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Does Cannabis Affect Dreams? Exploring The Effects of CBD, CBG, & THC On Dreaming

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Daily CBD , last updated on October 20, 2021

Do cannabinoids cause crazy dreams? Yes, some cannabinoids could cause crazy dreams but not in the way you might expect.

Different cannabinoids have altering effects on dreams, sleep, and the sleep cycle. 

In this article, we’ll look into the world of cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep and how certain cannabinoids affect it. 

How Do Cannabinoids Affect Your Dreams?

Cannabinoids interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system consists of CB1 and CB2 receptors that affect most bodily functions. 

Some cannabinoids are psychoactive and alter your perception (THC), and others are non-psychoactive but have excellent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties (CBD). 

The thing that all cannabinoids have in common is their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

Because they interact with the ECS differently, some cannabinoids could suppress REM sleep while others stimulate it. This section will look at how four of the most prevalent cannabinoids affect the sleep cycle.

How Does Delta 9 THC Affect Your Dreams?

Delta 9 THC can reduce the time you stay in REM sleep and typically increases stage four of non-REM sleep [1].

This interaction with the sleep cycle suppresses dream activity by prolonging the duration of non-REM sleep. It can help users feel more rested but may shorten the amount of time leftover for REM sleep (where most dreaming takes place) before your alarm clock goes off in the morning. 

The interference delta 9 THC has with the REM sleep phase could help people with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) that experience nightmares induced by past traumatic experiences. This works through delta 9 THC’s ability to suppress dreaming. 

This cannabinoid may also be helpful to those with insomnia as research suggests that it may induce and encourage a deeper state of rest.

How Does Delta 8 THC Affect Your Dreams?

An early study of the effects of various cannabinoids on seizures found that delta 8 THC has a similar impact on REM sleep as delta 9 THC [2]. 

We can assume that because of its similarity to delta 9, delta 8 THC also inhibits dreams. The extent of this suppression has not been studied.

One counter-argument is that because of the mild sedative effects of delta 8 THC; overall sleep duration may be prolonged, enabling users to pass through non-REM sleep into REM stages earlier before their scheduled wakeup. This could (theoretically) lead to more time spent dreaming. 

How Does CBD Affect Your Dreams?

CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may have a slightly different effect on REM sleep compared to THC. One study found that CBD efficiently blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression but had little effect on non-REM sleep [3].

This could indicate CBD increases the amount of time spent dreaming during the night — however, this effect has not been formally studied. 

Anecdotally, there have been reports of people experiencing more vivid or lucid dreams after taking CBD products directly before bed.

Some consumers have also claimed that CBD gives them a significantly improved ability to recall what happened in their dreams. However, there’s little evidence to prove why or how CBD improves dreaming and recall.

On the other hand, some people report a reduction of dream activity after taking CBD before bed. The effects of CBD on dreaming likely rely heavily on the individual. Some people dream more vividly; others experience less dream recall after using CBD. 

How Does CBG Affect Your Dreams?

CBG (cannabigerol) as a cannabinoid is less common than CBD and THC. However, it may help induce sleep and improve rest. CBG is becoming more popular, but due to its fairly new status in the world of cannabis, there is little research on its effects on sleep.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBG may help with insomnia by encouraging sleep and inducing a deeper state of rest without interrupting REM sleep. Some people claim that this cannabinoid actually helps induce sleep better than CBD and THC. However, you’ll have to form your own opinion on this matter as scientific studies are few and far between.

Although research surrounding this cannabinoid is thin, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it has potential as a sleep aid. We look forward to seeing future studies on CBG that could potentially back up these claims. 

Do Cannabinoids Cause Crazy Dreams or Suppress Them?

It’s commonly stated that smoking cannabis before bed causes dream suppression in users, but is this true? 

Many people report that they are unable to recollect the dreams they’ve had or report having no dreams at all after smoking marijuana or using it regularly. Marijuana can potentially help insomnia sufferers as it does induce sleep. However, the deep sleep it causes may suppress dreams, as some studies suggest.

One study looked into the effects of THC on REM sleep (the deep sleep stage of rest) and found that it may reduce REM sleep and decrease sleep latency [4]. 

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the stage during the sleep cycle that dreams occur. 

This is the time when the brain is most active and creative. The suppression and reduction of this sleep phase could indicate that marijuana — or THC in particular — does suppress dreams. 

Vivid dreams and intense nightmares are common side effects of cannabis withdrawal. Although you may not experience elevated dream activity from smoking marijuana, if you’re a heavy user, you may experience a period of intense activity once you lay off the weed.

When you smoke marijuana regularly, the THC reduces the amount of time you spend in the REM stage of sleep while increasing the amount of time you’re in stage 4 of the sleep cycle [1]. This results in less collectible dream activity. 

Although suppression of REM sleep doesn’t appear to have any long-term side effects, it can affect you when you stop using marijuana. You may experience a rebound effect where your REM sleep activity increases, and you spend more time in this phase. This can result in a significant increase in brain activity. 

Although it’s unclear why exactly this happens, the occurrence is well documented. One 2011 study looked into cannabis withdrawal symptoms and found that the most commonly reported issues were sleep disturbances with nightmares and vivid dreams most common [5]. 

So, although marijuana can actually dull your dreams when you’re using it, it can dramatically increase your dream activity when you quit after a period of heavy use. 

When you take THC out of the equation, other cannabinoids can promote dream activity. Some users of popular cannabinoids such as CBD report stimulated sleep with an increase of vivid or “crazy” dreams.

How Can Cannabinoids Be Used for Rest?

Cannabis can be an excellent tool for those that struggle with sleep. People with insomnia, in particular, may benefit from cannabinoids such as delta 8 THC, delta 9 THC, CBD, and potentially CBG. These cannabinoids can induce sleep and help promote a healthy night’s rest.

