Unraveling the Myths About Cannabis Use and Vivid Dreams

by | Mar 12, 2024 | Medical Marijuana, Uncategorized

Unraveling the Myths About Cannabis Use and Vivid Dreams

Some individuals wake up recalling vivid dreams from the previous night, while others insist they never dream or struggle to remember their dreams. According to science, it’s likely that everyone dreams each night, but the challenge lies in recollection, often influenced by factors like fatigue or sleep disorders aggravated by modern lifestyles such as excessive screen time.

Many individuals turn to medical cannabis to address insomnia symptoms, whether temporary due to stress or chronic stemming from psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), depression, or anxiety. Wondering if cannabis could assist with sleep issues is common among those struggling to fall asleep, especially considering anecdotal reports of vivid and unconventional dreams among regular cannabis users.

Cannabis’s impact on sleep varies widely among individuals, ranging from mild sleep-inducing effects to potentially bizarre dream experiences. Interestingly, there are valid medical explanations for heightened dream intensity after discontinuing cannabis use, shedding light on the complex relationship between cannabis and dreaming.

How Effective is Medical Cannabis for Symptoms of Insomnia?

Strange dreams often leave people puzzled, yet many prioritize the benefits of quality sleep over deciphering their meaning. If you are having dreams, research shows that you are getting at least some deep sleep and rapid eye moment phase (REM) rest. Cannabis can contribute to a restful night’s sleep, albeit with varying effects on different individuals due to changes in brain chemistry.

While some may find cannabis conducive to better sleep, others may experience restlessness and sleep disturbances. People react differently to different strains and potencies, and cannabis can have varied effects.

cannabis for sleep

What Worries? How Cannabis Can Promote Mental Relaxation

One of the significant benefits of cannabis is its ability to induce deep relaxation, which is particularly helpful for those struggling to fall asleep amidst life’s stressors. Common stressors such as work-related issues, relationship concerns, financial worries, or health problems can disrupt sleep patterns.

Cannabis doesn’t eradicate stress but rather alleviates its immediate impact by tempering the brain’s response to stressors through the release of dopamine, fostering a sense of tranquility conducive to sleep.

Improving Sleep Quality By Moderating Chronic Pain

Moreover, cannabis can provide effective pain relief, particularly beneficial for individuals with chronic pain conditions that often exacerbate sleep disturbances. Although it doesn’t address the root cause of pain, cannabis may modulate pain sensitivity, minimizing discomfort and enabling uninterrupted sleep.

Cannabis May Help You Fall Asleep Faster

Additionally, cannabis may reduce sleep latency—the time it takes to transition from wakefulness to sleep. Prolonged struggles with falling asleep can lead to decreased overall sleep duration, exacerbating sleep-related issues.

Cannabis’s potential to shorten the time needed to drift off to sleep offers hope for those grappling with sleep onset difficulties, potentially enhancing sleep quality and overall well-being.

Is It Safe to Use Cannabis If You Have Sleep Apnea?

There is no evidence that cannabis use can contribute to developing sleep apnea. However, if you have been diagnosed, there are some things you should know about using medical marijuana.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not suggest prescribing medical marijuana for the treatment of sleep apnea. The AASM has stated that sleep apnea should be excluded as a qualifying health condition for medical cannabis because there is not enough research to determine whether it is effective.

What the AASM has stated is that people with moderate to severe sleep apnea may experience adverse effects from cannabis use. If you are currently using medical cannabis and a CPAP for sleep apnea, make sure to discuss it with your doctor.

effects of medical cannabis on sleep

Does Cannabis Make You Feel Groggy The Morning After?

Cannabis can indeed cause drowsiness upon waking up, but the extent and duration of this effect can vary greatly depending on several factors. Many people who regularly use medical cannabis may not experience grogginess due to a built-up tolerance for THC.

Feeling drowsiness the morning after is common for patients who are just starting to use medical marijuana; however, how drowsy you feel the morning after consuming cannabis is determined by a few different factors:

  • Dosage: Higher doses of cannabis are more likely to result in drowsiness the morning after use.
  • THC Content: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, can induce drowsiness, especially in higher concentrations.
  • Individual Sensitivity: Each person reacts differently to cannabis, so one individual may experience significant drowsiness while another may not feel it at all.
  • Method of Consumption: Inhalation methods like smoking or vaping typically produce quicker effects but may also result in more pronounced morning-after drowsiness compared to edibles.

Cannabis typically doesn’t cause traditional hangovers like alcohol, characterized by headaches, nausea, and dehydration. However, some users may experience residual grogginess or sluggishness upon waking, akin to the morning-after effects of certain sleep medications or over-the-counter drugs.

This grogginess is often referred to as a “weed hangover,” although it’s generally less severe and debilitating than alcohol-induced hangovers. Individual sensitivity, dosage, and method of consumption play significant roles in determining the severity of these effects.

More commonly, people who experience drowsiness after they stop smoking marijuana (or using other intake methods) may be experiencing fatigue due to withdrawal symptoms. Many different mental health problems (and psychotropic medications) can contribute to fatigue as well.

