How Does Weed Affect Dreams?
According to various studies, stoners actually do dream less because weed reduces REM sleep. However, if you decide to take a break from smoking, those dreams will come back with a vengeance, more vivid than ever before.
As much as we don’t enjoy doing it, most stoners need to take a smoking hiatus every once in awhile. Whether it’s for a job, pregnancy, legal issues, or just a good old tolerance break, sometimes a few-week pause is necessary. If you’ve ever been there, you might have noticed one particular side effect after a day or two away from pot – crazy dreams!
Many smokers report that their dreams are more lucid and increase in frequency when abstaining from weed. A 2008 study stated that regular cannabis use decreases REM sleep, which is the stage in our sleep cycle when dreams occur. The report concluded a “decreased REM duration in subjects dosed with 15mg of THC as well as a THC/CBD mixture, but did not record the effects of cannabis cessation,” although it’s believed that quitting does actually lead to something called a “REM rebound.”
THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF SLEEP
While we sleep, our brains cycle through five different sleep stages, with the longest stages being deep sleep and REM sleep. Stage one is light sleep. This is when we’re still drifting in and out of consciousness and any little thing can wake us up. During stage one, you might feel sudden muscle cramps or the sensation that you’re falling.
Once we transition to stage 2, the electrical impulses in our brains slow down. During stage 3, what’s referred to as “delta waves” begin to appear with greater frequency. Delta waves are high-amplitude brain waves that originate in the thalamus or cortex and are associated with deep sleep. In stage 4, the brain is now exclusively producing delta waves and there is no eye movement or muscle activity.
Once we enter REM sleep, we finally begin to dream. Our breathing becomes irregular, heart rate increases, our eyes move rapidly in different directions and muscles become temporarily paralysed. Depending on how long we sleep, we could cycle through the REM stage quite a few times throughout the night.
A complete sleep cycle normally lasts about 100 minutes, with the first REM period starting between 70 to 90 minutes after we initially fall asleep. Early in our nightly cycles, the REM stage lasts around 10 to 20 minutes and gradually increases in length as we continue sleeping.
IS IT HEALTHY TO NOT HAVE DREAMS?
Despite the fact that REM sleep is restorative and has been linked to memory retention, there are a few benefits to skipping out on it. The main one being fewer nightmares, which is great news for PTSD patients. Nightmares, or night terrors, can prevent people from achieving a restful sleep, which can then have profound effects on waking behaviour, such as mood changes, trouble concentrating, low sex drive, weight gain and immune system suppression.
Pot’s dream-diminishing effects are extremely helpful for those who suffer from nightmares and/or insomnia. Furthermore, studies show that aside from some increased difficulty retaining information, a lack of REM sleep has little impact on our daytime behaviours, symptoms and overall health.
On the other hand, there is the possibility that cannabis doesn’t have an abstract effect on our dreams at all. Studies do show the correlation, but there hasn’t been enough research to make a definitive conclusion yet. I can vouch for my personal experiences of intensified dreams after quitting pot, although I’ve also had some crazy dreams while smoking too. Either way, it’s worth exploring more to find out exactly how weed affects our subconscious minds.