A new study that addresses the relationship between cannabis, sleep, and chronic pain has found that frequent marijuana use can lead to more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
Published in the journal the BMJ, the study also examined the sleep patterns of 128 people aged 50 and older with chronic pain, 66 of whom use marijuana for medical purposes and 62 of whom do not.
Researchers found that people with chronic pain who frequently turn to marijuana reported more problems falling asleep and waking up more often during the night.
The team found no difference between users and non-users in terms of sleep latency and early awakening, but among frequent marijuana users, sleep problems were more frequent.
24 % reported waking up early and having difficulty falling back to sleep. Another 20% reported difficulty falling asleep, while 27% reported waking up during the night.
So this may indicate the development of tolerance after chronic administration of MC
similar to what has been found in preclinical studies. However, it is also plausible that patients who use more frequently suffer more pain or other co-morbidities (e.g. depression/anxiety) which may, in turn, be associated with more sleep problems,” the study notes.
The researchers also stressed the “important public health implications” of their findings, given the high prevalence of sleep problems among people in this age group and the popularity of cannabis.
However, more research is needed to determine what might be at stake in this particular study, especially since it primarily examined synthetically extracted compounds.
“This … cannot give us a clear indication of how cannabis affects sleep in the daily lives of most cannabis users, as most cannabis users use whole-plant cannabis, which contains more than 500 cannabinoids, and these may interact and create different effects on sleep than synthetically extracted cannabinoids,” said Sharon Sznitman, one of the authors of the study.
It is not yet clear whether cannabis contributes directly to improving sleep, Sznitman added, or whether it simply helps to relieve pain, making it easier for people with chronic pain to sleep.
It is also possible that frequent and long-term marijuana users may develop tolerance to the sleep effects of cannabis, she said.