A toke before sleep is the key to shut-eye for many, but new research published this week suggests that may not be the case.
The study, published Monday in The BMJ, sought to “determine the relationship between cannabis use and nightly sleep duration in a nationally representative dataset,” which was a “cross-sectional analysis of adults was undertaken using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2005 to 2018.”
According to CNN, the study “analyzed use of marijuana for sleep among 21,729 adults between the ages of 20 and 59,” and that the data was “considered representative of over 146 million Americans.”
“Respondents were dichotomized as recent users or non-users if they had used or not used cannabis in the past 30 days, respectively,” the authors explained in the study’s methodology. “The primary outcome was nightly sleep duration, categorized as short (<6 hours), optimal (6–9 hours), and long (>9 hours). Multinomial logistic regression was used to adjust for sociodemographic and health-related covariates, and survey sample weights were used in modeling.”
The study showed that “adults who use weed 20 or more days during the last month were 64 percent more likely to sleep less than six hours a night and 76 percent more likely to sleep longer than nine hours a night,” CNN reported, adding that moderate consumption of weed, defined as “using weed less than 20 days during the past month… didn’t create short sleep problems, but people were 47 percent more likely to snooze nine or more hours a night, the study also found.”
CNN said that “addition to issues with short and long sleep,” the study also found that people “who used weed within the last 30 days were also more likely to say they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and were more likely to say they have discussed sleep problems with a health care provider.”
“The problem with our study is that we can’t really say that it’s causal, meaning we can’t know for sure whether this was simply individuals who were having difficulty sleeping, and that’s why they use the cannabis or the cannabis caused it,” said Calvin Diep, a resident in the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Toronto who served as lead author of the study, as quoted by CNN.
“The issue is that there’s a disconnect between these anecdotal reports of people reporting therapeutic benefits and the evidence behind it in terms of the data,” Diep added.
Cannabis has been cited as a critical sleeping aid for many who suffer from insomnia. A peer-reviewed study in 2018 of 1,000 medical cannabis patients in Colorado showed that among individuals using weed to promote sleep, “84 percent found it very or extremely helpful, and most of those taking over-the-counter (87 percent) or prescription sleep aids (83 percent) reported reducing or stopping use of those medications.”
Dr. Karim Ladha, staff anesthesiologist and clinician-scientist in the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Toronto, told CNN that the discrepancy could be attributed to a host of different factors.
“A lot of the older data related to cannabis is based on lower doses of THC than what patients are using now, and there’s very little research related to CBD,” Ladha told CNN. “Studies tell us about what happens at a population level, but on an individual level that discussion is much more personal. The studies just give us the possibilities that (marijuana) could hurt your sleep, but it may help and so we just don’t know until you try it.”
“Patients are spending money and time and resources to obtain cannabis right now to help with sleep,” Ladha added. “I think as the medical community, we need to do everything we can to make sure that we enable our patients to make the best possible decisions for their health.”