How Does Marijuana Affect Dreams?


Everything you need to know about marijuana and its relationship to dreams…

Marijuana’s relationship with sleep is somewhat complicated. Not all information about the subject is fully understood or well researched. Further studies need to be conducted for more realizations to come to fruition.

However, certain aspects do seem to follow common trends. This article will explain everything you need to know about marijuana and its relationship to dreams.

If you’ve ever taken a hiatus from consuming cannabis, sometimes called a tolerance break, you may have noticed some strange differences during sleep. Not having weed in your system may have shaped your dreams to be more lucid, vivid, extreme, or even frequent.

Regular consumers of marijuana often report not dreaming at all. This absence of dreaming might be because of this healing and medicinal plant. It may seem like a strange side effect, but there are some scientific explanations as to why this happens.

As mentioned, further research needs to be carried out to establish a clear connection between marijuana and dreaming. For some, however, there seems to be a definite trend between cannabis and dreaming.

However, some people notice no relationship at all, regardless of the amount of marijuana they intake. As for the topic itself, there’s a lot of new information to learn, so let’s get to it.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about cannabis and dreams with our complete guide.

What Exactly Causes Humans to Dream?

Before we can understand the connection between cannabis and dreaming, it’s first essential to comprehend why humans dream.

Dreaming in itself is quite a phenomenon. Some people believe that our dreams send us critical life messages and can sometimes reveal our future. This viewpoint, of course, is an entirely subjective belief that may or may not be valid. What is a fact is that dreaming occurs during the last of the five stages of sleep. This stage is known as REM or rapid eye movement sleep.

The rapid eye movement stage is so-called due to the occurrence of quick eye movements from side to side. In monophasic sleep (meaning one period of sleep per day), it takes about 70-100 minutes for REM to occur.

Polyphasic sleep refers to two periods of sleep per day, e.g., some cultures have a siesta in the afternoon. In polyphasic sleep, the body can sometimes be tricked into falling into REM just 15-20 minutes into the sleeping process. However, this requires much brain reprogramming and training.

The activation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine triggers the occurrence of rapid eye movement. Therefore, REM is associated with neural activity.

Nevertheless, researchers cannot fully agree on why this increased neural activity causes the brain to produce the vivid imagery of dreams. Some believe that dreaming is the mind’s way to process emotions and solve problems. Others think that dreaming is necessary for memory retention. Some people believe that dreaming is completely pointless altogether and does nothing for the body or mind.

The truth is no one fully understands why dreaming takes place. What we do know and understand is that the REM cycle accounts for 20% of our nightly sleep.

How Is Marijuana Connected to the Various Sleep Cycles?

Why cannabis can cause us to dream less can be understood with science. A study conducted by Pivik et al. (link in article sources below) observed the connection between orally administered THC and sleep. Pivik et al. measured the different sleep stages of test subjects while they were under the influence of marijuana. The observed results were quite informative and intriguing. The research showed that little to no changes took place during stages 1-3 of sleep (the non-rapid eye movement stages.) However, activity during stage 4 increased.

Stage 4 is related to deep sleep, and it is known to help the body feel rested and rejuvenated. Although stage 4 is also a non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle, it’s vital in terms of rejuvenation of internal systems. Additionally, stage 5 (also known as REM or rapid eye movement) was also impacted.

It appeared that the influence of THC caused decreased activity during the REM dream stage. Essentially stage 4, “deep sleep,” had become more dominant. This more dominant stage 4, non-REM sleep phase, explains why you dream less often after consuming marijuana.

Cannabis Not Only Causes You to Dream Less, It Can Improve Your Quality of Sleep Too

So, THC has an impact on stage 4 deep sleep. Therefore, it is easy to comprehend why marijuana can sometimes improve one’s quality of sleep. Throughout the alternative medical world, medical cannabis is prescribed as a way to halt insomnia and restlessness. It could potentially help people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a longer duration of the night.

People often choose indica or indica dominant hybrid strains for their sedative effects. Examples of these strains include:

Many of these strains that purportedly can help with sleep contain a strong presence of THC. As we just discussed, THC is a critical component in increasing the duration of stage 4 sleep.

The Pros of REM Suppression:

As well as increasing stage 4 deep sleep, cannabis also decreases stage 5 REM sleep, thereby generating fewer dreams. This REM cycle suppression may have some positive effects in terms of the overall health and quality of your sleep.

The REM cycle is said to be a time for the body to improve memory retention and restore itself. Less frequently discussed regarding the 5th stage of sleep is the occurrence of nightmares. Some medical conditions are connected to an increase in nightmares, one, in particular, being PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For this reason, it can be challenging for those with PTSD to sleep through the night. It may even become frightening for them to fall asleep. This sleep deprivation naturally leads to exhaustion and the possibility of other adverse health effects as a result. Medical marijuana practitioners sometimes prescribe the same strains for PTSD as they do with insomnia.

Can REM Suppression Produce Negative Results?

REM is a time for memory retention, mental processing, and greater emotional understanding. However, there is little research that proves any negative correlation with REM suppression.

Overall, if we do not experience REM, it does not appear to create much of a long-term issue. Nevertheless, REM is linked to vital regenerative processes. Therefore, it could potentially prove to be harmful if “bypassed.” This bypassing is a potentially significant concern for those who are young and still have a developing brain.

Further research needs to be conducted to thoroughly understand the long-term possibilities of cannabis and its REM suppression. What is understood, though, is that unlike REM, the body cannot function long-term without a complete presence of the other four sleep stages – especially the “deep sleep” stage 4 cycle. For this reason, it is encouraging that THC does not impact any of these initial four stages negatively. It has even been shown to lengthen the fourth stage a little.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis and Dreams:

Hopefully, this article cleared up any confusion you may have had about marijuana and dreaming. If you have ever considered utilizing cannabis as a means to suppress nightmares, fall asleep faster, or feel more rested, then hopefully, this article can help you make an informed decision.

Many people care more about the overall quality of their sleep than their ability to dream consistently. And of course, marijuana affects all individuals differently. We hope you not only found this article to be entertaining but also educational and informative. It is important to remember that the consumption of marijuana is the sole responsibility of the user, and discretion should always be taken.

Article Sources:
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