September 2, 2018

Cannabis, Dreams, and Sleep

September 2, 2018
Cannabis use can prevent us from dreaming which can be a relief to some; for others, dream suppression can be a problem.

by Petar Petrov, Staff Writer for Terpenes and Testing Magazine

With the galaxies of thoughts and ideas that cannabis can blast open like an inner Big Bang, it’s only natural to wonder how cannabis affects the wondrous and surreal, eerily familiar chain of events and wild scenarios that are our dreams. But in fact, cannabis isn’t exactly the catalyst for dreams as many might think.

Cannabis and Sleep Cycles

If you’ve done some personal experimenting, you might have noticed that cannabis actually submerges you in a long, nice, and sometimes even completely dreamless sleep.

Through an instrument called electroencephalogram (EEG), scientists have pinned down five dream stages of the sleeping cycle – 1 to 4, and then rapid eye movement (REM). REM is when dreams unfurl. This cycle repeats several times per night.

The first three are the stages of light sleep. During the fourth stage and REM is when deep sleep occurs.

Different studies have found that THC increases stage 4 of the deep sleep while decreasing REM, or in other words, dreaming. [1] Also, the higher the THC concentration, the stronger this phenomenon.

Cannabis and Nightmares

For many people, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders, dreams are often equivalent to a hellish loop of recurring nightmares. The realm of dreams is out of traditional medications’ depth, and tormented people are left helpless.

By reducing REM, cannabis turns sleep into an escape rather than a prison, and with time, maybe even people can chase their demons away once and for all and take charge of their nighttime experience.

Cannabis and Insomnia

For those with trouble sleeping, whether actually falling asleep or sleeping for longer periods, cannabis is the ultimate medicine. Drunken stupors may help you fall asleep fast, only to wake up soon after with a throbbing hangover and feeling even more tired due to the sleep’s poor quality. Relying on sleep medications is also not advisable as sleep tends to come harder and harder without their help. Cannabis is certainly the better option.

Cannabis and “REM Rebound”

Most cannabis enthusiasts have tried out tolerance breaks from the flower for one reason or another. During those intermissions, they might have noticed that all of a sudden, not only do dreams come back, but they come back more vivid than ever.

Abstinence from cannabis can trigger “REM rebound”, meaning dreaming restarts with full force. This phenomenon has also been documented by different studies throughout the years [2], despite the lack of hard evidence of the correlation.

REM Suppression and its Implications

Our understanding of dreams is still very limited, and their exact purpose remains a mystery. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine that something so complex and wondrous, something that constitutes around 20% of our sleep cycle can be completely random. For some, this is a reason to believe REM suppression can have negative consequences during our waking time, but studies have not really established such a link.

However, research has found that newly learned skills and information are bolstered during REM, and that the quality of REM can influence cognitive functioning, especially in the elderly. This is why a prolonged and heavy suppression of REM shouldn’t be taken lightly and has to be approved by a specialist.

Experimentation and Theories

For those who like to dive headfirst into the boundless world of their dreams, and possibly even try to take it over by lucid dreaming, laying off cannabis every once and a while in order to trigger “REM rebound” might be one of their best bets. But only personal experimentation could prove this idea wrong or right.

Here’s some more food for thought – all research more or less refers to consuming cannabis immediately before sleeping. However, cannabis use in general might be a whole different story.

Cannabis flower, with the reflective state of mind and divergent thinking [3] it can induce in moderate quantities, can sometimes let you unravel inner thoughts which might otherwise remain buried under layers of consciousness and daily trivia. Don’t dreams do something similar, be it in a far trippier and eerie fashion? More research and experimentation could illustrate how cannabis and dreams could actually complement each other. Who knows what inner worlds might be born out of their potential synergy.

As the cannabis industry keeps developing and discovering new uncharted territories, it’s possible that through further research, we’ll learn about specific compounds and combinations between them that can induce deep sleep and suppress dreams when needed without negative cognitive consequences.

However, for now, this remains merely in the realm of possibilities, and because of it, any heavy cannabis-aided experimentation with your sleep over long periods of time shouldn’t be attempted without supervision.


[1] Pivik et al., “Delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol and synhexl: Effects on human sleep patterns”, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1972, 13(3): 426-435.

[2] Feinberg et al., “Effects of high dosage delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on sleep patterns in man”, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1975, 17(4): 458-466.

[3] Green et al., “Being stoned: a review of self-reported cannabis effects”, Drug and Alcohol Review, 2003, 22(4): 453-460.

Image Citation: Michele Svengsouk


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