What information do we have regarding how cannabis affects dreams and sleep? That is what we’re here to analyse today.
We will concentrate on what some of the most recent scientific research is revealing regarding THC’s impact on sleep because high-THC products predominate the commercial market and THC has the most obvious connection to sleep among the cannabinoids.
Many cannabis users claim that the drug helps them sleep better or makes them sleepy when they consume high-THC strains. Many long-term users of high-THC cannabis report having trouble sleeping and having particularly vivid dreams for a while after stopping (taking a “THC break”). Cannabis appears to affect sleep and dreaming, according to numerous stories, patient surveys, and studies, but there are several variables at play, including dose, frequency of use, tolerance, age, sex, and others.
Firstly, why do we sleep?
In many respects, sleep is still mysterious. Scientists continue to dispute how and why sleep has a restorative effect, as well as how different sleep stages affect this.
But it’s clear that sleep is necessary for survival. Every time we get sleepy, we all intuitively sense this, and it’s been known for a long time that depriving animals of sleep can cause them to expire more quickly than depriving them of food.
Certain “housekeeping” chores that accrue during the waking hours are literally cleaned up during sleep. Additionally, learning and memory depend on it. Although the specifics are still being worked out, it is obvious that sleep plays a significant role in regulating the neuroplasticity mechanisms necessary for correctly digesting, memorising, and storing the knowledge we consume when awake.
REM vs. SWS
Understanding the distinction between Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep (SWS) is necessary to comprehend the effects of cannabis on sleep. Because your eyes frequently dart around behind your eyelids while the rest of your body is immobilised, this type of sleep is known as REM sleep. You are unable to carry out your dreams as a result. The vivid dreams we frequently have and occasionally remember are linked to REM. Although there might not be any evident cognitive disadvantages (like fatigue) when you don’t get enough REM, learning and memory are probably affected.
Rich mental content is not often connected with SWS. Its name refers to the big, sluggish brain waves that are seen in this state. This category of sleep includes “deep sleep,” a form of SWS that promotes recovery and makes it particularly challenging to wake someone up. When SWS is lacking, you experience fatigue and drowsiness. Think of “recuperation” when you hear SWS. Think “dreaming” when you hear the term REM.
Under normal circumstances, you alternate between SWS and REM, usually beginning with SWS. You go from SWS, REM, back into SWS, and so on as you snooze. There is more REM and less SWS with each cycle. You will normally awaken from REM sleep if you awaken spontaneously and without being startled.
The Effects of THC on Sleep
Although many contemporary users claim that cannabis helps them sleep, there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for how cannabis affects sleep. Depending on your cannabis intake, past use patterns, sex, etc., THC’s effects on sleep can vary. In fact, one thing that is obvious is that THC’s impact on your sleep will change over time; you won’t have the same effects if you use it just once or twice as you will if you use it often.
Acute THC ingestion in humans generally have the effect of hastening sleep and sleep maintenance. It causes a decrease in REM sleep and an increase in SWS. Surveys of medical cannabis users reveal that the majority of people who were using prescription sleep medications decreased their use after switching to medical cannabis, which is consistent with experimental investigations.
THC’s immediate effects on sleep may alter over time, though. The effects on sleep could change if you use THC products on a regular basis. Although the consequences of chronic THC use on human sleep are less clear, tolerance to these effects, including those on sleep, is obvious. What is more obvious is that discontinuing THC use after chronic use frequently results in sleep disruptions and vivid dreams, an effect that gradually returns to normal.
Why do Cannabinoids Affect Sleep?
Every significant physiological function you can think of is modulated by the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). All of the body’s tissues, including the brain, contain ECS receptors, including the CB1 receptor that permits THC’s psychoactivity. Due to the abundance of CB1 receptors and other ECS components in many of the major brain circuits controlling sleep, THC has the ability to affect sleep.
Males and females exhibit consistently distinct patterns of ECS receptor expression in various brain areas at various levels. This is an example of sexual dimorphism, which explains why cannabinoids frequently have distinct effects on males and females. The ECS also undergoes modifications during life, which explains why THC’s effects might alter with age.
Generally speaking, there’s a good probability that THC will make it easier for you to get to sleep and stay asleep. It’s probable that you’ll receive more SWS and less REM sleep as a result. These effects could change if you keep ingesting THC. You might need to eat more to achieve the same impact as your tolerance increases. When you quit using THC, you’ll probably have some trouble falling asleep and have some unpleasant or vivid dreams.
Depending on sex, age, cannabinoid concentration, and prior use, cannabis products and THC will have distinct effects on each individual. It will take some trial and error to figure out exactly how cannabis will affect your sleep, for better or worse.