Source: University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary: As many as 7% of moms-to-be use marijuana while pregnant, and that number is rising fast as more use it to quell morning sickness. But new research suggests such use could have a lasting impact on the fetal brain, influencing children’s sleep for as much as a decade.
Use marijuana while pregnant, and your child is more likely to suffer sleep problems as much as a decade later, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study of nearly 12,000 youth.
Published in Sleep Health: The Journal of The National Sleep Foundation, the paper is the latest to link prenatal cannabis use to developmental problems in children and the first to suggest it may impact sleep cycles long-term.
It comes at a time when — while the number of pregnant women drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes has declined in the United States — It has risen to 7% of all pregnant women as legalization spreads and more dispensaries recommend it for morning sickness.
“As a society, it took us a while to understand that smoking and drinking alcohol are not advisable during pregnancy, but it is now seen as common sense,” said senior author John Hewitt, director of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at CU Boulder. “Studies like this suggest that it is prudent to extend that common sense advice to cannabis, even if use is now legal.”
A landmark study
For the study, Hewitt and lead author Evan Winiger analyzed baseline data from the landmark Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which is following 11,875 youth from age 9 or 10 into early adulthood.
As part of an exhaustive questionnaire upon intake, participants’ mothers were asked if they had ever used marijuana while pregnant and how frequently. (The study did not assess whether they used edibles or smoked pot). The mothers were also asked to fill out a survey regarding their child’s sleep patterns, assessing 26 different items ranging from how easily they fell asleep and how long they slept to whether they snored or woke up frequently in the night and how sleepy they were during the day.
About 700 moms reported using marijuana while pregnant. Of those, 184 used it daily and 262 used twice or more daily.
After controlling for a host of other factors, including the mother’s education, parent marital status and family income and race, a clear pattern emerged.
“Mothers who said they had used cannabis while pregnant were significantly more likely to report their children having clinical sleep problems,” said Winiger, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
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