Is Chronic Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Deficits?


Is Chronic Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Deficits?

While some studies suggest that acute, limited use of cannabis may aid in sleep, the correlation between chronic cannabis use and sleep deficits is becoming increasingly apparent. According to research from the University of Colorado, heavy, daily cannabis consumption is associated with various sleep disturbances. This becomes particularly significant when considering the potency of THC in marijuana concentrates, which can raise blood THC levels more than conventional cannabis, though it is unclear if this results in a proportional exacerbation of sleep issues.

The medical use of cannabis, particularly among older adults, is on the rise, with a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing an increase in past-year use from 2.4% to 4.2% among adults aged 65 and older from 2015 to 2018. This shift may reflect a decreased stigma and recognition of the potential benefits of medical marijuana for conditions such as chronic pain, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.

Nonetheless, cessation of cannabis can lead to a rebound in REM sleep and potentially vivid or bizarre dreams, which may impact sleep quality. This rebound effect points to the complex relationship between cannabis and sleep, particularly regarding REM suppression during use.

The cognitive impacts of long-term cannabis use are also being studied, with some evidence pointing to mild cognitive deficits in chronic users compared to non-users. Moreover, cannabis’s role as a sleep aid is contentious, with some students using it alongside alcohol, potentially misjudging the substance’s actual benefits on sleep quality.

Considering the differences in THC content, it is crucial to distinguish between marijuana, defined legally as a plant with more than 0.3% THC by weight, and hemp, which contains 0.3% or less. This distinction is important due to the different effects that higher levels of THC may have on sleep and cognition.

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Despite anecdotal reports of cannabis’s sleep-inducing properties, studies involving controlled dosages and objective sleep measures are needed for a more comprehensive understanding. The review in Sleep Medicine Reviews from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania highlights this need, suggesting that the current evidence base has significant gaps.

In light of these discussions, while some individuals may experience short-term sleep benefits from cannabis use, the long-term effects, particularly with chronic use, appear to be associated with more complex and potentially adverse impacts on sleep architecture. The necessity for more rigorous studies remains to dispel the uncertainties surrounding cannabis and its effects on sleep and cognition.

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