A common experience in people that stop consuming cannabis is that they start remembering more of their dreams and those dreams seem to become more intense. Why does this happen? As with far too many effects of the cannabis plant, precious little is known about how cannabis use impacts dreams. As prohibition slowly but surely comes to a much-needed end, we will begin to learn more about why this occurs.
One of the only studies on cannabis and sleep was conducted way back in the 1970s. In the study, low doses of THC were given to participants. The researchers found that the THC mildly decreased REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in both regular users and nonusers. Deep sleep was increased when cannabis was initially used but this effect disappeared after repeated use. With higher doses of THC, REM sleep was decreased in both regular users and nonusers. The study indicated that when people stop consuming THC, dreams of nonusers could be intense because of the brain’s rebound effect. This means that the dreams that users otherwise would have had while under the influence are happening all at once while sober.
This is just one study conducted a long time ago. Since then, a vast amount of innovations and improvements on both the cannabis plant and ways to ingest it have been made. Thus, when a study like this one is conducted again, different results are entirely possible.
Alcohol seems to have the opposite effect on REM sleep in that its phases last longer and suppress deep sleep. While drinking to excess will usually give you more REM sleep, alcohol tends to make people more restless and therefore they wake up more often.
Dreaming is almost like a filing system for the human brain. Dreams sort through all of memories, impressions, sounds and images we encounter on a daily basis. As with the effects of cannabis on the human body, science has yet to fully understand and explain the importance of dreams. Many have tried to explain the significance of dreams throughout the course of human history, and will continue to do so. The consumption of cannabis can make almost anything seem more interesting, and dreams are certainly no different.
Have you stopped using cannabis for a period of time and experienced more intense or more vivid dreams, or a difference in your sleep? Let us know in the comments.
This article is for discussion and entertainment purposes only and is not meant to diagnose any disorder or offer specific treatment information.