Sleep disturbance in heavy marijuana users

Karen I. Bolla, Suzanne R. Lesage, Charlene E. Gamaldo, David N. Neubauer, Frank R. Funderburk, Jean Lud Cadet, Paula M. David, Antonio Verdejo-Garcia, Amy R. Benbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Study Objective: To determine if recently abstinent, heavy marijuana (MJ) users show differences in polysomnographic (PSG) measures compared with a drug-free control group. Design: A group of carefully selected heavy MJ users were chosen for study inclusion and matched to a drug-free control group. Questionnaire data were collected prior to cessation of MJ use. PSG studies were conducted during 2 consecutive nights after discontinuation of MJ use in our core sleep laboratory. Setting: Baltimore Maryland, General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) core sleep lab. Participants: 17 heavy MJ users discontinuing MJ use and 14 drug-free controls. Men and women were studied, 18 to 30 years. The MJ users reported no other drug use and alcohol use was negligible in both groups. Urine was positive for metabolites of cannabis only. Measurements and Results: The MJ users showed differences in PSG measures (lower total sleep times, and less slow wave sleep than the control group) on both nights; they also showed worse sleep efficiency, longer sleep onset, and shorter REM latency than the control group on Night 2. More sleep continuity parameters were significantly worse for the MJ group than the control group on Night 2 versus Night 1, indicating that sleep in the MJ group was relatively worse on Night 2 compared to Night 1. The MJ group did not show improved sleep after an adaptation night as expected. Withdrawal symptoms, craving, and depression did not appear to influence these findings. Conclusions: During discontinuation of heavy MJ use, PSG measures of sleep disturbance were detected in MJ users compared with a drug-free control group. While this preliminary study cannot identify the extent to which these group differences were present before abstinence, poor sleep quality either prior to or after MJ discontinuation could result in treatment failure for MJ users. Further investigation is necessary to determine the association between the use and cessation of MJ and sleep disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)901-908
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Marijuana
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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