For as long as she could remember, people told Sue that marijuana helped you sleep. So once she started having problems catching z’s, she decided to give weed a try. Sue smoked pot every night for nearly three months, but for some reason, the insomnia wasn’t getting better. In fact, it worse than before! What’s going on here?
Despite previous beliefs to the contrary, this is the same sleep pattern a lot of daily marijuana users experience – increased insomnia and sleep disturbances.
Turns Out It’s Not a Sleep-Aid
As of 2016, half our nation’s states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. More and more patients are turning to marijuana to ease ailments, but a recent study shows sleep issues shouldn’t be one of them. Based on the research, it looks like daily marijuana use has the opposite effect: it actually increases insomnia.
Tons of marijuana users claim the drug helps them sleep better. While they may believe this, researchers found daily marijuana users scored higher on the Insomnia Severity Index and on sleep-disturbance measures than non-daily users.
The study also found this effect was greater on women than men. This came as no surprise to researchers, since insomnia is typically more common in females and past studies have shown marijuana use affects women’s neurological tasks more than men’s.
So why are daily marijuana users losing sleep? Researchers suspect it might be due to higher rates of anxiety. Anxiety is a common culprit in sleep-stealing; previous studies have shown a connection between higher marijuana use and higher rates of anxiety.
“It remains possible that the [insomnia] scores might have been higher in the daily marijuana users because marijuana was contributing to anxiety, which in turn may have exacerbated the severity of insomnia.”
As of 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found 22.2 million Americans used marijuana in the previous month. A study from the British medical journal Lancet Psychiatry found that 8.4 million Americans use marijuana on a daily basis. These stats make marijuana one of the most commonly used drugs in the country.
A whopping 60 million Americans are already affected by sleep disorders. Will this prevalent marijuana use make us a nation of insomniacs? As marijuana legalization and usage continues to grow, will the number of Americans struggling with sleep issues also increase? It’s certainly possible.
Though experts suggest additional research on the subject is needed, it’s definitely an issue we’re already losing sleep over.
Additional Reading: Voices From Both Sides of the Medical Marijuana Debate
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