Cannabis Weird Dreams

Is THC To Blame for Vivid Dreams?

While it’s commonly believed that cannabis consumption can lead to vivid and psychedelic dreams, scientific research suggests quite the opposite effect. THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, has been demonstrated in clinical studies to diminish REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage associated with intense dreaming.

Here’s a detailed look at how cannabis affects our capacity to dream:

  1. Modulation of the Endocannabinoid System: THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, particularly by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. This interaction alters the normal release of neurotransmitters and disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, ultimately suppressing REM sleep.
  2. Altered Neurotransmitter Activities: THC’s influence extends to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are crucial for regulating various stages of sleep, including REM sleep, where dreams occur. By altering these neurotransmitter levels, THC can impact the quality and intensity of dreams.
  3. Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Modulation (HPA): The HPA axis plays a vital role in regulating emotional responses such as stress and arousal, which can significantly influence sleep patterns. Dysregulation of the HPA axis due to THC consumption may disrupt normal sleep cycles, affecting REM sleep and dream activity.
  4. Regulating Body Temperature: Cannabis-induced vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels, can lead to fluctuations in body temperature. These temperature changes may cause discomfort, hindering the transition into slow-wave sleep, a critical phase for physical and psychological restoration.

It is possible for people to experience vivid dreams as one of the effects of cannabis. However, the likelihood of experiencing strange or highly detailed dreams is more likely among people who quit marijuana use.

People who are daily users or after a period of heavy marijuana use may experience highly vivid dreams after cessation. The potential role that cannabis plays in stimulating dreams that are highly realistic (and sometimes upsetting) requires more research.

Cannabis May Enhance Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS)

Cannabis consumption has been associated with an increase in slow-wave sleep (SWS) in some studies. Slow-wave sleep is characterized by high-amplitude, low-frequency delta waves and is considered essential for physical restoration, memory consolidation, and overall sleep quality.

  • SWS is believed to facilitate optimal physical and psychological rejuvenation, allowing the body and brain to recuperate.
  • Vital processes such as muscle repair, the release of growth hormones, and immune system functioning predominantly occur during SWS.
  • Memory consolidation and learning processes are also enhanced during SWS, contributing to improved cognitive function and memory retention.

While dreams may still occur during SWS, they tend to be less vivid and memorable compared to those experienced during REM sleep. Thus, disruptions in slow-wave sleep due to cannabis consumption can impact overall cognitive function, memory retention, and physical restoration during sleep.

medical cannabis physician

Cannabis Use and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Rebound

When individuals cease marijuana usage, many report a notable surge in the vividness and recollection of their dreams—a phenomenon commonly referred to as REM rebound. Cannabis is known to suppress REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and, consequently, dreams, but upon discontinuation, the body compensates for this suppression, leading to intensified dreaming experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, REM rebound doesn’t involve an overactivation of the REM stage but rather the absence of THC’s inhibition, which affects REM sleep. Without THC’s interference, individuals may find it easier to enter REM sleep, resulting in more frequent and intense dream episodes. Some studies suggest that during REM rebound, dreams may feature exceptionally vivid imagery, at times resembling psychedelic experiences.

While cannabis doesn’t entirely eliminate dreaming, its impact on REM sleep can shorten dream duration and diminish dream recall. Therefore, individuals who have reduced or ceased cannabis consumption may encounter a period of remarkably vivid and memorable dreams.

However, these effects are transient. During the withdrawal or cessation period, individuals may endure several weeks of heightened dreaming activity as the body readjusts. Typically, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks for THC to be completely metabolized and eliminated from the body, at which point REM rebound and its associated intense dreaming should subside.

While the influx of vivid dreams may be initially disconcerting, there is no reason to worry. It is a temporary phase that resolves as the body returns to its natural sleep patterns without the influence of THC in your body.

Exploring the Relationship Between Cannabis and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Within cannabis lies tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for its psychoactive effects. While many associate cannabis with relaxation, for some, THC can exacerbate Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), leading to unintended consequences during sleep.

During sleep, the body undergoes a natural process of muscle atonia, a gentle paralysis that prevents physical movement during dreams. However, research suggests that cannabis use before bedtime can disrupt this process, intensifying muscle, tendon, and nerve activity, resulting in increased physical movements while asleep.

This phenomenon can lead individuals to enact actions from their dreams, potentially causing disturbances in sleep quality. So, if you find yourself kicking or moving your arms or feeling like you have fallen and landed on the ground, THC may be to blame.

Although most cannabis users do not experience RBD, susceptibility to this disorder appears to be influenced by genetic factors. Furthermore, the effects of marijuana on the brain vary significantly among individuals and are influenced by factors such as overall health, age, weight, and the specific cannabis products consumed.

Interestingly, individuals with RBD may be at a heightened risk of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, if you frequently find yourself physically acting out your dreams, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial.

While treatments are available for RBD, untreated cases can worsen over time and pose additional health risks associated with chronic insomnia and sleep disruption. By addressing RBD early on, individuals can mitigate potential long-term consequences and improve overall sleep quality and well-being.

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