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Cannabis and Alcohol Use for Sleep Aid in College Students

One in 5 college students use substances such as cannabis and alcohol to help with sleep. A recent study investigated the implications of substance use in this context. In this study, 217 college students who had used cannabis and/or alcohol in the past month as a sleep aid participated in a survey. This survey measured baseline sleep aid use, sleep quality, and substance use. After baseline data was collected, students completed daily surveys upon waking for 14 days including frequency of sleep aid use and negative consequences experienced due to using cannabis or alcohol.

The data indicated that 38% of participants had used cannabis or alcohol as a sleep aid in the past month. These participants reported higher negative mood, cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco use, negative substance related consequences, and poorer sleep quality.

Cannabis was more commonly used as a sleep aid in this sample, and was commonly seen in participants who were regular cannabis users. These students reported longer sleep duration and better sleep maintenance, as well as next-day fatigue. Alcohol as a sleep aid was not associated with sleep or alcohol related consequences, which may be attributed to the short assessment period. Overall, use of cannabis as a sleep aid may increase sleep time and maintenance but ultimately lead to daytime fatigue and other adverse outcomes.

Take Away: Cannabis and alcohol are commonly used as sleep aids among US college students. Cannabis use may lead to longer sleep duration but may lead to next-day fatigue.

Goodhines, P.A., Gellis, L.A., Ansell, E.B., Park, A. (2019). Cannabis and Alcohol Use for Sleep Aid: A Daily Diary Investigation. Health Psychology. doi.org/10.1037/hea0000765.

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