Have you ever noticed that once you start consuming cannabis, your dreams change? And when you take a little break from the herb, your dreams change again. Unfortunately, cannabis really influences our dreams and makes them less vivid.
The fact may be good news for people who suffer from sleep disorders and want to sleep soundly till the very morning. Besides, there are cases when cannabis consumption does not influence consumer's dreams at all. So, what is the truth and how do scientists explain this connection between our sleep cycles and cannabis? To explore all the unique ways marijuana can influence our sleep, let us start with the basic question: “Why do we dream at all?”
Dreams can occur only during a specific cycle of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM comes after about 90 minutes of sleep; during this phase, our eyes move from side to side. It is believed that the dream imagery is caused by the neural activity in the brain. However, scientists are still trying to determine the exact reason responsible for our “internal movies.” There are many theories that can explain dreaming. Some of them include memory retention, problem-solving, and emotional processing. Some scientists even suggest that the dreams we have are meaningless. In general, we spend dreaming about 20 percent of our sleep.
A 2008 study conducted at the Freiburg Univesity Medical Center shows that the consumption of some illicit recreational drugs reduces REM sleep. Besides, the clinical review also shows that strange vivid dreams are one of the most frequent symptoms of marijuana withdrawal. That is why REM rebound can be observed while a person takes a hiatus from cannabis consumption.
The rebound phenomenon has been examined a long time ago. A 1975 study showed the effects of high THC doses on our sleep patterns. The same results were observed again in 2008 in a study named Sleep Disturbance in Heavy Marijuana Users.
In 2004, Dr. Anthony Nicholson's study on the effects of cannabinoids on nocturnal sleep in young adults showed the decrease of REM duration as the result of infusion of 15mg of THC.
Although it may seem that the decrease of REM sleep that is responsible for restoration and memory retention is a negative effect of cannabis, it may be, in fact, very beneficial for some people. The lack of dreams also means no nightmares anymore.
Nightmares are not just unpleasant images we see while sleeping. They are a symptom of some diseases like PTSD or other anxiety disorders. These patients already have restful sleep and the scary dreams only interrupt the bits of sleep a person has and makes the nighttime even worse for the patients.
Many scientists would insist that REM sleep is very important for information processing and emotions, there is little evidence that the lack of this sleep cycle influences our waking behavior. People with reduced REM report little to no changes in their everyday routine. Unlike REM, other sleep cycles are of great importance to our health and the disturbance of any of them will have more dangerous consequence than the lack of REM.
However, our cognition may be influenced a little. A 2014 research on sleep and cognition established a connection between information retention and REM sleep. Unfortunately, we still do not know whether the resulting cognitive impairments have long-term implications or not.
When you are considering marijuana treatment, be mindful of the effects it may have on your health and consult your doctor.
Whether or not the lack of REM sleep has dangerous consequences, thousands of people who suffer from any kind of sleep disorders find peace in cannabis every night.