The most popular theory about the purpose of dreams is that they aid in sorting through feelings, memories, and information. Many people take cannabidiol (CBD) for its positive effect on sleep quality. However, there are persistent anecdotal stories surrounding CBD and bad dreams. We've all woken up from bad dreams—and Do cannabinoids cause crazy dreams? How do cannabinoids interact with the sleep cycle? These are just a couple of questions we’ll be answering in this article. In recent CBD news, researchers investigate CBD sleep. Studies reveal a potential link between the cannabis compound and CBD nightmares.
What Science Says About CBD Dreams
The most popular theory about the purpose of dreams is that they aid in sorting through feelings, memories, and information. Many people take cannabidiol (CBD) for its positive effect on sleep quality. However, there are persistent anecdotal stories surrounding CBD and bad dreams.
We’ve all woken up from bad dreams—and it doesn’t exactly leave us feeling refreshed. If you’re under a lot of stress, bad dreams can push your stress levels further in the wrong direction, making you wonder if CBD is the right compound for you.
The research on how CBD affects dreams isn’t extensive, but preliminary studies on rats indicate that CBD may reduce non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM sleep and has some anxiolytic effects, which may support a better night’s sleep quality overall .
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how CBD may impact dreams, and how you can use CBD for a more restful sleep.
Bad Dreams & Weird Dreams: Why Do We Dream?
There’s no definitive answer for why we dream, but the most agreed-upon theory is that it’s how our brains process and consolidate information and memories .
Other interesting theories suggest that dreams are internal therapists, deep in our subconscious, that help us work through emotional dramas from our waking life. Or dreams can be fight-or-flight training simulators that help us with our survival, which may explain the physiological stress we encounter in nightmares and bad dreams.
No matter how absurd or bizarre dreams seem, researchers have done studies on participants’ dream journals and found that only about 10% of the dream’s contents are of distorted reality . Whatever the reason for our dreams, it seems that dreams are a blend of stories and emotions that may appear completely random but are in fact, related to our thoughts and preoccupations in our lives.
What Impacts Our Dreams?
Our emotional and mental states impact the content of our dreams. Some people even experience strange dreams from eating dairy or spicy food in the late evenings.
What this boils down to is that our dreams are not completely separate from our waking life. Lifestyle habits from stress levels, how much sleep you’re getting, exercise, food, and supplements may have a direct impact on the quality of our dreams.
We can even consciously impact our dreams through psychological techniques such as lucid dreaming, where you can experience a state of mind where you’re fully conscious while dreaming. People use lucid dreaming techniques to make impactful life decisions, gain insight into their subconscious minds, and even stop recurring nightmares.
Can CBD Oil Cause Weird Dreams?
There’s very little research surrounding CBD and weird dreams. CBD and other cannabinoids primarily work in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is tasked with modulating vital systems involved with stress, memory, sleep-wake cycle, and much more. ECS’s main focus is maintaining a Goldilock’s zone of homeostasis for optimum function.
Since everyone’s baseline for their health will vary from one individual to another, CBD affects everyone differently, so it’s entirely possible that CBD can cause bad dreams for some people.
To understand how CBD and other cannabinoids may affect sleep, we’ll quickly break down the stages of sleep.
The Five Sleep Stages
The sleep cycle is made up of five sleep stages and two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.
Each stage is characterized by different activities in the brain and eye movement patterns and plays unique roles in the brain and body’s restoration. Once you fall asleep, you cycle through the following stages multiple times.
Stage 1 (Non-REM)
The first stage of sleep occurs when you’re just starting to fall asleep. It’s the lightest stage and generally lasts a few minutes. You may feel the sensation of falling as your muscles involuntarily contract in what’s called hypnic myoclonia or hypnic jerks.
Brain wave frequencies seen from an electroencephalogram (ECG) are slightly slower, producing alpha and theta waves, which are observed in creativity, intuition, and daydreaming.
Stage 2 (Non- REM)
Stage two represents deeper sleep, though it’s still considered a period of light sleep. You’re much less likely to be awakened in stage two compared to stage one, and it lasts for roughly 25 minutes.
