One of my friends was recently complaining about night terrors. She was unsure what caused them, but at this point didn’t care. She just wanted to be able to fall asleep and sleep through the night without waking up breathless and covered in sweat. I recommended marijuana. I know it won’t take care of the underlying problem, but until she could see a doctor after the pandemic, I figured cannabis would at least help her sleep for the time being.
But why is that? I smoke CBD almost every day, and I’ve had vivid dreams for as long as I can remember. I frequently wake up fully remembering my dream in picture-perfect detail. Therein lies the difference. THC and CBD affect the body differently even though both can help with relaxation and sleep.
Studies have shown that high THC consumption can alter or eliminate REM (rapid eye movement) sleep while CBD has been shown to improve symptoms of REM sleep disorder. REM sleep is the deepest state of sleep where 80% of dreams take place. When smokers consume a high dose of THC, they spend most of their time in NREM sleep, or the non-dreaming state of sleep.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We don’t really know the function of dreams. There are plenty of theories, one of which is that dreams can help us latently sort through our emotions and experiences. However, scientists don’t know what effects not dreaming can have on us. For those suffering from night terrors or PTSD, high doses of THC and the absence of dreams could be a good thing.
Many cannabis fans use THC to combat insomnia. They need to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep, whatever the effect on their dreams. THC users are able to go through all four stages of NREM sleep even if they don’t make it to the dreaming state. During Stages 3 and 4 of NREM sleep, the body is still restoring muscles and strengthening the immune system. This is where the deepest sleep occurs. Because of this, they still feel rested and rejuvenated upon waking.
For those hoping to keep their dreams, a lower dose of THC is recommended. Choose an indica dominant strain and see how your body reacts to consuming less. Finding that balance between smoking enough to be able to fall asleep but still retain your dream state is difficult but possible.