Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Common in Teens Who Use Marijuana
Teenagers and Sleep
For a number of reasons, including the ongoing demands of the natural process of growth and development, teenagers need substantially more sleep than adults in order to feel rested and ready to lead a productive daily routine. Unfortunately, teens are unlikely to get the sleep they need. Part of the potential for sleeping difficulties during adolescence is entirely natural and related to the physical changes associated with the onset of puberty. (In particular, puberty is linked with a one- or two-hour delay in the time at which the body senses a need for sleep in the evening.) However, a number of other factors also contribute to the reduction of sleep in teenage populations, including the need to wake up early for school, the need to devote significant amounts of time to homework after returning from school, the social demands of adolescence (especially in the age of smartphones and social media applications) and the influences of peers who prefer nighttime activities to sleeping.
Teens and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Excessive daytime sleepiness is broadly defined as the presence of an abnormally high level of sleepiness during waking hours normally dedicated to various activities. Affected individuals tend to actually fall asleep at some point during the day or during other periods of time when wakefulness is the norm. Known potential contributors to EDS include maintenance of a daily routine that leads to a decrease in sleepiness at appointed sleeping times, the presence of physical conditions that decrease the likelihood of getting a restful night of sleep, the presence of major depression or a number of other diagnosable mental health conditions, schedule-related sleep deprivation and the consumption of caffeine or other legal or illegal substances known to reduce sleepiness or the ability to fall asleep. In teenagers, diagnosable conditions associated with excessive daytime sleepiness include the sudden-onset sleep disorder narcolepsy, a group of disorders known as circadian rhythm sleep disorders and obstructive sleep apnea, an ailment centered on potentially dangerous breathing stoppages during sleep.
Marijuana Use and Teen EDS
In the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers from Dayton Children’s Hospital, Wright State University and the University of Ohio used information gathered from 383 people below the age of 21 to explore the impact that marijuana consumption has on the odds that a teenager, preteen or young adult will develop problems with excessive daytime sleepiness. All of the study participants took a standard test, called a multiple sleep latency test, designed to detect EDS and EDS-related disorders. The researchers used recorded results of urine drug testing to determine each participant’s level of involvement in the consumption of marijuana/cannabis and a range of other substances.
The researchers preliminarily concluded that 14 of the study’s participants tested positive for marijuana/cannabis use. Compared to the rest of the participants, including teen and preteen users of other substances, these individuals had substantially elevated overall risks for the development of conditions linked to excessive daytime sleepiness. Out of all conditions associated with EDS, narcolepsy was by far the most common outcome among the teen and preteen marijuana/cannabis consumers. Fully 43 percent of the consumers of this drug had indications of narcolepsy, compared to just 24 percent of those teens and preteens not involved in substance use and 17 percent of those teens and preteens who used substances other than marijuana/cannabis.
The study’s authors concluded that excessive daytime sleepiness (especially in the form of narcolepsy) is unusually common among teens and preteens who consume marijuana or other forms of cannabis. In line with this finding, they recommend that all teenagers with indications of EDS receive a drug screening as part of the standard sleeping assessment.