Every smoker knows that marijuana can affect sleep. Powerful sativas may keep smokers awake at night, while heavy indicas can tuck them in for a restful night. Indeed, weed may have several sleep-related benefits, like helping those who suffer from insomnia fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. One area of study that’s still relatively young is the connection between weed and dreams.
If you’ve been a longtime smoker, you might not realize how much weed can affect your sleep pattern. After months or years of regular smoking, the reduction or lack of dreaming while smoking weed may seem normal. However, there is data to suggest that smoking weed may influence dreaming. In this post, we’ll cover how sleep affects dreams.
- Dreaming occurs in the REM phase of sleep
- Weed may change the REM cycle
- Smoking weed may influence dreaming
How Does Dreaming Work?
When you fall asleep, there’s a lot more going on than you might think. There are actually four distinct phases to the sleep cycle: N1, N2, N3, and R. Each of these different phases is called an “epoch.” It usually takes the average adult between 7 and 8 hours to complete the entire sleep cycle each night.
Each sleep epoch exists in one of two overarching states. Humans spend the most time in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, characterized as a period where the eyes don’t move beneath the eyelids. During this time, we don’t experience dreams. Instead, the body performs important functions like repairing broken bones and tissue and fighting infections. NREM sleep takes up the most time during the sleep cycle.
In contrast to NREM sleep, rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep is where the majority of dreaming occurs. During the REM phase, a sleeper’s eyes move quickly beneath their eyelids, and their brainwaves appear the same as someone who’s awake. REM sleep typically starts 90 minutes after someone falls asleep. Humans typically experience more than one REM cycle per night, and each additional cycle becomes longer as sleep progresses, typically lasting between 10 minutes and one hour.
Why Is REM Sleep Important?
Anecdotal evidence has always emphasized the importance of dreams. Artists find inspiration in dreams, and scientists have claimed to make groundbreaking discoveries while they dream. And that’s not even mentioning the insight that we may be able to find into our own personal lives during dream sequences.
In spite of this, scientists were fairly divided on the importance of REM sleep until recently. Many researchers believed dreaming was just an accident. Instead of messages from the subconscious, they were just random images and events.
That’s changed in recent decades, though. For example, one study from the University of Cambridge in 2005 demonstrated that dreams play a crucial role in forming memory. Another study, published in the 2004 edition of Learning and Memory, shows that sleep is unequivocally tied to learning new facts and abilities more quickly. The study revealed that participants showed a 29 percent (nearly one-third) increase in their performance of several tests.
REM sleep’s role in wakefulness and spatial awareness may be more crucial and long-lasting than we initially realized. In 2016, an article published in Front Cell Neuroscience showed that mice who didn’t receive any REM sleep in a 72-hour span demonstrated reduced spatial awareness for 21 days.
According to Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of Berkeley, REM sleep may also help us process mental trauma. He also highlights dreaming’s critical role in creativity, problem-solving, and compiling memories into a larger narrative whole.
How Does Cannabis Affect REM Sleep?
Although we’ve begun to understand the effects of dreaming on our daily lives, the way that marijuana may influence dreaming is unknown. We do know that THC – the main ingredient in cannabis – may suppress REM sleep. A 2019 study showed that regular cannabis smokers experienced decreased REM levels, resulting in less total dreaming. Additionally, they reported more strange, vivid, and bizarre dreams whenever they did remember them.
However, there are more than 100 cannabinoids in a marijuana plant. Thanks to the abundance of these organic compounds, smoking marijuana may not have the same overall effect on sleep as taking THC alone might.
For example, some data suggest that CBD may be able to help correct some REM problems, meaning that THC and CBD have the opposite effect on dreams. High doses of CBD may cause REM sleep to last faster, encouraging dreaming. Anecdotal evidence from many CBD users seems to corroborate this information, with many CBD users reporting that the molecule helps them lucid dream.
CBD may also help combat one terrifying aspect of dreaming: nightmares. Those who suffer nightmares and night terrors from PTSD may be able to find more restful sleep with CBD, according to a 2020 study. This data is promising for PTSD patients, who may finally be able to sleep through the night without experiencing their traumas over and over again.
Does Quitting Smoking Make Me Dream?
Often, frequent smokers may experience particularly vivid dreams after they stop smoking. REM Rebound is a phenomenon that occurs when smokers cease using THC suddenly. Free from THC’s influence, the body quickly tries to catch up on all of its lost REM sleep. The end result can be particularly intense or vivid dreams and nightmares, which many daily smokers may have experienced themselves after they stop smoking.
Snoozing with Sensimilla
Smoking heavy doses of weed for too long may have some unintended side effects – notably a lack of dreaming. However, it’s important to note that THC’s effect on REM sleep is highly dose dependent.
While high doses of THC will reduce or eliminate REM sleep, moderate or low doses may not. Additionally, CBD may be able to help boost REM sleep. The only way to truly understand how cannabis can affect your personal biology is to experiment with your own doses. By understanding how THC and CBD affect sleep, you can make educated decisions on your consumption habits.