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Marijuana and Sleep – New Study Finds Minimal Next-Day Impairments

Cannabis has been increasingly used as a sleep aid by individuals struggling with insomnia and other sleep-related issues. While its immediate effects on promoting sleep are well-documented, concerns remain about potential next-day impairments.

A recent study has shed light on this issue, suggesting that using marijuana before sleep may have minimal, if any, adverse effects on next-day performance. This blog explores the findings and their implications for both infrequent cannabis users and the broader community.

Study Overview

Here are the key aspects of the study

Purpose

Investigate the next-day effects of cannabis on cognitive and psychomotor functions, and driving performance.

Publication

Published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Research Institutions

Conducted by Macquarie University, University of Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Griffith University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Participants

  • 20 adults with physician-diagnosed insomnia.
  • Participants were infrequent marijuana users.

Publication

  • Cannabis oil containing 10 mg THC and 200 mg CBD.
  • Placebo as a control.

Study Design

  • Randomized, placebo-controlled crossover design.
  • Each participant experienced both the placebo and the cannabis oil in different sessions.

Assessments

  • Cognitive tests within two hours of waking.
  • Driving performance 10 hours after administration using a fixed-base driving simulator.
  • Subjective effects measured at baseline and at multiple intervals (30 minutes, 10 hours, 12 hours, 14 hours, 16 hours, and 18 hours post-administration).

Key Findings

The study revealed several important outcomes:

  • There were no significant differences in cognitive function between the THC/CBD and placebo groups.
  • 27 out of 28 cognitive and psychomotor function tests showed no next-day impairment.
  • A minor reduction in accuracy (1.4%) was noted in the Stroop color and word test, but this was not clinically meaningful as both groups had high accuracy (>97%).
  • No significant differences were found in simulated driving performance between the THC/CBD and placebo groups.
  • This aligns with prior findings suggesting that driving-related skills recover within approximately 8 hours after ingesting 20 mg of oral THC.
  • Participants reported no significant differences in feelings of sedation, alertness, anxiety, or other subjective effects between the THC/CBD and placebo groups.
  • The use of cannabis the night before did not lead to notable next-day impairments in mood or subjective experiences.

Comparison with Other Sleep Aids

Criteria Cannabis (THC/CBD) Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone)
Next-Day Cognitive Impairment
No significant impairment
Significant next-day drowsiness and impaired function
Next-Day Driving Performance
No significant differences in simulated driving
Known to impair driving performance
Hangover Effects
No significant hangover effects
Residual effects impacting next-day performance
Safety and Efficacy
Considered safer with fewer next-day effects
Higher risk of next-day impairment
User Preferences
Preferred for sleep issues; better outcomes and fewer side effects
Less preferred due to next-day impairments and side effects
Next-Day Cognitive Impairment
  • Cannabis (THC/CBD): No significant impairment
  • Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone): Significant next-day drowsiness and impaired function
Next-Day Driving Performance
  • Cannabis (THC/CBD):No significant differences in simulated driving
  • Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone): Known to impair driving performance
Hangover Effects
  • Cannabis (THC/CBD): No significant hangover effects
  • Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone): Residual effects impacting next-day performance
Safety and Efficacy
  • Cannabis (THC/CBD):Considered safer with fewer next-day effects
  • Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone): Higher risk of next-day impairment
User Preferences
  • Cannabis (THC/CBD): Preferred for sleep issues; better outcomes and fewer side effects
  • Sedative-Hypnotics (e.g., Benzodiazepines, Zopiclone): Less preferred due to next-day impairments and side effects

Detailed Analysis

In-depth examination of the study’s results provides further insights:

Cognitive Test Results
  • Most cognitive tests, including those assessing attention, working memory, and speed of information processing, showed no significant next-day effects from THC/CBD.
  • The minor reduction in accuracy observed in the Stroop color and word test (1.4%) was deemed not clinically meaningful, as participants maintained high accuracy levels (>97%).
Stroop-Word Test Insights
  • No significant difference in accuracy was observed on the harder incongruent condition of the Stroop-Word Test, which requires matching the meaning of the word rather than its printed color.
  • For comparison, alcohol hangover states produce greater interference on the Stroop-Word Test but not on the Stroop-Color Test, highlighting the minimal impact of THC/CBD on cognitive interference.
Driving Simulator Performance
  • Simulated driving tests conducted 10 hours after cannabis administration showed no significant differences between the THC/CBD and placebo groups.
  • These findings are consistent with previous studies indicating that driving-related skills in occasional cannabis users recover within approximately 8 hours after ingesting 20 mg of oral THC.

