Vivid, lucid dreams are part of the human experience. Some people have them, others say they do not, but they may increase with the use of marijuana. There is the possibility that cannabis can have an effect on dreams when a person stops, or while they are using. Cannabis consumption affects everyone differently for different reasons.
Dreaming is a normal part of healthy sleep. Good sleep has been connected to better cognitive function and emotional health, and studies have also linked dreams to effective thinking, memory, and emotional processing. In this way, many experts believe dreaming is either a reflection of or a contributor to quality sleep.
However, not all dreams are created equal. Some dreams may harm sleep. Bad dreams involve content that is scary, threatening, or traumatic. When a bad dream causes an awakening from sleep, it can be considered a nightmare. Find out how and why dreams are impacted by cannabis use and how to navigate these dreams.
Why Dreaming Happens
Dreams happen during REM sleep, a cycle which stands for ‘rapid eye movement.’ This occurs about 90 minutes into sleep, characterized by quick, side-to-side eye movement. REM sleep is activated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine as well as chemical activity in the pons region of the brain stem. Although dreams are often a result of neural activity, brains can be funny things. Some dreams can happen more frequently when a person is woken up, then falls back to sleep and is experiencing lighter sleep.
There is considerable evidence that points to dreams playing a role in facilitating brain functions like memory and emotional processing. Dreams appear to be an important part of normal, healthy sleep. At the same time, though, nightmares can disrupt sleep and even affect a person during their waking hours.
Can THC Affect Your Dreams?
The short answer is yes (but it’s complicated). According to a study by Pivik et al, The connection between THC and sleep was measured in sleep stages. Little to no changes were observed in stages 1-3 of sleep but activity during stage 4 was heightened. Stage 4 is generally referred to as deep sleep when the body is most working to rejuvenate and be restored. Stage 5, or REM sleep, was also impacted. THC decreased activity during REM sleep and after consuming marijuana it appeared the participants of the study experienced fewer dreams in stage 4.
During a break in cannabis consumption, some people have reported they experienced dreams. Vivid dreams that may include lots of things that wake them out of their state. While reading up on cannabis, they may think they experienced what they dreamed about. REM rebound is a sudden increase in REM sleep and dreaming. How this happens depends upon many variables, not the least of which are things like the specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and other constituents of the cannabis plant you consume, and how much of each is present. Method of ingestion, dosage, and individual body chemistry all come into play as well. Though research is needed to look into this theory, it seems this may explain strange dreams that occur after quitting cannabis or taking a break.
What Are Cannabis Dreams?
Cannabis dreams are not necessarily what dreams are made of for some people. It is hard to suppress difficult dreams, especially when you quit using marijuana. Cannabis can trigger withdrawal and takes time to adjust when taking a break. A cannabis break can result in cannabis dreams. Dreams may worsen during the second day of abstinence but vary from person to person. Try some habits to help improve sleep during a period of recovery from cannabis use or quitting altogether.
- Set a consistent wake and sleep time for better sleep and dreaming
- Create a calm, relaxing space to sleep
- Keep lights dim before bed
- Don’t use electronic devices or watch TV one hour before bedtime
- Find relaxation techniques and spaces before bed
- Invest in a good bed, pillows, comfortable sleeping sheets, etc
These tips are just helpful hints to get you on your way to a good night’s rest. Marijuana dreams can be trippy but they don’t have to trip up your sleep. It is difficult to get a good night of sleep sometimes but trying a few of the above habits consistently may help set the stage for success, even while using or weaning off cannabis.
Controlling your Dreams
Nightmares are often a common recurring symptom of PTSD and anxiety disorders. This disrupts a night of sleep for people who seem to never feel well-rested. Cannabis and its effects can help. Certain strains can be helpful and allow someone to sleep without nightmares, even after years of experiencing PTSD. One study done on 104 prison inmates described as having “serious mental illness” showed significant improvement in PTSD symptoms such as nightmares and insomnia, plus improvements in chronic pain. The study also noted that medications with the potential for adverse effects – mostly antipsychotics and sedative/hypnotics – were often discontinued once the inmates were given nabilone. Insomnia sufferers often look to cannabis to help them get a good night’s rest. It helps promote longer sleep and resolve breathing-related sleep issues.
Does Weed Suppress REM?
A concern for people who smoke cannabis is whether it is harmful to suppress REM sleep. Studies show with minimal REM sleep, there are no adverse effects in day-to-day experiences. This is not the case with non-REM deep sleep cycles. The sequences of other sleep cycles are imperative to health. Antidepressants are known to suppress the REM sleep, but a daily regimen of SSRIs does not cause a downward spiral in people who consume cannabis.
Cannabis has great healing properties for people suffering from symptoms of sleep disorders and mental health conditions. A doctor should monitor the use and sleep cycles to be sure a person gets maximum benefit without too much disruption to their daily routine. If you’re dreaming of smoking weed or struggling with good REM sleep, check with your doctor. The goal of cannabis is to be of help, not to be a detriment. Speak with qualified people who can help adjust the strains and transmission of cannabis to ensure everything is as it should be so that you can get the best night’s sleep possible for your overall health.
Mary and Main aims to help educate consumers on products and services they can access in Maryland.
Contact us to find out how we can help you select the best products for your situation.