Does Weed Stop You From Dreaming?
Regular smokers of marijuana often report that they remember no dreams while sleeping, and those coming off the drug admit to a virtual flood of dreams in their nightly sleep, but is there any scientific data to back up these claims?
Actually, there may be.
Marijuana affects not only your nightly habit of dreaming, but also your ability to recall any thoughts during the night that you are experiencing. This pattern differs greatly when marijuana use is discontinued.
Sleep is one of the most important and fascinating components of our daily lives, necessary for refueling our "batteries" and preparing us for each new day.
From a casual perspective, the practice of sleep looks like an entirely passive activity, but research suggests that the brain is hard at work whether we are asleep or awake, and when sleeping this activity often takes the form of dreams.
Stages of Sleep
Sleep researchers tell us that human beings go through several stages of sleep, patterns that are regularly repeated over and over throughout the night. The final stage of sleep, more commonly referred to as rapid eye movement or REM sleep, is the stage where most dreaming takes place and this is the stage that seems to be affected most by marijuana use.
In several different studies involving people currently using marijuana there appeared to be a general reduction in the amount of REM sleep. Conversely, people who had recently stopped using the drug appeared to have much more activity and longer periods of REM sleep.
Since dreams usually occur during the REM stage, this seems to indicate that there may indeed be a physiological link between marijuana and dreaming.
Quitting Weed and Sleeping
If you have recently quit smoking marijuana, you probably didn't need a scientific study to tell you that the drug affected your dreaming, but you may have wondered why this occurs. The active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is a depressant, and like all depressants has a numbing effect on the brain.
If you regularly use this substance, and make a habit of going to bed "stoned," the activity in the brain becomes limited, and therefore the amount of dreaming is significantly reduced.
When coming off marijuana, at least for the first few days while your body adjusts, your brain is "waking up" from a long fog and its activity is increased. Consequently, although you may be dreaming no more than a normal sleeper, your dreams seem more frequent and very vivid as you can recall the events more easily.
This change in sleeping patterns is not isolated to marijuana use. Alcoholics and other drug users also report vast changes in their sleeping patterns between when they are drinking or using and when they are detoxifying from their drug of choice.
Fortunately, the changes most people see in both the frequency and vividness of their dreams will typically only last for a few days and possibly up to a few weeks, but if these dreams are interfering with your ability to get a full night of sleep, and you're waking feeling tired, there are a few things you can try that may help. Among these methods are:
Exercise. Regular strenuous exercise will ensure you go to bed tired and help you get a more restful night of sleep.
Avoid taking naps. If your schedule allows for it, try to avoid taking any midday nap. This will help you sleep better at night.
Go to bed and wake at the same time. Regularization of your sleeping patterns may require you to help it along a bit. Try going to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time very morning, even if you have to set an alarm.
The changes in your dreams is just one of the many side effects associated with quitting marijuana, but in time, and with a little effort on your part, you'll be getting back into a healthy pattern before you know it.