It’s clear that medical claims about cannabis, like improved sleep, are often used as a strawman for the attempts to get marijuana legalized. However, contrary to the popular belief about cannabis contributing to good sleep, it might actually be detrimental according to a new peer-reviewed study.
There are many of us that think that legal restrictions against marijuana was outright ridiculous, especially when other drugs, like cigarettes and alcohol, are completely legal. But where we draw the line is trying to push a narrative that cannabis has many medical benefits — most were overexaggerated or non-existent.
Marijuana cannot treat any of the 200 or more cancers. It cannot treat nonexistent vaccine injuries. Marijuana cannot treat most neurological conditions. I could go on and on, but scientific studies of most claims about cannabis as a treatment for anything have ended up with nothing.
So let’s take a look at the claims about cannabis and sleep.
Cannabis and sleep research
In a paper published in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine on 6 December 2021, researchers examined data on 21,729 U.S. adults ages 20 to 59 from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2018. About 15% said they used cannabis within the past 30 days.
The researchers found:
- Recent cannabis users were 34% more likely to report a short sleep duration, less than 6 hours a night, compared with non-users, odds ratio (OR)=1.34.
- Also, people who used cannabis during the past 30 days were 56% more likely to sleep abnormally long, over 9 hours a night, compared with non-users, OR=1.56.
Although those two results may appear to be contradictory, it shows that cannabis seems to cause shorter and abnormally long sleep in different cohorts of individuals. Furthermore, recent users were also more likely to state that they had difficulty with falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much during the prior two weeks of the study.
The results for heavy cannabis users (those who used during 20 or more days within the past 30 days:
- heavy users were 64% more like to have short sleep duration compared to non-users, OR=1.64
- heavy users were 76% more likely to have abnormally long sleep duration, OR=1.76.
- 78% of recent users reported getting an optimal night’s sleep, ranging from 6-9 hours versus 85% of non-users.
The authors concluded:
Recent cannabis use was associated with the extremes of nightly sleep duration in a nationally representative sample of adults, with suggestions of a dose–response relationship.
Cannabis and cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, has been promoted as potential sleep ads for sleep-wake disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and central and obstructive sleep apnea. The supporting evidence for the drug’s ability to treat these issues are very weak.
At a minimum, the evidence shows that cannabis has no effect on sleep, another “medical” claim for marijuana that is not supported by science. However, this study shows that cannabis, in fact, strongly disrupts sleep.
There are some limitations to this study — this was a self-reported study, which can lead to a lot of different kinds of bias and accuracy. There was also a lack of specific information regarding cannabis exposure, such as formulations, dosing, and intended purpose of use, as well as a lack of more detailed data on sleep metrics, like timing and quality.
I don’t care if people want to use marijuana. I think the boatloads of people in prison because of cannabis-related crimes is ridiculous. But this ongoing effort by marijuana supporters to make all kinds of nonsense claims about the medical benefits of cannabis, just to support legalization, is frustrating.
Cannabis should be legal because prohibition of it was ridiculous. But they need to stop with the medical claims — very few are supported by real science.
And one last item — people who buy into false medical claims often rely upon their own anecdotes and testimonials to convince everyone that those claims are true. That’s not how science is done. This type of study is one that can objectively attempt to determine whether medical claims of cannabis are true. And that objective study found the sleep claims are false.
- Diep C, Tian C, Vachhani K, Won C, Wijeysundera DN, Clarke H, Singh M, Ladha KS. Recent cannabis use and nightly sleep duration in adults: a population analysis of the NHANES from 2005 to 2018. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2021 Dec 6:rapm-2021-103161. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2021-103161. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34873024.