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Most cannabis users no longer need conventional sleep aids

A recent study led by Washington State University reveals that the majority of cannabis users have stopped using conventional over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription sleep aids, favoring cannabis instead. 

The study, which involved 1,255 cannabis users, found that more than 80% of participants no longer used traditional sleep aids like melatonin and benzodiazepines. 

Fast-acting and effective 

Cannabis users had a strong preference for inhaling high-THC marijuana by smoking joints or vaporizing flower. These methods are known to be fast-acting and effective in alleviating difficulties in falling asleep.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that about half of the respondents preferred cannabis strains containing both CBD and the terpene myrcene. 

Benefits of myrcene 

Myrcene, found in hops, basil, and other plants, is known for its potential sleep-promoting properties. 

Study senior author Professor Carrie Cuttler noted that cannabis users seem to have independently discovered the benefits of myrcene for sleep.

“One of the findings that surprised me was the fact that people are seeking the terpene myrcene in cannabis to assist with sleep,” said Cuttler. “There is some evidence in the scientific literature to support that myrcene may help to promote sleep, so cannabis users seemed to have figured that out on their own.”

Key insights

The research, conducted by Cuttler and psychology doctoral student Amanda Stueber, relied on self-reported data provided by Strainprint®, a Canada-based medical technology company. 

The data revealed that cannabis users generally experienced more positive morning outcomes, such as feeling refreshed and focused, with fewer instances of headaches and nausea, compared to when they used traditional sleep aids. 

However, cannabis users also reported feeling sleepier and experiencing mood changes, anxiety, dry mouth, and red eyes more frequently than with other sleep aids.

Cannabis use for sleep

Cuttler pointed out that cannabis use for sleep was perceived as more advantageous than OTC medications or prescription sleep aids. 

Unlike long-acting sedatives and alcohol, cannabis did not result in a “hangover” effect, though some lingering effects like sleepiness were reported.

Sleep duration

The study further indicates that over 60% of participants achieved the recommended six to eight hours of sleep when using cannabis alone. 

This is a stark contrast to the less than 20% who reported the same sleep duration while using a prescription or OTC sleep aid, or combining cannabis with such aids. 

Only 33.8% of participants used cannabis edibles, and 14.1% opted for THC-containing capsules for sleep, possibly due to their delayed onset compared to inhalation methods.

Study limitation

Cuttler cautions that the study has limitations, including a strong selection bias towards individuals already using cannabis for perceived benefits. 

“Not everyone is going to find that cannabis helps with their sleep and future research needs to employ more objective sleep measures to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of cannabis for sleep,” said Cuttler.

The study is published in the journal Exploration of Medicine.

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