Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
With its growing popularity as an alternative health therapy, many individuals are turning to cannabis for relief from a variety of conditions. Although it has incredible medical benefits, there are a few side effects associated with marijuana. For many suffering from insomnia or conditions which cause difficulties sleeping, medical marijuana is used to induce slumber. However, there are a few reports that claim cannabis may actually cause sleep problems.
Although the research is inconclusive, there may be a correlation between marijuana and sleeping problems.
Because medical marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug by the federal government, research on this plant is limited. With the legalization of cannabis in many states for medical purposes, there is a push by both cannabis advocates and the medical community for more research studies to be performed.
In 2014, a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania seemed to find users and past-users of marijuana were more likely to experience sleeping problems than non-users. They also found if a person began using at an early age, they were more prone to have issues with their sleep as an adult. The study didn’t prove marijuana causes insomnia, it just proposed an association between the two.
The research study was unable to find any medical proof or cause to back their claim. They also felt that the results may not be conclusive, as many adults who use marijuana do so to help induce sleep. Thus, they may already have insomnia or a sleeping condition that they’re attempting to self-medicate. There is no concrete proof that marijuana indeed causes these sleep problems to occur.
Another way marijuana could possibly cause insomnia is if you’re already using it as a treatment for sleeping problems. Discontinuing the use of marijuana may cause the user to have some sleep issues after stopping. But over time, this should lessen allowing the individual to return to a regular sleep pattern.
You may be concerned marijuana will cause long-term insomnia-like side effects. The above study shows that if there is a specific correlation between marijuana and sleeping problems, it’s probably caused by using cannabis at a young age. Participants in the study who began using marijuana before the age of 15 doubled their risk of having a sleeping disorder as an adult. The side effects of premature marijuana use could include:
Although inconclusive, the University of Pennsylvania study does present some compelling information about marijuana use by adolescents. It found that the risk of insomnia and sleeping problems were doubled in those who began using cannabis before the age of 15.
Most states have strict regulations about who can use medical marijuana. Only adults 18 years of age and older can apply for a medical marijuana license unless they have a serious medical condition. Then, the child’s parent needs to receive a doctor’s recommendation verifying that their child would greatly benefit from cannabis use. This strict precaution ensures medical marijuana doesn’t get into the hands of unlicensed adolescents or children.
If you’re experiencing insomnia and fear it’s because of your medical marijuana, talk to your doctor about changing your dosage. You may also want to consider using a different strain. Sativa strains are known for making users more alert, while indica varieties are commonly used by those who need help sleeping as it has a sedative effect.
Although there is no clear evidence that marijuana causes insomnia, the use of cannabis does, of course, cause a few unwanted side effects. However, it’s showing incredible potential as a treatment for many difficult medical conditions, helping people across the world.
You should always speak with your doctor about your unique condition and any side effects you’re experiencing. Our advice should not replace that of a professional. If you need specific information about your medical condition or about a particular strain, contact a marijuana certified doctor in your state or talk with the staff at your local dispensary.