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Weed Withdrawal

Vivid Dreams Are Common After Quitting Weed

By January 3, 2022June 29th, 202213 Comments

While sleeping, the brain is quite active – dreaming. Our dreams can be scary, realistic, or even fantastical. Sometimes, we wake up and have no idea that we’ve dreamed, while other times, we can recall our dreams because they were so intense. These dreams are known as vivid dreams.

Why do vivid dreams occur after you quit weed?

When quitting weed after prolonged use, many former users report vivid and intense dreams. Some users report dreaming all night. To understand the reasons why, we need to understand sleep cycles first.

During sleep, you go through four or five sleep cycles, each lasting for about 90 minutes. Among these cycles, one is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep whereas the others are known as non-REM sleep. Approximately 80% of dreams happen during REM sleep.

Studies have shown that acute exposure to marijuana suppresses REM sleep whereas it increases slow-wave or non-REM sleep. REM sleep is suppressed upon activation of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) (Lovinger DM, Front Mol Neurosci., 2020). Because of this, many regular weed smokers don’t remember their dreams.

When chronic marijuana users quit, their dreams can become more intense because of REM rebound. REM rebound is characterized by an increase in REM sleep after periods of little REM sleep. Increased REM sleep can result in longer and more intense dreams.

How common are vivid dreams in former heavy users? How long do they last?

Sleep difficulty is reported by about half of former marijuana who often report insomnia, vivid dreams, and night sweats. Vivid dreams typically begin a week after quitting and can last for a month before tapering off. However, some former users report having vivid dreams for a year or more (Livine, Drug Alc Depend, 2019).

Sleep studies of people in the first week of marijuana withdrawal have shown changes in almost every phase of sleep, including longer time to fall asleep, decreased total sleep time, poorer sleep efficiency, and, as mentioned, increased time in REM sleep (Gates, Subst Abus, 2016Garcia, Am J Addict, 2015).

Most heavy marijuana users experience at least one withdrawal symptom after quitting weed and many experience more than one symptom. The number of symptoms is significantly associated with the frequency and duration of marijuana use prior to quitting.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Vivid dreams can be unpleasant and may impact sleep quality, leaving you feeling drained even after a full night of sleep. Take comfort in knowing that withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are challenging but do not last forever. If you find yourself still struggling with poor quality sleep weeks to months after you’ve stopped using marijuana, just find comfort in the fact that this is still normal, and part of the process.

Would you mind answering a few questions (anonymously)?

Currently, little data exists on sleep difficulty and marijuana use. Weedless.org is collaborating with researchers to explore this topic and others. We have created a short, anonymous survey which we will use to focus our future research efforts.

Your participation is appreciated and completely anonymous. You may skip any questions that make you feel uncomfortable and you are free to withdraw at any time.

About Weedless.org

Weedless.org is a free, web-based resource and community created by a team of healthcare professionals and researchers. We distill the facts about marijuana use and its effects into practical guidance for interested persons or for those who are thinking about or struggling to quit weed. Finding reliable, easy to understand information about marijuana should never be a struggle—that is why our core mission is to provide the most up to date information about marijuana use, abuse, addiction, and withdrawal. While we seek to empower individuals to have control over their use, we are not "anti-weed" and we support efforts to legalize adult marijuana use and study.

13 Comments

  • JM says:

    I recently decided to quit smoking weed after over 10 years of daily use. It has only been a month but every night I have vivid/disturbing dreams/nightmares. It has gotten to the point where I don’t want to go to sleep because I don’t know what I’m going to experience in my dreams/nightmares each night. I was hoping to find natural alternatives to assist in my sleeping or understanding how long they will last/when they will stop. The thought that it could last for months scares me, I may take up yoga or a work out routine to see if it helps because I do not want to take another drug for sleep assistance.

    • Mr C says:

      Enjoy the visualisations they are just dreams … I think they are just our fears and worries that are presented to us in a surreal way that we stopped thinking about when we started to smoke weed in the first place … some of my dreams are beautiful and I see old relationships and people I’d let go of in the past … now I am older I see how naive I was at the time and actually miss the life with those people and think about how I left them and that life that I couldn’t handle for good and bad behind … live the rest of your life with embracement … the past has gone and now we move on to better experiences in a more mature way …

  • Nixon says:

    I recently read an article saying cannabis doesn’t actually interrupt REM sleep but rather slow wave sleep. We just can’t remember and they’re closely linked

  • Not saying says:

    I’ve smoked weed multiple times a day (5-6 times per day) for over 15 years. I deal with high amounts of PTSD due to my job as a Firefighter/EMT and the dead bodies I see on a regular basis. I had to quit using weed to keep the bad thoughts away for 2 weeks because it’s against the rules for work etc. I treat it kind of like alcohol where I won’t get baked before work (don’t want to get someone killed) and do it responsibly at home on my own time (because it suppresses the traumatic ptsd moments I have regularly). It’s been 2 weeks since I quit and, Boy can I tell you, my dreams have turned into nothing but nightmares of kill or be killed scenarios, watching family members die horrific deaths, screaming in my sleep, night terrors, waking up in a pool of sweat (once I thought it was blood from dying in the dream). It’s weird because I pass out every time my head hits a pillow during the day but at night it’s really difficult to finally fall asleep. Just tonight I woke up 4 times now in 3 hours dreaming of my cat being invincible like wolverine and watching my brother get crushed by a trash truck and one about my kid being born looking like the alien from alien. I’m really freaked out and really want to use again just to make it all stop and to get real sleep. I’m considering seeing a shrink about it but I remember the last time I quit (for a job interview) and it didn’t help at all. They just keep trying to give me other medications that I wasn’t allowed to take because of regulations at my job. It sucks.

