All things being normal, human sleep patterns are consistent. Of course, all things are rarely normal. Your weight, health, allergies, drinking, smoking, and more will affect your sleep.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is one of those patterns. It’s the stage where you dream. The concern here is whether cannabis reduces REM sleep and your ability to dream.
Stages of sleep leading to REM sleep:
On a good night, REM occurs 90 minutes into your sleeping. But, it only happens in a sequence:
Stage 1: If you were connected to an EEG (Electro-Encephalogram), it would display your brain waves.
As you settle down and drift off, you experience something like daydreams. It’s a restful condition you might experience during the day or in meditation. It’s that dozing off feeling where you think you are falling or you feel sudden muscle contractions. Most people under prime conditions will fall asleep within 10 minutes.
Stage 2: Twenty minutes into it, your brain starts short periods of rapid and rhythmic brain waves. As these Sleep Spindles hit, your body temperature drops, and heartbeat slows.
Stage 3: With temperature and pulse settled, you enter a phase of slow brain waves you might consider deep sleep.
Stage 4: Deep-sourced brain waves last for 30 minutes during this non-rapid eye movement (NREM) phase, but it may end with sleepwalking or bed-wetting.
Stage 5: Dreaming occurs during REM. Observers can monitor the rapid eye movement. Respiration and brain wave activities also increase. Experts call it “paradoxical” because while the brain activity increases, the voluntary muscles are paralyzed to keep you from responding to the dream physically.
Most adults seek 8 hours of sleep per night. Some feel rested with more and some with less. Teens need 9.5 hours, and seniors may sleep only 5 to 7 hours. But, things like caffeine, alcohol, stress, discomfort, and pain will interfere with sleep cycles and harm your health.
Does cannabis reduce REM sleep and your ability to dream?
Valerie Hutmacher at ColoradoPotGuide advises, “Cannabis is commonly used as a sleep aid because it has been shown to both reduce the onset of sleep and increase its overall duration without causing the user to feel excessively groggy they next day.”
It also appears to reduce REM sleep and the quality of dreams, but there is no significant research to explain why. A theory holds that as cannabis modulates dopamine, it suppresses or reduces dreaming. It follows, then, that regular cannabis use allows fewer dreams and less recall. It may also explain why dreams return aggressively once you stop using for a while.
A study reported in Sleep Medicine Reviews found, “Smoked marijuana and oral Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduce REM sleep.” Research in Neuropharmacology found, “Cannabidiol (CBD), a psycho-inactive constituent of marijuana, reduces physiological non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM sleep in normal rats, in addition to generating its anxiolytic effect.” And, Current Psychiatry Reports says, “CBD may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness, while nabilone may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and may improve sleep among patients with chronic pain.”
How does this work?
- THC, of course, triggers psychoactivity, and the hyperactivity may disturb each stage of sleep. If sleep comes easy, it is fatigue related and not restful. CBD, on the other hand, may deepen and lengthen sleep enough to reduce daytime sleepiness.
- It follows, then, that Indica strains can produce sedating sleepy results while Sativa products are energizing. So, you should choose Indica strains or Indica-dominant hybrids.
- As cannabis ages, the THC component degrades. It devolves into cannabinol which multiplies its sedating effect. With the right science, you can process your own.