Ideal “power-naps” should take you into this stage.
Your muscles begin to relax, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature cools slightly as you prepare to enter deep sleep. The slow eye movements come to an end, and although brain waves may diminish, there are sporadic bursts of neural activity, shown in an ECG as “sleep spindles.”
Stage 3 & 4 (Non-REM)
Stages three and four are progressively deeper stages of sleep, known as slow-wave or delta sleep. You’re much harder to wake from these sleep stages.
The ECG shows a much slower frequency in brainwaves, and the body is completely relaxed. If you’re awoken during these deep, non-REM stages, you’re likely to feel groggy and perform poorly on cognitive tests.
Stage 5 (REM)
Stage five is characterized by quick twitching movements of the eyes, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate and brain activity.
This is the sleep stage where dreams occur, and it happens roughly 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first REM stage lasts for about 10 minutes and will get longer with each cycle through the night.
Interestingly, the ECG shows brain activity similar to that of when you’re awake However, your muscles become temporarily paralyzed, though you may experience involuntary twitches. This temporary paralysis is believed to prevent injury.
The Effect Of CBD On Sleep
CBD has quickly become a natural way to support a good night’s sleep.
One of its most notable effects is deep relaxation and regulating healthy inflammation levels, which may help calm the body to prepare for sleep.
Many people struggle to fall asleep in the first place because of racing thoughts due to stress. Taking high doses of CBD (50 mg +) before bed may help with this along with other sleep hygiene practices such as:
- Limiting screen time
- Dimming the lights
- Cooler room temperatures
Quality sleep from using CBD may also have something to do with CBD’s influence on GABA neurotransmitters. Higher levels of GABA in the brain act as a sort of brake-pedal to the fight-or-flight response, helping the body prepare for rest-and-digest mode for restorative sleep .
What Science Says About CBD and Dreams
Studies on the effects of CBD on dreams are extremely limited, and for that reason, there’s no concrete data on precisely how CBD affects dreams. And so, the idea that CBD can cause you to dream more, or expose you to nightmares, is unsupported by science.
In a study investigating the effects of CBD on the sleep-wake cycle of healthy people, researchers found that CBD doesn’t cause any disruption, and in a different study, it was found that CBD was effective at minimizing anxiety-induced REM sleep .
The association of CBD with nightmares is a result of anecdotal reports, meaning it’s not substantiated through research.
Frequently Asked Questions About Taking CBD and Dreaming
Can CBD Help Dream Recall?
Vivid dreams usually happen during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
How many times have you awakened from a dream, only to fail to remember what the dream was about? If you’re on medication or have consumed alcohol before bed, these factors may minimize your ability to recall your dreams.
Even if you’re healthy and not under the influence of drugs, you can still quickly forget your dream when you awake. Researchers haven’t established whether CBD can improve one’s ability to recall dreams, but according to anecdotal reports, CBD may help some people to have a greater ability to recall their dreams. The best tip for keeping track of your dreams is to keep a journal at your bedside so that you can note down the dreams first thing when you wake up.
Can CBD Support Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is characterized by twitching eyes and minimal muscle movement. But sometimes, the dreamer might start acting out their dreams by producing sounds and making fervent movements with their arms and legs.
Shouting, punching, and kicking while asleep are some of the symptoms of this sleep disorder. This condition sharply decreases sleep quality, exposes you to injuries, and increases your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.
Although research is limited in this space, one study found CBD to be effective at reducing instances of REM sleep behavior disorder in those with Parkinson’s disease .
Is it Okay to Take CBD Oil Before Bed?
It’s perfectly safe for most people to take CBD oil before bed. The best time for ingesting CBD oil depends on your health goals.
For instance, if you’re looking to boost your energy, you can take CBD in the morning, and many will take CBD before bed to help them unwind and prepare for sleep.
Can You Stop Dreaming From Taking CBD?
