A new study published in a globally renowned medical trade journal and made available online Monday shows that, contrary to popular belief, cannabis may not be a viable long-term solution for helping people with sleep disorders. In fact, too much marijuana could have the opposite effect.
The study from weekly peer-reviewed journal BMJ showed that adults who used marijuana at least 20 times in the last month were likely to experience either too much or too little sleep instead of snoozing for the ideal target range of six to nine hours per night. An analysis of 21,729 U.S. adults between the ages of 20 and 59 found that regular cannabis users were 64 percent more likely to sleep less than six hours and 76 percent more likely to sleep over nine hours than people who didn’t use the plant.
Calvin Diep, one of eight lead authors of the study, told CNN that besides problems with both insomnia and oversleeping, respondents were also more likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
“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 atherosclerosis, diabetes, coronary artery disease and any of the major cardiovascular diseases,” he said.
People who used cannabis less than 20 days during the past month were considered “moderate” users and didn’t experience issues with insomnia. But the same moderate users were 47 percent more likely to oversleep. Calling marijuana a ‘Goldilocks phenomenon,’ Diep added that it’s possible for people to improve their sleep with the plant by using “just the right amount” and not consuming it too regularly.
Diep noted that the study can’t make a definitive causal relationship between cannabis and users of the plant, because researchers can’t know for sure whether people started using marijuana because of preexisting sleep problems or vice versa.
Researchers also expressed concern about the potential effects of marijuana withdrawal on sleep quality. Previous studies have found withdrawal from the plant results in high rates of insomnia, which can make people mistakenly believe that cannabis was helping them sleep even if it wasn’t.
Surveys show that marijuana users overwhelmingly believe the plant is beneficial for sleep, and say they rely on using it before going to bed.