Among the many benefits touted by regular cannabis users is its ability to improve sleep. While their anecdotal evidence is certainly worth considering, scientific evidence suggests that claims about cannabis and healthy sleep may not be accurate. One of the more recently released studies creates more questions than it answers.
The study, published in early 2021 in the Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine journal, took a cross-sectional look at survey data obtained between 2005 and 2018. Divided into two groups, the recent user group had used cannabis within 30 days of answering the survey. All others were categorized as non-users.
An analysis of the data suggested that regular cannabis use can negatively impact sleep by causing users to sleep either too little or too much. Therein lies the rub. It may be that some users sleep longer hours as a result of cannabis consumption. But that is not necessarily a healthy thing.
More Study Details
Looking more closely at the data reveals some interesting facts. Regular users who consume cannabis on 20 or more days per month are 64% more likely to sleep for fewer than six hours per night. They are 76% more likely to sleep for more than nine hours per night.
Reducing cannabis consumption changes that equation significantly. Using cannabis fewer than 20 times per month doesn’t have a measurable impact on people who slept for fewer than six hours, but it does reduce the likelihood of sleeping for too long by 29 percentage points. In other words, moderate cannabis users are only 47% more likely to sleep for too long.
7 to 8 Hours Is Optimal
Researchers pointed out that the current science suggests 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep is optimal. It turns out that numerous large population studies have determined that sleeping for too long can have the same negative health impacts as not getting enough sleep. Excessive sleep can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and more.
This suggests that regular cannabis use, while it may help people sleep longer, may not necessarily be a good thing in that regard. However, when using cannabis in a medical setting, patients and their medical providers have to weigh the pros and cons. Are the risks of excessive sleep serious enough to outweigh the medical benefits of prescription cannabis?
Medical cannabis is somewhat different from recreational use in that patients have to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition before treatment is allowed. Still, patients in most states self-regulate their consumption. That is the case in Utah.
A Utah patient that visits the Deseret Wellness pharmacy in Park City may consult with a pharmacist about dosage and delivery method. But at the end of the day, the patient is the one who makes the final decision. The patient decides when to use, how often to use, and the most appropriate delivery method.
This arrangement gives patients more control, but it also suggests that daily consumption is probably more prominent among medical users. Therefore, how the drug impacts sleep carries more weight.
More Research Is Needed
The jury is still out on the issue of whether regular cannabis use negatively impacts sleep. This most recent study raises some intriguing questions. Obviously, more research is needed. But if it is true that cannabis users are more likely to sleep longer than they should, it could be that cannabis is too good at helping people sleep.
It is yet another reason to be extremely cautious about cannabis use. We do not know enough to use the drug with reckless abandon.