It is known that cannabis is effective in helping individuals that suffer from insomnia; of the many medicinal applications of cannabis, sleep aid is certainly one of them. What is strange, however, is that many of those that use cannabis as a regular sleep aid report having a loss of dream activity or an inability recollect any dreams at all. Considering the normal effects of marijuana on normal, waking consciousness, why is it that the dream state is dulled while sleeping under its effects?
To address the question of marijuana effecting REM sleep, “Feinberg, et al. (1975) compared the sleep patterns of experienced marijuana users on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a placebo. Feinberg, et al. (1975) reported reduced eye movement activity and less REM sleep in the THC condition. They also reported a REM rebound effect, that is more REM activity, on withdrawal from THC. So,there exists some scientific evidence that marijuana interferes with REM sleep.”
REM sleep is the stage of sleeping where our dreams occur and our brain begins to function almost as if you’re awake, only your surroundings are produced by your mind. These dream states, when experienced excessively, can exhaust the mind much like normal consciousness, which results in grogginess after waking even after a sufficient night of sleep. When cannabis is used as a sleep aid, it drastically reduces the time spent in the REM stage of sleep and actually lengthens the time spent in deep sleep or the slow wave sleep stage. In this deep stage of sleep, the body is able to devote itself to healing and rejuvenating from the physical and emotional exhaustion of the day before.
“Experts say that the most damaging effects of sleep deprivation are caused by inadequate slow-wave sleep. For instance, research has shown that reduced slow-wave sleep can be a powerful predictor of high blood pressure in older men. Thus, users who suffer from a lack of overall sleep may actually benefit from using marijuana.” – TruthOnPot
When individuals abstain from the use of cannabis as a sleep aid, or use in general, they often experience a flood of intense and vivid dreams, accompanied by a lack of rejuvenation in the nights to follow. This is because the body automatically has a rebound effect on stages of sleep that it has been lacking. Researchers are still working to understand the purpose of REM sleep for the brain and the body, but reduced REM sleep activity seems to have no noticeably negative effects on cognitive or bodily faculties. It has been found that reduced time spent in REM sleep can actually improve memory and learning as well as alleviate the symptoms of onset depression.
The simplicity of how cannabis aids so effectively in sleeping is remarkable. The full effects of marijuana on an individual’s sleeping brain and body are still not known, but so far the observation suggest nothing but positive effects from the medicine, not accounting for method of consumption. If one ever misses exploring their dream realms and the quality of sleep is not a pressing concern, cannabis can effortlessly be reduced and removed from one’s sleeping regimen to allow the brain to engage in its REM sleep state. Perhaps with enough familiarity, a person may find a proper balance of cannabis intake to maintain a mild amount of REM sleep in their sleep cycle.
Gumbiner, Jann, Ph. D. “Marijuana, Sleep and Dreams.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
“Marijuana, REM Sleep, and Dreams.” Leaf Science. N.p., 13 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
“Marijuana and Sleep: The Facts.” TruthOnPot.com. N.p., 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.