For people who have PTSD, there is much to be said about using both delta 9 THC and delta 8 THC. These cannabinoids could potentially improve sleep quality and help suppress the REM stage of sleep where traumatic dreams and nightmares could occur. 

On the other hand, people looking for better dream recall and want a way to improve the vividness of their dreams could turn to CBD. This cannabinoid may help enhance the visual aspect of dreaming and help consumers recall their dreams more efficiently. 

Different cannabinoids have different effects on the sleep cycle. The cannabinoid you choose for sleep will depend on how you want to alter your sleep cycle. 

What Happens During the Different Stages of Sleep?

As you may already know, there are two main stages of sleep — the rapid eye movement (REM) phase and the non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) phase. However, what many people don’t know is that non-rem sleep has several different stages.

Each stage of non-REM sleep affects your rest. How long you spend in each stage of sleep ultimately affects the quality of your sleep and how you enter REM sleep, affecting dream activity. Certain cannabinoids may influence these different stages of sleep and alter the quality of your sleep and dreams.

To understand how cannabis and its compounds affect your sleep and dream activity, you must first analyze and understand the five stages of sleep.

1. Non-REM Sleep (Stage One)

The first stage of sleep occurs when you first drift off to sleep. This stage is characterized by slow muscle movement and twitches and slow movement of the eyes. Although technically unconscious, during this phase of sleep, you are most aware.

You can think of the first stage of non-REM as a sort of “twilight” period of light sleep. Because you’re aware of external factors, you may wake up to sudden noises and other disturbances during this stage.

2. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Two)

The second stage of non-REM sleep occurs once you fall out of the first light stage of sleep and into a deeper state of rest. You aren’t aware of your surroundings during stage two and are unlikely to wake up from mild external disturbances. However, if you do wake up, you’ll feel wide awake.

This stage of sleep is when your heart rate slows, body temperature drops, and eye movements slow down or stop.

3. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Three)

The third stage of non-REM sleep puts you in yet another deeper state of sleep. During this stage, your brain waves slow down and become less active. The muscles relax, and breathing also becomes slower. 

Stage three is difficult to wake up from. Even louder external disturbances may not wake you up. If an external factor such as an alarm does wake you up, you’ll feel disorientated, sluggish, and slow-moving. This is why you may feel more tired and oversleep.

4. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Four)

Stage four of non-REM is yet again an even deeper stage of sleep. The brain waves slow even further, and it becomes even harder to wake up from a slumber. 

Stage four is known as the stage of sleep where tissue repair occurs. It’s also believed that during this stage, hormones are released to help aid growth.

5. REM Sleep (Stage Five)

The fifth and final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep and occurs roughly 90 minutes after you enter stage one. This is the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. The eyes move rapidly, and your breathing starts to increase, becoming shallower and more rapid than in the non-REM stages.

Your blood pressure and heart rate increase again during this phase, and activity increases in the memory and learning sectors of the brain. It’s believed that dreaming occurs in this stage of sleep to stimulate the sections of the brain that are responsible for storing and obtaining information. 

Although brain waves increase alongside blood pressure and heart rate, your arms and legs become paralyzed. It’s believed that this paralyzation occurs so that we don’t act physically during our dreams. 

It’s this stage of sleep that may become interrupted by high levels of THC. Studies suggest that heavy marijuana users may experience less of a dream state because THC reduces the time the body stays in the REM stage of sleep [6].

Bottom Line: Do Cannabinoids Really Cause Crazy Dreams?

Some cannabinoids, such as THC, may suppress dream activity, whereas other cannabinoids, such as CBD, may encourage more vivid dreams. 

Marijuana as a whole will not cause “crazy” dreams. 

It’s more likely to cause a reduction in REM sleep and a suppression of dream activity as a result. 

However, the withdrawal phase when THC use is stopped abruptly may cause a period of intense dreaming.

Additionally, when certain cannabinoids are isolated and used individually, users may experience an increase in dream activity. 

If you’re looking to cannabis and its many cannabinoids to help with sleep or improve dream recall, be sure to do plenty of research because the effects of different cannabinoids on the sleep cycle vary dramatically. 

References Used

  1. Feinberg, I., Jones, R., Walker, J. M., Cavness, C., & March, J. (1975). Effects of high dosage delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol on sleep patterns in man. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 17(4), 458-466.
  2. Colasanti, B. K., Lindamood III, C., & Craig, C. R. (1982). Effects of marihuana cannabinoids on seizure activity in cobalt-epileptic rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 16(4), 573-578.
  3. Hsiao, Y. T., Yi, P. L., Li, C. L., & Chang, F. C. (2012). Effect of cannabidiol on sleep disruption induced by the repeated combination tests consisting of open field and elevated plus-maze in rats. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 373-384.
  4. Carr, M., Borcsok, R., Taylor, M., Segust, S., Pigeon, W., & Bradshaw, C. (2020). 0159 Reduced REM Sleep Percent in Frequent Cannabis Versus Non-Cannabis Users. Sleep, 43, A62-A63.
  5. Allsop, D. J., Norberg, M. M., Copeland, J., Fu, S., & Budney, A. J. (2011). The Cannabis Withdrawal Scale development: patterns and predictors of cannabis withdrawal and distress. Drug and alcohol dependence, 119(1-2), 123-129
  6. Bolla, K. I., Lesage, S. R., Gamaldo, C. E., Neubauer, D. N., Funderburk, F. R., Cadet, J. L., … & Benbrook, A. R. (2008). Sleep disturbance in heavy marijuana users. Sleep, 31(6), 901-908.

Further Reading

Further Reading