Is there a clear relationship between weed and dreams? If you’ve ever heard the claim that smoking weed causes you to dream less, or have “marijuana dreams”, stick around. We’re going to dive deep into the science behind marijuana and dreams.
I don’t know about all of you but, when I have trouble sleeping I turn to a nice, full flavored indica to help knock me out.
It’s super effective; I typically wake up feeling rested and ready for the day, but something peculiar has been happening, something that was missing, something I didn’t realize until a friend asked me a simple question, “What was your dream last night?”
I was racked my brain trying to remember but then thought, I don’t recall my dreams from any of the times I toked before bed. After talking with some friends, and going through the /r/trees subreddit, I found that other reefer-sleepers had the same phenomenon—no stony marijuana dreams.
Luckily for us, we can sift through the archives of Google Scholar to find a scientific answer to the dreamless conundrum! Or rather, the marijuana dreams conundrum.
There is no doubt that smoking pot makes us drowsy, especially heavy indica strains. But have you ever wondered why?
Before we discuss sleep research, we should first remind ourselves of the sleep cycle and the brain waves associated with them.
Now, when I say brain waves, I literally mean waves! There is an instrument that is commonly used in sleep studies called an electroencephalogram or EEG for short. It works by measuring the total (averaged) electrical activity throughout your entire brain. Through many years of research, neuroscientists have been able to assign a frequency, and amplitude to specific stages. There are five stages in a single sleep cycle, ranging from 1 – 4, and then rapid eye movement (REM).
Stages 1 – 3, associated with beta, alpha and theta waves respectively, are the stages of sleep that involve the transition of being awake to falling asleep. The most restorative stages of the sleep cycle are 4 and REM, associated with delta (deep sleep), and gamma (dreaming) waves. We repeat the following cycle approximately three times a night, if you get your full eight hours. Now that we are feeling rested and refreshed on our sleep cycle knowledge, let’s see what the science of pot has in store! Is there a relationship between weed and dreams?
A research study done by Pivik et al. looked at the effect of orally administered THC and a synthetic ortholog (similar compound) before sleep and measured the brainwaves with an electroencephalogram (EEG) to observe the relationship between marijuana and dreams. They also had the subjects (volunteers) have their brainwaves measured during drug-less sleep as a control.
What they found out about the question of whether smoking weed causes you to dream less or not was rather interesting! So what is the relationship between weed and dreams?
While there were relatively minor changes in the sleep activity of stages 1 – 3, they noticed that, in a dose-dependent manner, higher THC both increased stage 4 (deep sleep) whilst decreasing REM (dream sleep).
This study about marijuana and dreams answers two questions. Why does smoking before bed help us feel rested? More deep sleep. Why is that smoking weed causes you to dream less? Less REM sleep.
There is a certain elegance with scientific experimentation that keeps pulling me back for more. Hopefully, you feel the same way! Stay tuned for a deeper look into the biochemistry of cannabis and sleep!