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  • Writer's pictureGuylaine Richer de Lafleche

Dreaming With Cannabis: Is It Doing More Harm Than Good?

Happy 420 fellow lovers of the leaf! As a dream worker, I hear all too often about cannabis users lack of dream recall. This has been especially prominent in the last 6 months with the legalization of cannabis in Canada.

Before we get down with the facts, I want to note that I am not a scientific researcher in any shape or form. This is a subject that personally interests me, and as a Dreamwork Professional, I feel it is an important topic to address. So, let’s dive in!

Cannabis research is an extremely complex topic with many variables to consider, and overall, still requires more scientific research. However, research thus far has shown us that EEG recordings (monitoring method used to track brain wave patterns) have given us insight on the negative side effects of cannabis and sleep, and this research simply cannot be ignored.

Many people use cannabis as a mild sedative to help them fall asleep faster. This is because it raises our levels of melatonin — a naturally occurring hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Sounds good, right? In fact, it’s just the opposite. I hate to say this bluntly but, someone has to be the bearer of bad news… your relationship with cannabis could be ruining your relationship with your sleep and dreams!

Low doses of THC (4-20mg) can be a great tool if you suffer from symptoms of insomnia, nightmares, PTSD, or other physical ailments. It can help you to fall asleep faster, increase deep sleep, as well as increase total sleep time. However, regardless of the dose, your REM sleep state and sleep onset latency (the transition from REM to the NREM sleep stages) will still be effected if THC is present. If you choose to use low doses of cannabis as a sleeping aid, it should be used in moderation in order to maintain a complete and healthy sleep cycle.

High doses of THC (50-210mg) almost completely eliminates the REM sleep stage — a stage that is crucial to our health and well-being, and as we all know, the stage that is the most ripe for dreaming. It is also linked to long term suppression of deep sleep — the third stage of our sleep cycle, also known as slow-wave sleep. Using cannabis as a long term sleeping aid will suppress your deep sleep, inhibit your dreaming, and ultimately do you more harm than good.

Many chronic users report that after taking a break from THC they experience intense and vivid dreams, particularly lucid dreams. This is known as ‘REM rebound’ and sounds a lot more glamorous than it is. REM rebound is an increased frequency of the rapid eye movement sleep state and occurs when a person has been sleep deprived. In other words, your brain is trying to get as much REM sleep as it can possibly get because it’s been deprived of it for so long - similar to people who cut calories, then pack on the pounds the minute they indulge. If this is happening to you, regardless of you falling asleep every night, there is a good chance you’re experiencing REM rebound and your brain is finding it difficult to maintain its adequate stages of sleep.

If you are a chronic user and decide to slow your roll, there is a chance you will experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include (but aren’t limited to) insomnia, irritability, anxiety, sweating, and overall restlessness. Because of this, you may feel like your quality of sleep is better off using THC but like any withdrawal from dependency, it will get worse before it gets better. During this period, you could try less aggressive sleeping aids such as calming teas or essential oils.

One element I’ve refrained from discussing in detail, is the effects of the different strains of THC. Generally speaking, sativa strains will induce an energetic high, where as indica strains will induce a slower, more relaxing high, making this strain the chosen one for a sleeping aid. While this may work for some, it doesn’t for others. Each individual will respond differently to different strains of THC depending on their own unique chemistry. It is best to do your research first, in order to find out which strain works best for you.

Cannabis is used by many for medical reasons, and eliminating it from their daily life isn’t an option. If this is you, and you are concerned about your quality of sleep, please seek the advice of your medical professional. In other cases, if you are a recreational smoker who likes the occasional buzz, you may like to keep this information in mind the next time you smoke-up.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a sleeping aid or simply want to benefit from the many amazing healing properties cannabis has to offer, you could try supplementing with cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

CBD is one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant, and is widely recognized for its healing properties. CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant or in some cases produced synthetically. Although CBD derives from the cannabis plant, it has no psychoactive effects. In fact, CBD is sometimes used to counteract the mind-altering effects of THC so its user can benefit from the healing properties of both CBD and THC.

Cannabidiol naturally occurs in our body. It is apart of what’s known as the endocannabinoid system and helps to regulate many psychological processes. This makes CBD a natural and healthy option in supporting a range of conditions such as stress, anxiety, inflammation, pain, seizures, sleeping disorders, and the list goes on. CBD is legal in most countries, including Canada and the United States.

Studies have shown that CBD does in fact promote a better night’s sleep, but it won't induce sleep the moment you take it. CBD has a gradual and long term effect in helping us regulate our sleep-wake cycles. CBD promotes serotonin, which is a pre-cursor to melatonin, which is the hormone known to play an important role in regulating our sleep. In other words, if CBD is used in small doses, it can help to reduce day-time sleepiness while increasing our sleep hormones at night.

But what does this mean for our dreams?

While CBD users have reported an increase in the quality of their sleep, they have reported a decrease in their total dream recall. This is because CBD has a more profound effect on deep sleep, the third stage of our sleep cycle and a stage in which we do not dream. This makes CBD a great tool for people who suffer from REM sleep behaviour disorder (a disorder that causes people to “act out” their dreams, when the paralysis that normally occurs during the REM sleep state is incomplete or absent).

It’s important to note that CBD can interfere with other supplements and medications, and ultimately offset your goals if you are considering this as a sleeping aid. It is best to do your own research first, to make an informed decision.

I personally believe CBD is an amazing gift from mother nature, and although using it may pose consequences in dream recall, I believe with a little patience and practice you could be well on your way to maintaining your dream recall goals. If you’d like to learn more about dream recall, subscribe to my mailing list below and instantly receive my ‘Top Ten Tips For Dream Recall’.

Would you like to learn more about the 4 stages of our sleep cycle? Click here to read about NREM and REM sleep.


Interested to learn more about CBD? Click here to read a well-researched article from my friends at Sleepopolis, discussing the impacts of CBD on sleep, anxiety, pain, and much more.


Disclaimer: The information above has been gathered from several sources such as documentaries, articles, and YouTube videos. Below is a list of some of the sources I’ve used that I’ve found to be quite helpful.

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