There is no evidence to prove that CBD stops you from dreaming. According to scientists, everyone dreams. It’s just very difficult to hold onto the memory of your dreams when you awake. However, there are some medications, specifically antidepressants that are known for interfering with REM sleep, which is the sleep stage when dreams occur.
The Takeaway: CBD And Dreams
We want to underscore here that there is no scientific research that proves CBD causes nightmares or bizarre dreams.
Our dreams are influenced by a lot of factors in our waking life and deep in our subconscious. While there’s still a lot we don’t understand about dreams, the most prevalent theory we have for why we dream is to help us sort out and cull information and emotions.
We’re not sure how CBD affects sleep, but there is evidence to show that CBD may support deep sleep thanks to its calming and relaxation properties in the brain.
Since CBD may affect individuals differently, we can’t say for certain that CBD products will not affect your dreams—It’s something that you will have to experiment with on your own.
Always make sure you’re shopping for high-quality CBD products with third-party lab tests to back up their contents. You may want to keep a dream journal by your bedside to help you recall your dreams when you wake up.
Does Cannabis Affect Dreams? Exploring The Effects of CBD, CBG, & THC On Dreaming
Different cannabinoids have altering effects on dreams, sleep, and the sleep cycle.
In this article, we’ll look into the world of cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep and how certain cannabinoids affect it.
Table of Contents
How Do Cannabinoids Affect Your Dreams?
Cannabinoids interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system consists of CB1 and CB2 receptors that affect most bodily functions.
Some cannabinoids are psychoactive and alter your perception (THC), and others are non-psychoactive but have excellent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties (CBD).
The thing that all cannabinoids have in common is their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
Because they interact with the ECS differently, some cannabinoids could suppress REM sleep while others stimulate it. This section will look at how four of the most prevalent cannabinoids affect the sleep cycle.
How Does Delta 9 THC Affect Your Dreams?
Delta 9 THC can reduce the time you stay in REM sleep and typically increases stage four of non-REM sleep .
This interaction with the sleep cycle suppresses dream activity by prolonging the duration of non-REM sleep. It can help users feel more rested but may shorten the amount of time leftover for REM sleep (where most dreaming takes place) before your alarm clock goes off in the morning.
The interference delta 9 THC has with the REM sleep phase could help people with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) that experience nightmares induced by past traumatic experiences. This works through delta 9 THC’s ability to suppress dreaming.
This cannabinoid may also be helpful to those with insomnia as research suggests that it may induce and encourage a deeper state of rest.
How Does Delta 8 THC Affect Your Dreams?
An early study of the effects of various cannabinoids on seizures found that delta 8 THC has a similar impact on REM sleep as delta 9 THC .
We can assume that because of its similarity to delta 9, delta 8 THC also inhibits dreams. The extent of this suppression has not been studied.
One counter-argument is that because of the mild sedative effects of delta 8 THC; overall sleep duration may be prolonged, enabling users to pass through non-REM sleep into REM stages earlier before their scheduled wakeup. This could (theoretically) lead to more time spent dreaming.
How Does CBD Affect Your Dreams?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may have a slightly different effect on REM sleep compared to THC. One study found that CBD efficiently blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression but had little effect on non-REM sleep .
This could indicate CBD increases the amount of time spent dreaming during the night — however, this effect has not been formally studied.
Anecdotally, there have been reports of people experiencing more vivid or lucid dreams after taking CBD products directly before bed.
Some consumers have also claimed that CBD gives them a significantly improved ability to recall what happened in their dreams. However, there’s little evidence to prove why or how CBD improves dreaming and recall.
On the other hand, some people report a reduction of dream activity after taking CBD before bed. The effects of CBD on dreaming likely rely heavily on the individual. Some people dream more vividly; others experience less dream recall after using CBD.
How Does CBG Affect Your Dreams?
CBG (cannabigerol) as a cannabinoid is less common than CBD and THC. However, it may help induce sleep and improve rest. CBG is becoming more popular, but due to its fairly new status in the world of cannabis, there is little research on its effects on sleep.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBG may help with insomnia by encouraging sleep and inducing a deeper state of rest without interrupting REM sleep. Some people claim that this cannabinoid actually helps induce sleep better than CBD and THC. However, you’ll have to form your own opinion on this matter as scientific studies are few and far between.
