Cannabis, Dreams, and Sleep
by Rio Kaplan, on May 6, 2020 11:29:00 AM
Despite sleep being something that our body's need to function, 30-40 percent of people suffer from insomnia whether it be the inability to fall or to stay asleep. Anyone who has used cannabis with any kind of regularity should know of the sedative properties of cannabis. One of the most common indications for marijuana use is to help people sleep. Cannabis influences the sleep cycle in more ways than just the ability to fall asleep. It can also influence our dreams which, for many people, is therapeutic in and of itself. One sleep survey indicated that fourteen percent of participants used cannabis to fall asleep, but in states where cannabis is medically or recreationally legal, the numbers are likely much higher. There are many factors at play that influence marijuana and how it helps us get that much needed rest.
Cannabis and falling asleep
As cannabis becomes legal in more places, scientists have more freedom to study how marijuana works in our bodies and in a way catch up to centuries of cannabis use. Cannabis is a well known sleep aid, but until recently there was little scientific data to back it up. A study mentioned in Psychology Today put the sedative properties of marijuana to the test by measuring the amount of time it takes to fall asleep with and without the help of cannabis. The study was composed of one group who had trouble falling asleep and one group who did not. They found that cannabis helped both groups fall asleep faster. The group of people who did not have insomnia fell asleep about 15 minutes faster when they smoked cannabis. The group of people who had trouble sleeping fell asleep 30 minutes faster.
In addition to helping people fall asleep, marijuana can help people stay asleep throughout the night. Using cannabis as a sleep aid can often require some precise dosing and precise timing. When consuming cannabis via inhalation whether it be smoking, vaping, or dabbing, the effects are almost instantaneous and could last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours making it fairly easy to dial in. Edibles can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to kick in depending on the edible and the person’s unique chemistry. The effects of edibles can last up to 14 hours depending on the amount of THC ingested. Many people who have difficulty staying asleep often find that edibles are the most useful as the effects last well into the night. Some however, report feeling the effects of edibles when they wake in the morning. This is why it’s important to consume responsibly.
Cannabis and dreams
Before we dive into the relationship between cannabis and dreaming, let’s talk about the different stages of sleep. There is REM sleep which stands for rapid eye movement. REM is the most well known since this is where we do 80 percent of our dreaming. All of the other stages are referred to as NREM or Non-rapid eye movement.
- NREM Stage 1 - This is the stage when we begin dozing off. We are easily woken in this stage. People may also experience hypnic jerks which are involuntary jerks or twitches that occur as we fade to sleep. They’re sometimes associated with a feeling of falling. NREM Stage 1 only lasts about 10 minutes.
- NREM Stage 2 - This is the stage that makes up most of our sleep, about 50%. This is the stage where body temperature begins to drop and heart begins to beat slower and more regularly. Dreaming can occur in this stage, but it’s rare.
- NREM Stage 3 - This is deep and restorative sleep also sometimes referred to delta sleep. This is when it’s the most difficult to wake somebody up. It is also the stage where sleepwalking is most likely to occur.
- REM Stage 4 - REM sleep is associated with the most brain activity and when 80% of our dreams occur. People usually spend about 20% of their time in REM.
Many habitual cannabis consumers report that their dreams become much more vivid and strange when they halt consumption. Marijuana’s ability to dampen dreams is exactly why some people use it in the first place. Marijuana use decreases the amount of time spent in REM sleep. It also makes it more difficult to remember our dreams. Less time to dream also means less time to experience a nightmare and even less of a chance that it will be remembered when the person wakes up. For somebody who suffers from PTSD or night terrors, this could be life changing. Since the most restorative stage of sleep is NREM 3, there aren’t any known problems with spending less time in REM sleep.
THC Products for sleep
Cannabis can be both a sedative and a stimulant depending on the strain. Sativa or sativa dominant strains are known for being uplifting and smoking them before bed could cause problems for those who already have issues with sleep. We recommend heavier hitting indica strains and indica based edibles for inducing a deep and restful sleep.
- 1906 Midnight - These chocolates are a great option for inducing sleep. It is infused with indica cannabis and equal parts THC and CBD. The chocolate includes corydalis which has been used as a sleep aid and pain reliever for centuries. The cannabinoids in 1906 chocolate are micro encapsulated, so they will kick in around 20 minutes.
- Bubba Fett - This heavy hitting indica strain is ideal for those who want almost immediate sleep. Bubba Fett has been known to take people down (to sleep) and should be handled with caution by those with lower tolerance.
- Purple Punch - Purple punch is another potent heavy hitter. This strain has a more uplifting start with a strong appetite stimulant. The after effects are highly relaxing and sedative.
- Spec-Ops - While this potent indica-dominant hybrid strain isn’t known for inducing sleep, it’s calming and mood lifting properties are great for smoking in the evening. It was bred in Colorado and specifically tailored to specific medical issues of veterans.