The devil’s lettuce, wacky tobacky, jazz cabbage or Mary Jane – whatever you call it, the masses believe marijuana functions as a sleep aid. In fact, in a survey published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 74% of surveyees purchased marijuana to help them fall asleep and 84% of those surveyees found marijuana to be an extremely effective sleep tool. But does marijuana really help you sleep, or is it just a placebo effect?
With 35.3% of adults reporting less than seven hours of sleep a night and 68% of high school students reporting short sleep duration, it’s no wonder Americans are grasping for anything to help them get a solid night of rest, and many turn to marijuana to catch some zzz’s.
But if you value quality over quantity, Mary Jane might not be your best friend.
The effects of marijuana on sleep
Just like alcohol, marijuana use improves sleep complaints when used for short periods of time and promotes greater ease falling asleep. But also like alcohol, chronic marijuana use leads to negative long-term sleep difficulties which are most present during the cessation of marijuana use. These sleep problems include insomnia, poor sleep quality and strange or disturbing dream content.
Still not convinced? Over time, chronic marijuana-users build tolerance to many of marijuana’s effects, including sleep-inducement, encouraging bedtime-tokers to use more in order to fall asleep, further increasing sleep difficulties and creating a cycle of use. This cycle may contribute to the high marijuana relapse rate estimated to fall between 40 and 60%.
Why is it so hard to effectively study marijuana?
You may notice a common theme among cannabis research: studies yield mixed results and are often inconclusive. There are many roadblocks to effectively studying the drug:
- There are over 500 distinct chemical compounds in cannabis.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration announced plans “to increase the number of entities registered under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to grow marijuana to supply legitimate researchers in the United States,” but failed to follow through on their promise.
- The majority of cannabis-related studies include observational trials using participants who procure their own weed, meaning there is no consistency from plant to plant within any given study.
- Those studying cannabis (with methods in which subjects do not procure their own marijuana) must obtain their products from NIDA and the University of Mississippi, the only legal producer and distributor of marijuana in the U.S. According to Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, legally sourced marijuana is “not reflective of cannabis consumed by the general population.”
Even though cannabis is the most frequently used illicit drug in the world with approximately 166 million users worldwide, cannabis research is in its infancy and more research is needed to advance our understanding of the impact of cannabis on sleep. So take this research with a grain of salt… for your munchies-induced side of fries.