Sleep challenges potentially linked to marijuana use include difficulty falling asleep, struggling to maintain sleep, experiencing non-restorative sleep, and feeling daytime sleepiness.
Researchers found the strongest association among adults who started marijuana use before age 15 with this group being twice as likely to experience sleep difficulties.
“Current and past marijuana users are more likely to experience sleep problems,” said lead author Jilesh Chheda.
“The most surprising finding was that there was a strong relationship with age of first use, no matter how often people were currently using marijuana. People who started using early were more likely to have sleep problems as an adult.”
The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.
Investigators reviewed self-reported data from adults ranging in age from 20-59 years as a part of the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
A history of drug use was reported by 1,811 participants. Cannabis use was assessed as any history of use, age at first use, and number of times used in the past month. Sleep-related problems were considered severe if they occurred at least 15 days per month.
Although the design of this study did not allow for an examination of a cause-and-effect relationship, the results suggest that initiation of marijuana use in adolescence may impart a higher risk for subsequent insomnia symptoms.
Another possibility could be that those who begin using earlier are more likely to experience insomnia for other reasons, such as stress. Insomnia may even be one of the reasons people start (or continue) use, though this evidence suggests that it is probably not effective if they are still experiencing problems.
“Marijuana use is common, with about half of adults having reported using it at some point in their life,” said Chheda.
“As it becomes legal in many states, it will be important to understand the impact of marijuana use on public health, as its impact on sleep in the ‘real world’ is not well-known.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use among young people has been increasing since 2007, which may be associated with increased public debate over the drug’s legal status.