If you smoke cannabis regularly or have smoked it in the past, have you noticed that you don’t seem to dream? Or at least, can’t remember dreams?
Many people consume cannabis to help with their sleep problems as it seems to help them have better, more restful sleep. But it’s also common to not experience any dreams, or have less vivid dreams, after smoking cannabis.
But why does this happen?
First, let’s look at the different stages of sleep.
The 4 stages of sleep
The first stage normally lasts around 10 minutes, preparing you for the second stage. This is where your muscles relax, and your thought processes slow down, but you can still easily be woken by any minor disturbances.
The second stage is where you’re sleeping lightly, while your muscles relax even further, your breathing slows right down, and your body starts to prepare for the deep sleep stage.
The third stage is deep sleep – meaning that your body is repairing itself and using this time to heal. You don’t dream at this stage, but any outside disturbances will have a hard time waking you up.
And the fourth and final stage is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Your brain is more active at this stage as you prepare to wake yourself up.
Your breathing starts to pick up again, along with your pulse rate, and this is also where the most intense and vivid dreams occur – the ones that you can easily remember as you wake up.
The effects of cannabis on REM sleep
Cannabis, especially products high in THC, is likely to suppress the levels of REM sleep.
So in short, if you smoke cannabis, you’re more likely to reduce REM sleep levels. And as dreams only happen in the REM sleep stage, you’re more likely to experience fewer dreams.
On the other hand, this could be a great treatment for people who experience vivid nightmares on a frequent basis, as cannabis can shorten their REM cycle.
Andrew Kuebbing and Felicia Carbajal, members of a cannabis advocacy group in California said:
“Cannabis is an extremely effective tool to combat insomnia, both falling asleep and staying asleep.”
However, it’s often found that frequent cannabis consumers that quit for a certain period of time can experience a massive increase in REM sleep, known as the “REM rebound” effect.
This is where you experience dreams that are extremely vivid for the first few days or weeks after quitting, but this effect tends to wear off after some time.