Sleep and Substance Use Disorders: An Update


Substance use disorders (SUD) are common and individuals who suffer from them are prone to relapse. One of the most common consequences of the use of and withdrawal from substances of abuse is sleep disturbance. Substances of abuse affect sleep physiology, including the neurotransmitter systems that regulate the sleep-wake system. Emerging research now highlights an interactive effect between sleep disorders and substance use. New findings in alcohol and sleep research have utilized sophisticated research designs and expanded the scope of EEG and circadian rhythm analyses. Research on marijuana and sleep has progressed with findings on the effects of marijuana withdrawal on objective and subjective measures of sleep. Treatment studies have focused primarily on sleep in alcohol use disorders. Therapies for insomnia in cannabis disorders are needed. Future research is poised to further address mechanisms of sleep disturbance in alcoholics and the effect of medical marijuana on sleep and daytime functioning.

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Deirdre A. Conroy and J. Todd Arnedt declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Deirdre A. Conroy.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sleep Disorders

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Conroy, D.A., Arnedt, J.T. Sleep and Substance Use Disorders: An Update. Curr Psychiatry Rep 16, 487 (2014).

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  • Sleep latency (SL)
  • Wake after sleep onset (WASO)
  • Total sleep time (TST)
  • Sleep efficiency (SE; TST/time between “lights out” and “lights on”)
  • Percentages of stages 1 (S1%), 2 (S2%), 3 (S3%), 4 (S4%), Slow wave activity (SWA)
  • Slow wave sleep (SWS%)
  • Rapid eye movement (REM%) Sleep
  • REM latency (REM-L; duration between “sleep onset” and “REM onset”)