Cannabis Users Ditch Sleeping Pills To Get A Good Night's Sleep: Study

Cannabis Users Ditch Sleeping Pills To Get A Good Night's Sleep: Study

More than 80 per cent of the 1,255 cannabis users surveyed for the latest study reported no longer using over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.

FPJ BureauUpdated: Sunday, November 19, 2023, 01:11 PM IST
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Cannabis users commonly reported feeling refreshed, focused, and better able to function in the morning after using cannabis | Representative Image

Most people who report using cannabis to get a good night's rest have quit using over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids altogether, according to a new study.

People prefer inhaling high-THC cannabis

More than 80 per cent of the 1,255 cannabis users surveyed for the new analysis reported no longer using over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids such as melatonin and benzodiazepines. Instead, they had a strong preference for inhaling high-THC cannabis by smoking joints or vaporizing flowers, two fast-acting methods that previous research has shown can help with difficulty falling asleep.

Interestingly, around half of the people in the study also specifically reported using cannabis strains containing CBD and the terpene myrcene, an aromatic plant compound found in hops, basil, and other plants in addition to cannabis.

"One of the findings that surprised me was the fact that people are seeking the terpene myrcene in cannabis to assist with sleep," says Carrie Cuttler, Associate Professor of Psychology at Washington State University and senior author of the study published in the journal Exploration of Medicine. "There is some evidence in the scientific literature to support that myrcene may help to promote sleep, so cannabis users seemed to have figured that out on their own."

For the study, Cuttler and psychology doctoral student Amanda Stueber analyzed self-report data from individuals on their use of cannabis and other sleep aids or no aids and what effects they perceived the different products to have. Strainprint, a Canada-based medical technology company, provided the data for the study.

Participants reported varying outcomes and side effects 

Cannabis users more commonly reported feeling refreshed, focused, and better able to function in the morning after using cannabis, along with experiencing fewer headaches and less nausea compared to when they were using traditional sleep aids.

However, cannabis users also reported feeling sleepier, as well as more anxious and irritable in the morning after using cannabis compared to other aids. They were also more likely to report experiencing dry mouth and red eyes after using cannabis.

"In general, the use of cannabis for sleep-related issues was perceived as more advantageous than over-the-counter medications or prescription sleep aids," Cuttler says. "Unlike long-acting sedatives and alcohol, cannabis was not associated with a 'hangover' effect, although individuals reported some lingering effects such as sleepiness and mood changes."

60 per cent of people who used cannabis alone reported getting six to eight hours of sleep

The researchers also found that more than 60 per cent of the study participants reported getting the recommended six to eight hours of sleep when using cannabis alone. Less than 20 per cent of the sample reported getting six to eight hours of sleep while using a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid or cannabis combined with a sleep aid.

Additionally, only 33.8 per cent of participants reported using cannabis edibles to help them sleep, and 14.1 per cent opted for capsules containing THC. These alternatives are known for their longer-lasting effects but were less commonly chosen, possibly due to the need for quicker relief when falling asleep.

Study's limitations

While most of the findings came out in favour of cannabis use for sleep, the study has its limitations. There was a strong selection bias for people who were already using cannabis because they perceived it to be beneficial, Cuttler cautions.

"Not everyone is going to find that cannabis helps with their sleep, and future research needs to employ more objective sleep measures to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of cannabis on sleep," she added. 

Nevertheless, the researchers hope the study will provide some valuable insights for healthcare professionals who work with cannabis users and individuals seeking alternative solutions for sleep-related problems.

The research also supports the use of future clinical trials to validate the efficacy of myrcene and other isolated compounds in cannabis for sleep that don't have the intoxicating effects of THC.

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