Although research surrounding this cannabinoid is thin, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it has potential as a sleep aid. We look forward to seeing future studies on CBG that could potentially back up these claims.
Do Cannabinoids Cause Crazy Dreams or Suppress Them?
It’s commonly stated that smoking cannabis before bed causes dream suppression in users, but is this true?
Many people report that they are unable to recollect the dreams they’ve had or report having no dreams at all after smoking marijuana or using it regularly. Marijuana can potentially help insomnia sufferers as it does induce sleep. However, the deep sleep it causes may suppress dreams, as some studies suggest.
One study looked into the effects of THC on REM sleep (the deep sleep stage of rest) and found that it may reduce REM sleep and decrease sleep latency .
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the stage during the sleep cycle that dreams occur.
This is the time when the brain is most active and creative. The suppression and reduction of this sleep phase could indicate that marijuana — or THC in particular — does suppress dreams.
Vivid dreams and intense nightmares are common side effects of cannabis withdrawal. Although you may not experience elevated dream activity from smoking marijuana, if you’re a heavy user, you may experience a period of intense activity once you lay off the weed.
When you smoke marijuana regularly, the THC reduces the amount of time you spend in the REM stage of sleep while increasing the amount of time you’re in stage 4 of the sleep cycle . This results in less collectible dream activity.
Although suppression of REM sleep doesn’t appear to have any long-term side effects, it can affect you when you stop using marijuana. You may experience a rebound effect where your REM sleep activity increases, and you spend more time in this phase. This can result in a significant increase in brain activity.
Although it’s unclear why exactly this happens, the occurrence is well documented. One 2011 study looked into cannabis withdrawal symptoms and found that the most commonly reported issues were sleep disturbances with nightmares and vivid dreams most common .
So, although marijuana can actually dull your dreams when you’re using it, it can dramatically increase your dream activity when you quit after a period of heavy use.
When you take THC out of the equation, other cannabinoids can promote dream activity. Some users of popular cannabinoids such as CBD report stimulated sleep with an increase of vivid or “crazy” dreams.
How Can Cannabinoids Be Used for Rest?
Cannabis can be an excellent tool for those that struggle with sleep. People with insomnia, in particular, may benefit from cannabinoids such as delta 8 THC, delta 9 THC, CBD, and potentially CBG. These cannabinoids can induce sleep and help promote a healthy night’s rest.
For people who have PTSD, there is much to be said about using both delta 9 THC and delta 8 THC. These cannabinoids could potentially improve sleep quality and help suppress the REM stage of sleep where traumatic dreams and nightmares could occur.
On the other hand, people looking for better dream recall and want a way to improve the vividness of their dreams could turn to CBD. This cannabinoid may help enhance the visual aspect of dreaming and help consumers recall their dreams more efficiently.
Different cannabinoids have different effects on the sleep cycle. The cannabinoid you choose for sleep will depend on how you want to alter your sleep cycle.
What Happens During the Different Stages of Sleep?
As you may already know, there are two main stages of sleep — the rapid eye movement (REM) phase and the non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) phase. However, what many people don’t know is that non-rem sleep has several different stages.
Each stage of non-REM sleep affects your rest. How long you spend in each stage of sleep ultimately affects the quality of your sleep and how you enter REM sleep, affecting dream activity. Certain cannabinoids may influence these different stages of sleep and alter the quality of your sleep and dreams.
To understand how cannabis and its compounds affect your sleep and dream activity, you must first analyze and understand the five stages of sleep.
1. Non-REM Sleep (Stage One)
The first stage of sleep occurs when you first drift off to sleep. This stage is characterized by slow muscle movement and twitches and slow movement of the eyes. Although technically unconscious, during this phase of sleep, you are most aware.
You can think of the first stage of non-REM as a sort of “twilight” period of light sleep. Because you’re aware of external factors, you may wake up to sudden noises and other disturbances during this stage.
2. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Two)
The second stage of non-REM sleep occurs once you fall out of the first light stage of sleep and into a deeper state of rest. You aren’t aware of your surroundings during stage two and are unlikely to wake up from mild external disturbances. However, if you do wake up, you’ll feel wide awake.
This stage of sleep is when your heart rate slows, body temperature drops, and eye movements slow down or stop.
3. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Three)
The third stage of non-REM sleep puts you in yet another deeper state of sleep. During this stage, your brain waves slow down and become less active. The muscles relax, and breathing also becomes slower.
Stage three is difficult to wake up from. Even louder external disturbances may not wake you up. If an external factor such as an alarm does wake you up, you’ll feel disorientated, sluggish, and slow-moving. This is why you may feel more tired and oversleep.
4. Non-REM Sleep (Stage Four)
Stage four of non-REM is yet again an even deeper stage of sleep. The brain waves slow even further, and it becomes even harder to wake up from a slumber.
Stage four is known as the stage of sleep where tissue repair occurs. It’s also believed that during this stage, hormones are released to help aid growth.
5. REM Sleep (Stage Five)
The fifth and final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep and occurs roughly 90 minutes after you enter stage one. This is the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. The eyes move rapidly, and your breathing starts to increase, becoming shallower and more rapid than in the non-REM stages.
Your blood pressure and heart rate increase again during this phase, and activity increases in the memory and learning sectors of the brain. It’s believed that dreaming occurs in this stage of sleep to stimulate the sections of the brain that are responsible for storing and obtaining information.
Although brain waves increase alongside blood pressure and heart rate, your arms and legs become paralyzed. It’s believed that this paralyzation occurs so that we don’t act physically during our dreams.
It’s this stage of sleep that may become interrupted by high levels of THC. Studies suggest that heavy marijuana users may experience less of a dream state because THC reduces the time the body stays in the REM stage of sleep .
Bottom Line: Do Cannabinoids Really Cause Crazy Dreams?
Some cannabinoids, such as THC, may suppress dream activity, whereas other cannabinoids, such as CBD, may encourage more vivid dreams.
Marijuana as a whole will not cause “crazy” dreams.
It’s more likely to cause a reduction in REM sleep and a suppression of dream activity as a result.
However, the withdrawal phase when THC use is stopped abruptly may cause a period of intense dreaming.
Additionally, when certain cannabinoids are isolated and used individually, users may experience an increase in dream activity.
If you’re looking to cannabis and its many cannabinoids to help with sleep or improve dream recall, be sure to do plenty of research because the effects of different cannabinoids on the sleep cycle vary dramatically.
CBD Seems to Be Giving People Bizarre Nightmares
CBD is all over the place — and so is the research on it.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, gave Yasmin Tayag terrible nightmares. Or maybe it didn’t.
The cannabis compound that doesn’t get you high is seemingly everywhere right now, so when Tayag received some CBD oil as a gift, she didn’t see the harm in smearing it on her forehead before bed, according to a story she penned for Inverse.
When the hellish nightmares started, the CBD was the only thing she could think to blame — but her subsequent investigation revealed that, despite its growing ubiquity, no one seems to really know what CBD does.
The logic behind Tayag’s suspicion that the CBD oil caused her nightmares is sound — after all, the dreams started when she started using the oil, and stopped when she stopped.
She even found others online who shared her experience. But then she also found people who said the compound prevented them from having dreams, and others who claimed it gave them vivid dreams that weren’t scary.
And the science on CBD’s effect on sleep was about as contradictory as the anecdotal evidence, as Tayag would learn from the published research and her conversations with both cannabis and sleep experts.
Ultimately, Tayag was left with little choice but to accept that her suspicion about a link between the oil and her nightmares would remain unconfirmed — another indication that our best understanding of CBD remains thin.
“And considering the gray legal area in which CBD currently exists,” she wrote, “it may be some time before its effects on sleep, dreams, and everything else it’s purported to touch can be distilled into a science.”