot

  5. This study is a Complete waste of resources. You should have simply spoken to people that have been smoking Marijuana since childhood or teen years from a variety of social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

  6. Funny, why don’t you talk about other legal things like alcohol or prescription drugs that do the same stuff? I’d rather smoke weed than destroy my liver!

  7. I’ve used cannabis for my pain with having m.s.for almost 30yrs within no sideafects it helps alot

  8. Still trying to demonize marijuana and lying about it.

    The 70s called. They want their bogey man back.

  9. Thats why they can fix it by only smoking sativa or indaca or then high breed if u smoke indaca you are more sleepy an sativa is a active gets u motivate and hybrid is to even it out I think I just know I love to eat snacks all the time then I will find myself hyper clean then crash

  10. What about dreaming?I’m a heavy long term user and if I go a week without using,which is highly unusuall,I get the most vivid dreams ever.Otherwise I barley remember my dreams.

  11. You need to change your title. Your article title defines a conclusion that the study authors specifically state is not conclusive because the study does not determine a casual relationship. This is how misinformation spreads.

    1. This is the biggest BS I have ever heard. First, you mixed medical use with recreational. Second you didn’t even study the dose or how the patient ingested the cannabis. For instance as a chronic pain patient I know that smoking cannabis means I get 2 to 6 hours of relief but if I eat it after it had been processed properly into either and oil or alcohol based tincture, which I make myself and calculate the dose of, then it lasts for 8 to 12 hours. I can’t sleep unless I eat my cannabis before bed because I am dependant on my medication to manage my chronic pain. I have never slept better in my entire life but I know how to take it so that it doesn’t mess up my sleep. Once it wears off, things change. Dependancy is not a negative thing, it is just something that naturally happens when consuming a substance. People would never fault a diabetic for using insulin but they sure love to tear me a new one for using cannabis. I use cannabis to reduce my opioid use for managing chronic pain. This study takes no medical circumstances into consideration and it further stigmatizes cannabis use. I guarantee you my overbearing mother will give me this information matter of factly and insinuate I shouldn’t use cannabis use even though my sleep cycle has never been so unhealthy as when I follower her medical advice and she is a freaking nurse. Eat your cannabis if you use it for sleep. You can smoke too but make sure you have something with a longer half life in you if you want it to last the entire time you sleep. And please for the love of the Gods, stop spreading fear and misinformation about a substance that literally can’t kill people. People are ADDICTED to TOBACCO which has ZERO MEDICAL BENEFIT AND HIGHER MORTALITY RATES THAN OPIOID ODs AND SUICIDE COMBINED but tobacco use is socially acceptable and cannabis use isn’t. I know this first hand because I was kicked out for using my medication in a smoking building but they had no issues with tobacco smoke. The stigmatization persons who use cannabis medicinally face does not need another obstacle just becsuse a bunch of abled people don’t know to use edibles before bed if they want to stay asleep and to use proper dosing. Cannabis is not easy to dose properly and even for a seasoned user is not always accurate. To keep costs down we learn how to make our own edibles but we cannot be as accurate as those made by the medical producers registered with health Canada. You take too much, you sleep too much. You take too little or in a short half life form and you sleep too less. That is all this study is showing but instead of discussing how difficult appropriate dosing is or that methods of use affect how cannabis works you’re just like, they sleep too much or too little. On top of that there is no optimal sleep amount. Some people sleep 4 hours a night and love until they’re 98 and some people sleep 10 hours. It’s individual and ableist to insinuate that these individuals don’t hit what neurotypical people believe is the correct amount of sleep. Guaranteed in 50 years this misconception about sleep with cease to exist but how about we don’t deny people the medicine they need in the mean time. This literally only hurts medicinal users and is more likely a purposely bias interpretation of data. Otherwise it wouldn’t be full of so many holes.

      1. Funny. The only way I get a full night’s sleep is edibles. Faithfully 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours. If I didn’t I would be up 3 or 4 times a night or be in a weird wake/sleep place and wake up feeling lousy

  12. I am a regular cannabis user. With this, i smoke after getting home from work, and before bed which is around 7:30-8:30pm. I then sleep until 4-5am and get up for work. I began this sleep schedule due to my job, allowing me both a good sleep, my usage, and work without ill outcomes on my schedule

  13. I use about 25 days outta the month. I do find myself falling asleep and waking up feeling almost fully rested every 3 hours. But I have learned to that I can fall back asleep if I just let it happen. Instead of TV or any distractions. It is odd tho I can normally wake up officially by 6am. And stay up until well its 12am the next day. And honestly I get paid tomorrow I’ve only smoked a few times like 10 since Friday last week. Normally I smoked about 2 zips every 10 or 11 days

    1. This is so dumb. Did you verify what type people were smoking? Cuz some are for sleep and others are not. Its just that simple. Clearly the researchers didnt know that.

Comments are closed.