How Does Marijuana Effect Dreams?

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

Marijuana’s relationship with sleep is somewhat complicated: not all information is understood or well researched, and further studies need to be conducted in order for more realizations to come to fruition. However, certain aspects do seem to follow common trends, and this article is here to 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.

Most likely, the lack of weed in your system shaped your dreams to be more lucid, vivid, extreme or even frequent. Regular consumers of marijuana often report not experiencing dreams at all, and this could be linked to the presence of this healing and medicinal plant. It may seem like a strange side effect, but there are some scientific explanations that describe why exactly herb makes your brain act in this manner. As mentioned, further research does need to be conducted to completely establish clear connections, but for some there seems to be a definite trend between Mary Jane and dreaming.

That being said, however, some people notice no relationship at all, regardless of the amount of marijuana they intake. Regarding this topic, 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?

To recognize cannabis’s connection to dreaming, it is first important to thoroughly comprehend what exactly causes humans to dream. Dreaming in itself is quite a phenomena, and some even believe that our dreams send us important life messages and can sometimes reveal our future. Although this may or may not be true, what is fact is that dreaming occurs during the last of the five stages of sleep, known as REM or rapid eye movement sleep. The rapid eye movement stage is much as its name implies; characterized by an occurrence of quick eye movements from side to side. For most individuals that sleep monophasic (meaning one period of sleep per evening), it takes about 70-100 minutes for REM to arise.

For those who undergo 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 occurrence of rapid eye movement is actually triggered by the activation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, meaning that REM is linked to neural activity. Nevertheless, researchers cannot fully agree why exactly the presence of this increased neural activity causes the brain to produce the vivid imagery of dreaming. Some believe that dreaming is meant as a way for the mind to process emotions and solve problems, while others say it is necessary for memory retention.

On the other hand, some believe dreaming is completely pointless altogether and does nothing for the body or mind. Even though no one fully understands why dreaming always takes place (or even if we cannot actually remember our dreams), the REM cycle does make up about 20% of our nightly sleep, so it is important enough to be this frequent.

How Is Marijuana Connected to the Various Sleep Cycles?

The reasoning behind why cannabis reduces the amount that you dream can actually be understood with science. A study conducted by Pivik et. al. observed the connection between orally administered THC and sleep by measuring the different sleep stages of test subjects while they were under the influence of marijuana. The observed results were quite informative and intriguing; research showed that little to no changes took place during stages 1-3 of sleep (the non-rapid eye movement stages), while activity during stage 4 was 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 is quite an important one in terms of rejuvenation of internal systems. Additionally, stage 5 (also known as REM or rapid eye movement) was noted to be impacted. It appeared that the influence of THC caused decreased activity during the REM dream stage, essentially meaning that stage 4 “deep sleep” had become more dominant. Considering that REM is responsible for the arising of your dreams, it would make sense that marijuana is commonly reported as causing you to dream less, yet help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.

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

Considering that the stage 4 deep sleep cycle is influenced by the presence of THC, it is easy to comprehend why exactly marijuana is notorious for improving quality of sleep. Throughout the alternative medical world, medical cannabis is prescribed as a way to halt insomnia and restlessness, helping those in need to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a longer duration of the night.

Indica or indica dominant hybrid strains such as Northern Lights, Granddaddy Purple, Skywalker, Afghan Kush, Big Bud, Blueberry, OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, Critical Mass, Purple Kush, Bubba Kush, Vanilla Kush and others, are commonly taken for their sedative effects, and many of the strains that are known for making you sleep like a baby contain a strong presence of THC, which, as we just discussed is an important component in increasing the duration of stage 4 sleep.

The Pros of REM Suppression:

On top of this increasing of stage 4 deep sleep, cannabis also decreases stage 5 REM sleep, generating fewer dreams. And believe it or not, this rapid eye movement cycle suppression might actually present some positive effects in terms of the overall health and quality of your sleep. It is known that the REM cycle is said to be a time for the body to improve memory retention and restore itself, but what’s not discussed as much is the fact that the 5th stage of sleep is also linked with nightmares – the “dark” side of the dream world. Some serious 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, and it may even become frightening for them to fall asleep, which naturally leads to exhaustion and the possibility of negative health effects as a result. For this reason, medical marijuana practitioners sometimes prescribe the same strains for PTSD as they do with insomnia. Ultimately, the less time that the brain is “allowed” to be in a place where it can dream, means fewer moments where it can spiral out of control and produce a frightening circumstance.

Can REM Suppression Produce Negative Results?

While REM is a time for memory retention, mental processing and greater emotional understanding, there is little research that proves any negative correlation with REM suppression. Overall, it seems that even if the body does not have time to undergo some of the usual important benefits of REM, it does not appear to create much of a long term issue. Nevertheless, REM is linked to vital regenerative processes, so it could potentially prove to be harmful if “bypassed,” especially among those who are young and still have a developing brain.

Further research needs to be conducted to completely 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 4 sleep stages – especially the “deep sleep” stage 4 cycle. For this reason, it is great that THC does not impact any of these initial four stages negatively, and has even been shown to lengthen the fourth stage a little.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis and Dreams:

In addition to providing some extra information that maybe you didn’t know beforehand, 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. Although dreaming can be a pleasant experience, remembering these nighttime visuals is not suited for everyone, and some may care more about the overall quality of their sleep than their ability to dream consistently.

And of course, marijuana affects all individuals differently, so you never truly know how sleep and dreaming might change for you until you try it. 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.

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