Participant Experience

Participants’ experiences provided valuable context to the study’s findings:

Subjective Reports of Sleep Quality

  • Participants reported no significant differences in feelings of sedation, alertness, anxiety, or sleepiness between the THC/CBD and placebo groups.
  • Many reported improved sleep quality with cannabis use, without notable next-day impairments.

Comparison of Placebo and THC/CBD Groups

  • Both groups showed similar results in terms of cognitive performance and driving ability, reinforcing the conclusion that a single oral dose of 10 mg THC (with 200 mg CBD) does not impair next-day functions.
  • Subjective effects were measured at various intervals, including baseline, 30 minutes, and 10 to 18 hours post-administration, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of potential residual effects.

Context and Implications

The study’s findings have several important implications:

For Infrequent Cannabis Users
  • Individuals who infrequently use cannabis and take it as a sleep aid may not experience significant next-day cognitive or driving impairments.
  • This supports the notion that occasional use, especially in controlled doses, can be a safe option for those needing help with sleep.
Public Health and Safety
  • These results can inform public health guidelines and safety regulations, particularly regarding cannabis use for medical purposes.
  • The study alleviates some concerns about next-day performance, especially in safety-sensitive tasks like driving.
Medical and Therapeutic Use
  • The findings contribute to the broader understanding of cannabis as a potential therapeutic aid, particularly for sleep disorders.
  • Medical practitioners might consider these results when prescribing cannabis for sleep issues, balancing benefits against potential risks.

Limitations and Future Research

While the study provides valuable insights, several limitations need to be addressed:

  • The study’s relatively small sample size (20 participants) limits the generalizability of the findings.
  • Larger studies are needed to confirm these results across diverse populations.
  • The study only investigated the effects of a single dose of cannabis oil (10 mg THC with 200 mg CBD).
  • Future research should explore the effects of repeated dosing and varying THC/CBD ratios to reflect real-world usage more accurately.
  • The study did not examine the long-term cognitive and psychomotor effects of regular cannabis use for sleep.
  • Longitudinal studies are necessary to understand the potential cumulative impact of chronic cannabis use on next-day performance.

Related Research

Recent studies provide additional context and support for these findings

Neurocognitive Effects

  • A study published last December found minimal acute impact on cognitive function among medical marijuana patients with chronic health conditions.
  • Another report in March linked marijuana use to lower odds of subjective cognitive decline (SCD), with users reporting less confusion and memory loss compared to non-users.

Marijuana and Laziness

A 2022 study found no difference in apathy or reward-based behavior between regular cannabis users and non-users, challenging the stereotype of cannabis-induced laziness.

Sleep Quality

  • A Washington State University study highlighted that cannabis users with sleep issues preferred it over other sleep aids, reporting better outcomes and fewer side effects the next morning.
  • Other 2023 studies involving individuals with chronic health conditions and neurological disorders also reported improved sleep quality with cannabis use.

Summary of Key Findings

The recent study provides reassuring evidence that using cannabis as a sleep aid does not significantly impair next-day cognitive function or driving performance in infrequent users. This suggests that cannabis can be a viable alternative to traditional sedatives, offering improved sleep quality with fewer next-day side effects. However, the study’s limitations, including its small sample size and focus on a single dose, highlight the need for further research.

Future studies should explore the effects of repeated dosing and varying THC/CBD ratios to better reflect real-world use. Additionally, long-term research is essential to understand the cumulative impacts of regular cannabis use on daily functioning. Overall, these findings contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis, particularly for sleep disorders, and can help inform public health guidelines and medical practices.

Moving Forward

While the findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term benefits and potential of Cannabis for sleep. However, for those struggling with insomnia, Cannabis products might be worth considering as a part of their wellness routine.

Legal & Medical Disclaimer

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The information provided on this blog is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

The content on this blog is provided “as is” and no representations are made that the content is error-free. The website takes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the content of this blog or other websites or resources that may be referenced or linked to herein. The website’s content is not intended to recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the site.

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Article reviewed by:

Dr. Richard Koffler

Richard Koffler, MD

NPI Number- 1467557264

  • Dr. Koffler is a Physiatrist, specializing in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 
  • Graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in 1993 Dr. Koffler completed a one-year internship in internal medicine at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. 
  • Residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center in New York City. Board certified in 1998. 
  • Trained in acupuncture at Helms Medical Institute at UCLA His medical practice incorporates proven conventional western medicine integrating eastern alternative practices. 
  • Medical Director of several medical clinics in NYC, Stamford CT, and Miami Beach, FL.