The relationship between cannabis and sleep is still widely debated. Research has found that cannabis can indeed help with sleep, and many consumers who use cannabis will also attest to its more sedative effects that combat symptoms like insomnia. One study even found that people are increasingly turning to cannabis instead of over-the-counter sleep aids.
Conversely, other studies suggest the opposite, that cannabis use may impede sleep in some circumstances. Ultimately, it’s a complicated topic that seems to involve a number of variables, and like a bulk of cannabis research topics, our knowledge on cannabis and sleep is still growing.
Though a recent study published in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine offers further proof that cannabis could help to improve sleep, specifically for consumers experiencing moderate anxiety who use cannabis the same day.
Examining Cannabis Effects on Sleep for Consumers with Anxiety
Interestingly enough, anxiety and cannabis tends to be another contentious and complex topic. While cannabis is widely known to potentially increase anxiety and related symptoms, research suggests that — once again — this can be a complex topic involving a number of variables.
Specifically, THC is known to increase anxiety at high doses, while CBD and/or low-dose THC tends to help reduce anxiety. There are also individual factors, broadly how one person may respond to cannabis as it pertain to anxiety versus another, that can come into play.
Researchers note the varied evidence for both sleep and anxiety in the study abstract, along with the various outcomes pertaining to specific cannabinoids.
“Cannabis is increasingly used to self-treat anxiety and related sleep problems, without clear evidence of either supporting or refuting its anxiolytic or sleep aid effects,” researchers write. “In addition, different forms of cannabis and primary cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have differing pharmacological effects.”
To investigate the relationship between cannabis use, anxiety and sleep quality, University of Colorado-Boulder researchers examined a cohort of 348 adults with mild-to-moderate generalized anxiety symptoms. Subjects were instructed to consume either cannabis flower or edibles dominant in THC, CBD or combined equal ratios of both THC and CBD.
To follow the progression of each participant through the experiment, individuals in the study completed daily online surveys for 30 days.
A Growing Body of Literature on Cannabis, Sleep and Anxiety
The study ultimately found that when participants reported cannabis use on a particular day, they also reported better sleep quality the following night. Researchers also noted that moderation analyses found better perceived sleep following cannabis use for respondents with higher baseline affective symptoms.
The study also noted that respondents who used high-CBD edibles reported the highest perceived quality of sleep.
Another recent study similarly examined how cannabis affects anxiety and sleep, looking to compare outcomes among patients prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) for generalized anxiety disorder, both with and without impaired sleep.
The research noted an association between CBMPs and improvements in anxiety, along with improvements in sleep and health-related quality of life. Similar to the CU Boulder study, those with the most severe baseline anxiety were most likely to experience the highest clinical improvements in anxiety upon the final 12-month assessment.
A similar study from 2023 found that CBMP prescriptions were associated with “clinically significant improvements in anxiety.” The study also noted improvements in sleep quality and quality of life at 1-, 3- and 6-month time points.
Looking more closely at cannabis and sleep, particularly same-day cannabis use, another recent study conclude that cannabis use is associated with “same day improvements in self-reported sleep quality, but not pain or depressive symptoms, although sleep improvements occurred in the context of increased frequency of cannabis use, raising the risk for cannabis use disorder.”