Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment, & Prevention Services

Washington State University ADCAPS

Does smoking weed affect sleep?


What effect does smoking up on Saturday night have on your athletic and academic performance one week later?
The relaxing depressant effects of marijuana can make it feel like smoking up helps you fall and stay asleep. However…
The facts:
  • Marijuana decreases sleep quality, which in turn affects overall quality of life by contributing to memory impairment, unpleasant moods, immune system impairment
  • Researchers compared the sleep patterns of experienced marijuana users and non-marijuana users. The studies found reduced eye movement activity, less REM sleep, and less SWS or slow wave sleep with the marijuana users. As well, the marijuana users reported a REM rebound effect, which is more REM activity and dreaming, on withdrawal from THC.
  • Some marijuana users report decreased dreaming or not dreaming at all. With abstinence or decreased marijuana use, vivid dreaming and/or a return to regular dreaming during sleep is a healthy sign that your body is returning to a normal sleep pattern.
  • Not getting enough sleep limits your ability to think, remember, and respond quickly. Slower thinking and response time cuts down on your ability to perform well athletically and academically.


Here's why:
  • It takes longer than a day to recover from smoking marijuana! Disturbance in sleep patterns (restlessness, difficulty falling and staying asleep) remained for up to five days of abstinence and normal sleep patterns did not return to normal until after approximately one week.
    • Due to it being fat soluble, THC has a half-life of 2-10 days (depending of the quantity of THC ingested). This means that it will take between 2-10 days for only half of the THC to leave your system. Half the amount stays put!
    • Even if a student only smokes weed on the weekends, that student will have THC in his or her system (brain) during the week - while going to class, studying, working out, etc. If a person is a regular marijuana smoker (3-5 times a week) that person is continually drug effected!
  • Self medication: Some people use marijuana to decrease feelings of stress, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. While these feeling may decrease in the short term, it may be more beneficial to consider alternative treatments such as counseling or talking to a doctor about prescription medication. Also, this can reduce the risk of potential negative consequences of marijuana use such as decreased athletic performance, sleep disturbance, legal problems, or the development of dependency.
  • For some people, using marijuana can actually increase feeling of anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. These feelings can affect a person's ability to get good sleep. And, many people may not realize that it is the marijuana use actually causing these negative feelings. This misattribution can result in someone continuing to use marijuana, even when they are not having a positive experience.
  • For some people, regular marijuana use can result in a lack of motivation and lethargy ("Being a chronic couch potato" or Amotivational Syndrome). This can make it difficult to maintain a training schedule, get to classes, and keep up with friends and family. Consider: It may feel good at the moment but, in the long run, are you really having the life experiences you really want?


Options to consider:
  • Make it a priority to get good sleep!
  • If you want peak performance consider cutting down your marijuana use or don't smoke at all.
  • Remember: Counseling services provides confidential and free services for reducing harm, cutting back or quitting substance use.

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Cohen-Zion M, Drummond SP, Padula CB, Winward J, Kanady J, Medina KL, Tapert SF. Sleep architecture in adolescent marijuana and alcohol users during acute and extended abstinence. Addictive Behaviors. 2009 Nov;34(11):976-9. Epub 2009 May 23.

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Johnston LD, O'Malley PM, Bachman JG, et al. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2006. Volume II: College Students and Adults Ages 19-45 (NIH Publication No. 07-6206). Bethesda, Md.: National Institute on Drug Abuse; 2007.

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Nicholson AN, Turner C, Stone BM, et al. Effect of delta-9-tetrahydracannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Child Psychopharmacol 2004;24:305-13.

Tassinari CA, Ambrosetto G, Peraita-Adrado MR, et al. The neuropsychiatric syndrome of delta-9-retrahydrocannabinol and cannabis intoxication in naive subjects: a clinical and polygraphic study during wakefulness and sleep. In Nahas GG, Sutin KM, Harvey D, et al. (eds.) Conference on Marihuana and Medicine. Totowa, N.J.: Humana Press; 1999.

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ADCAPS - Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment, & Prevention Services, WSU Counseling Services, 280 Lighty Student Services Building. Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1065 | (509) 335-4511 |