When you think of the effects of marijuana, you might think of the movies: stoner montages and teen party sequences. You might be a regular or occasional user, or have experimented with the substance at some point in your life. But one thing you probably don’t consider when you think of marijuana is how it affects your dreams.
In fact, sweet dreams are not made of weed, or at least, they aren’t once you stop smoking marijuana. Cannabis typically acts as a prohibitor of dreams, suppressing REM cycle sleep in which dreaming occurs. After extended use, however, abruptly quitting marijuana can lead to intense dreams. Vivid dreams after stopping marijuana use can even be lucid, where the dreamer is aware that it’s a dream.
Why does this happen? Our own Dr. Samoon Ahmad recently described to Business Insider exactly how this works. But first, some background:
Marijuana and the Stages of Sleep
During sleep, your body goes through four stages of non-REM (NREM) sleep, followed by a separate REM, or “Rapid Eye Movement” stage. It’s during REM sleep where dreaming occurs. Most sleepers go through these five stages several times in a given night, and so might enter REM sleep a few times a night. (In fact, it’s a little more complicated than that — things like the time of night you go to sleep can affect how long you spend dreaming.)
As Dr. Samoon explains, “People who use marijuana tend to suppress REM sleep — they have less REM sleep.” When you have less REM sleep, as he explains, you’ll have fewer dreams.
Return to Dreamland
Having fewer dreams, however, doesn’t seem to be a permanent effect. Dr. Samoon points out, “Once people stop smoking, suddenly there’s a rebound phenomena where people can have quite vivid dreams.”
This “rebound phenomena” happens as your body tries to catch up on missed REM opportunities. Fortunately, it appears to be temporary — in most cases, dreamers only have these vivid Max Fleischer dreams for a few weeks after marijuana cessation.
Since drugs and their effects affect individuals differently, you’ll want to discuss with a doctor, or even a doctor of holistic medicine, when to start, stop, or change any drugs that you may be taking, including marijuana. Whether you want to talk through your options for reducing anxiety, overall stress, or just feeling better in general, book an appointment today to start the next chapter in your health story.