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Wake-up call? Canadian study suggests recent heavy cannabis use linked to both longer and shorter sleeps

Dec 7, 2021 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Extremes of nightly sleep shown to be associated with greater health risks.

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Marijuana’s oft-vaunted prowess as a sleep aid could be taken down a notch with new Canadian research that suggests cannabis may result in shorter and longer sleep than the optimal period of six to nine hours.


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Calling research into marijuana’s impact on sleep-wake regulation inconclusive — despite both recreational and medicinal cannabis often being used as a sleep aid — investigators at the University of Toronto sought to pin down the relationship between cannabis use and nightly sleep duration.

They point out that “only two-thirds of Americans get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and almost half report daytime sleepiness every day,” notes a study statement posted on EurekAlert!

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Investigators looked at U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data for 2005 to 2018, notes the study published this week in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine. Subjects aged 20 to 59 were classified as recent users or non-users (those who had not consumed cannabis in the past 30 days), with 3,132 people, or 14.5 per cent, reporting recent use.

Respondents were asked if they had had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much in the preceding two weeks. They were also asked if they had ever consulted a doctor about a sleep problem and whether or not they regularly experienced daytime sleepiness on at least five of the previous 30 days.

The findings suggest cannabis does influence how long a person sleeps. That said, sometimes those periods are shorter than optimal sleeping periods — defined by researchers as six to nine hours — and sometimes they are longer.


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Recent users were more likely than non-users to report both short sleep and long sleep, while those defined as heavy cannabis users — people who consumed marijuana on 20 or more of the past 30 days — “were even more likely to be at the extremes of nightly sleep duration,” study authors write.

After accounting for potentially influential factors, investigators write, recent users were 34 per cent more likely to report short sleep and 56 per cent more likely to report long sleep compared to non-users. They were also 31 per cent more likely to report difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much in the preceding two weeks, and 29 per cent more likely to have discussed a sleeping problem with a doctor.

Moderate users, those people who used cannabis on fewer than 20 of the past 30 days, were also affected, but only with regard to sleeping longer. In all, 47 per cent of this group was more likely to sleep nine or more hours a night compared to non-users.


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Heavy users, however, were 64 per cent more likely to experience short sleep and 76 per cent more likely to experience long sleep compared with non-users.

“Our findings highlight the need to further characterize the sleep health of regular cannabis users in the population,” study authors write. But as an observational study, it does not establish cause; it may have been that the people with sleeping problems would have had them with or without cannabis.

“Increasing prevalence of both cannabis use and sleep deprivation in the population is a potential cause for concern,” authors note. “These agents are being increasingly used as both prescribed and unprescribed experimental therapies for sleep disturbances,” they add.


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“Large population-based studies show that both short sleep and long sleep are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as the long-term progression of things like atherosclerosis, diabetes, coronary artery disease and any of the major cardiovascular diseases,” says lead author Calvin Diep, per CNN. “It seems with sleep there’s kind of this ‘Goldilocks phenomenon’ where there’s an amount that’s ‘just right,’” Diep said.

Some studies, however, have found that cannabis use can be helpful when it comes to sleep.

A recent study in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that using marijuana may reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in clinically anxious and depressed populations. “Medicinal cannabis products, especially products high in CBD, may help to treat symptoms of depression, improve sleep and increase quality of life,” one researcher said.

And a recent Australian study found that insomniacs who received nightly sublingual cannabinoid extract managed to get more and better sleep, including improved insomnia symptoms and sleep quality.

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