Study Links Pot Use With Poor Sleep

It's possible that insomnia leads some people to turn to marijuana, study authors say

From the WebMD Archives

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who use marijuana may have trouble falling and staying asleep and feel drowsy during the day, new research suggests.

And adults who started using the drug before they were 15 seem to be twice as likely as nonusers to have problems falling asleep, not feeling rested after sleep and feeling tired during the day, the University of Pennsylvania researchers said.

It's possible that people who already suffer from insomnia turn to marijuana as a way to help them sleep, said study lead researcher Michael Grandner, an instructor in psychiatry at the university.

"The type of person who reports marijuana use in the U.S. is more likely to also be the type of person who has sleep problems," he said. "It doesn't mean that one is causing the other."

It's more likely that people with sleep problems and stress may turn to marijuana as a way to self-medicate, Grandner said. "But there is little evidence, outside of anecdotes, to suggest that this will really help fix the problem in the long term," he said.

Rather than turning to marijuana to beat insomnia, Grandner suggests trying treatments that really work.

"For example, the most well-studied treatment for insomnia actually does not involve medications and works well -- it's called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and essentially works by reprogramming your brain to sleep," he said.

Since the study found that those who started using marijuana earlier in life were more likely to have sleep problems, it may be important to help teenagers find healthier and more effective ways to cope with stress, Grandner suggested.

The study didn't prove that marijuana leads to sleep problems, just that there's an association between the two. It was scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies' annual meeting in Minneapolis.

For the study, Grandner's team collected data on approximately 1,800 U.S. adults who took part in the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants reported how often they had used marijuana in the past month and at what age they began using it. They also reported whether they had any trouble sleeping. The researchers defined severe sleep problems as trouble sleeping at least 15 days a month.