Why can’t you dream on weed?

cannabis and dreams

There are many upsides to smoking weed if you ask the right person, but there are perceived negatives, too. Weed can stifle or mute dreams, and many view that as a bad thing. Some are happy not to have dreams, but others love flying into fanciful worlds while safe in their warm beds. Turns out, there is a pretty simple reason that weed changes dreaming that comes down to how cannabinoids interact with the brain.

How does dreaming work?

Many people use cannabis for sleep as it helps induce slumber and maybe insomnia. Those who do may also have a lot fewer dreams. Dreams are fascinating because, though almost everyone experiences them, there is still much to know about why they happen.

The thing that neurologists do know about dreaming is that it happens in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle. REM is one of four sleep stages of the brain. It is the third stage and occurs about 90 minutes into sleep. Cannabis, specifically THC, has been said to negatively impact REM sleep, which may be why it also deters dreaming.

Cannabis and dreaming

People consistently claim that cannabis sleep products help them get to bed. However, certain cannabinoids may not be ideal for getting a sufficient night of rest. Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, Ph.D. is a longtime neuroscientist, sleep expert, and head of sleep at sleep tech company Wesper, points to REM.

“Cannabis suppresses REM sleep, the stage where most of our dreaming occurs. Thus, when you have less REM sleep due to cannabis use, you will also dream less,” Rohrscheib said.

Studies continually show that cannabis can decrease the time spent in REM. Redditors with Oura rings agree, too. Many cited that their THC-free minds reported longer REM data to their smart rings, but after smoking again, their REM decreased. Though this consistent data supports the idea that cannabis does not help sleep, this may be a THC-specific issue.

Being picky with cannabinoids may reduce the impact weed has on dreams. While THC may reduce REM sleep, other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN may not. In fact, CBN sleep studies have shown that the two cannabinoids may work together for a better night of sleep.

While these cannabinoids carry a lower risk of REM cycle disruption, they work better with a bit of THC. Because of this, seeking out products with a delicate balance of a touch of THC with more CBN and CBD may be the most effective move.

Quitting weed may impact REM too

As for THC and REM, Dr. Rohrscheib has one more warning for those quitting the stuff.

“There is clinical evidence that cannabis negatively affects the circadian rhythm, which can impact sleep timing,” Dr. Rohrscheib said. “Going off of cannabis is correlated with increased risk for insomnia and REM rebound, an overabundance of REM sleep and a lack of slow wave, deep sleep.”

Those who quit may be in for some REM catch-up, or rebound, as the good doctor called it. Many people who quit weed report having wild nightmares and exceptionally vivid dreams, among other effects, for a few weeks after putting down the pot. Trauma patients and anyone who suffers from night terrors should be aware of this side effect.

The cannabis plant has many connections to sleep, and neuroscientists are still getting to the bottom of why. At this point, patients interested in cannabis for sleep should find a balance of cannabinoids that will not hinder REM but also have the juice to knock them out. Until more research is solidified, choose your own adventure.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.