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Research busts myth of cannabis being good for sleep

Contrary to popular belief, cannabis might be detrimental to a good night's sleep, according to a cross-sectional analysis using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data in the United States, writes Kristen Monaco for MedPage Today.

Recent cannabis users were 34% more likely to report a short sleep duration – less than six hours a night – compared with non-users (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.12-1.59, P<0.001) – said Dr Karim S Ladha of the University of Toronto, and colleagues.

On the other end of the spectrum, people who used cannabis within the past 30 days were also more likely to sleep abnormally long – more than nine hours a night – versus non-users (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.25-1.96, P<0.001), the group wrote in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

On top of that, recent users were also more likely to say they had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much during the past two weeks. They were also more likely to tell their physician that they have trouble sleeping, according to the MedPage Today story published on 6 December 2021.

This was even more pronounced for heavy cannabis users (use during 20 or more days within the past 30 days): compared with non-users, heavy users were 64% more likely to have short sleep duration and 76% more likely to have long sleep duration.

Of note, cannabis use within the past 30 days wasn't tied to frequent daytime sleepiness.

Overall, 78% of recent users reported getting an optimal night's sleep – ranging from six to nine hours – versus 85% of non-users.

The researchers pointed out that while insomnia is one of the top reasons people cite for using cannabis or cannabinoids, the supporting evidence for this is fairly weak. “Currently, the only indications with some robust evidence for therapeutic cannabis use to improve sleep duration or quality are OSA, PTSD, and chronic pain syndromes,” they noted.

According to MedPage Today, the analysis used data on 21,729 US adults ages 20 to 59 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2005 to 2018. About 15% said they used cannabis within the past 30 days. Compared with non-users, recent users of cannabis were more likely to be younger, male, and report heavy alcohol use.

Some limitations to the study included the self-reported survey questionnaire, which may lead to bias. There was also a lack of specific information regarding cannabis exposure, and lack of detailed data on sleep metrics.

See the link to the full MedPage Today story below.


Study details

Recent cannabis use and nightly sleep duration in adults: a population analysis of the NHANES from 2005 to 2018

Calvin Diep, Chenchen Tian, Kathak Vachhani, Christine Won, Duminda N Wijeysundera, Hance Clarke, Mandeep Singh and Karim S Ladha

Author affiliations: University of Toronto, St Michael's Hospital and the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, and Yale University School of Medicine in the United States.

Published in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine in December 2021.



While popularly consumed for its perceived benefits as a sleeping aid, the impact of cannabis on sleep-wake regulation in clinical studies is inconclusive. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between cannabis use and nightly sleep duration in a nationally representative dataset.


A cross-sectional analysis of adults was undertaken using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2005 to 2018. Respondents were dichotomised as recent users or non-users if they had used or not used cannabis in the past 30 days, respectively.

The primary outcome was nightly sleep duration, categorised as short (<6 hours), optimal (6–9 hours), and long (>9 hours). Multinomial logistic regression was used to adjust for sociodemographic and health-related covariates, and survey sample weights were used in modelling.


From a sample representing approximately 146 million adults in the US, 14.5% reported recent cannabis use. In an adjusted analysis, recent users were more likely than non-users to report both short sleep (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.59, p<0.001) and long sleep (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.25 to 1.96, p<0.001). Heavy users (≥20 of the past 30 days) were even more likely to be at the extremes of nightly sleep duration.


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. Our findings highlight the need to further characterise the sleep health of regular cannabis users in the population.


MedPage Today story – Cannabis Not So Great for Catching Z's (Open access)


See also from the MedicalBrief archives


Physicians search for medicinal cannabis knowledge – Australia and SA


AASM position statement on medical cannabis and obstructive sleep apnoea


BMJ: New clinical guidelines for medical cannabis in pain relief


Medical cannabis provides symptom relief for a myriad of complaints




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