  • Mr C says:

    That must be awful … and you have an heroic job it’s a shame these traumatic events come back in your dreams and thoughts whilst you sleep … just think though of all those people that benefit from your chosen profession … your help towards others has not been in vain how little or how great … your memories of the traumas is just a buy product / we are human and we see but don’t forget / your actions in your chosen profession and all of your work mates far outshine any past memory that may have been suppressed by smoking weed … I’m sure all the people that have passed or present thank you and your efforts … I’m sure they will wish you luck in life now …

  • Michael says:

    I’m 33 and been regularly smoking multiple times per day since I was 18. I recently stopped due to a change in diet and preference not to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. The only withdrawal symptoms I have are fluctuating body temperature, and SEVERE disturbing dreams at the end of my night of sleep. I have dreams that someone is sleeping with my wife while my house is being robbed while I’m searching for my gun panicking. I then wake up in my bed in a pool of sweat shaking realizing I’m STILL in a dream within a dream. THEN i finally wake myself up shaking, sweating, and confused. I would love for there to be a medication to prevent these dreams. Like a previous comment in this thread, I choose not to go back to sleep knowing I’ll access and continue the exact dreams….I’m a little over a week into my hiatus. The last time I did this, the dreams lasted one month before I decided I had to start smoking again simply to stop the dreams. Brutal….

    • Michael says:

      Update: It’s been about 3 weeks since I quit and 9 days since my blog post above. I feel more energy in the day, but the nightmares and intense dreams have yet to slow down. I find myself dreaming nearly all night. Sometimes one hour of sleep feels like I crammed a months worth of intense and sometimes recurring dreams into such a short time causing me to feel beyond exhausted all morning. Sometimes a quick hour powernap mid day helps and sometimes I still dream during a quick mid day nap. I’ve almost made it a month so I can’t cave just yet. Trying to ride this out until the dreams slow down but this could be a long process reprogramming my brain after 15 years of basically daily smoking…. If anyone has advice on medication to slow dreaming I’d love to hear. Occasionally I have more lucid dreams if i’m not having nightmares which is pretty cool.

  • Lanr says:

    Thank. You everybody for the comments,they let me know I am not alone, I stopped weed a month ago after 50 years of two joints a day, think of how many houses I could have bought. I started when I was an 18 yo Marine in Vietnam, I stopped a month ago after moving to Florida, because I don’t want hassle from cops over a joint, also for those 50 years,I got my weed from the same guy, I don’t trust other dealers, I moved out of or should I say forced out of San Francisco where I was born and stayed till. I was 60, The Marines thought me, you will adapt to your environment, or die. I moved to Scotland 5 years ago, in the mountains in a small cottage with no person around me for thirty miles, America got to crazy for me, my friend sent me the weed quarter pound every 4 months, I would smoke a joint in the morning before starting my 10 mile walk through the forest, the weed enhanced my observations, Scotland is extremely beautiful with unbelievable amount of wild life, it was a real dreamland., until covid exposed the Scottish govt to be A bunch of power ,control facist communist assholes, just like America, I had no choice but to escape, or be forced to take a vaccine wear a mask not be allowed outside etc. Florida looked like the only place, I made the trip via Iceland, Greenland, Canada by small private plane then buy ground to Florida, the nightmares from stopping the weed is incredible .but please. Never. Try. Ambien, never believe Doctors the pandemic or China attack, has proven them untrustworthy, now we are back to scarring young people with nonexistence nuclear weapons when you see America is Disneyland, unreal bullshit for money, I said I stopped weed it’s easier than quitting, so now at 68 my old friend will send me 2 pounds of weed to Florida. I ‘ll pack up my truck and head for the forest of Alaska, as A MARINE. I can’t give up the pursuit of Freedom eventhoug it’s an illusion, I’ll stick to my two joints rather than the effin nightmares,, thanks again to all, Sergeant Corns 2753213 USMC.

  • mike says:

    I smoked on and off for 65 years. The last 3 years every night, in my apt. in the evening only. I am now one week off weed. Everynight I do have vivd dreams that seem to wake me always around 3:30 am. At that time I take 3 mg melatonin and fall back to sleep, and do not experince the vivid dreams. I am 83, the lack of quality of sleep really puts me on edge during the day. Sometime I take 1 mg of atavan which does help. But I am not going back to weed, because I believe after all the years of usage and the increase of thc I have become allergic to weed. Extereme itching, mainly in center of back. Also extreme nausea in morning. Since stopping for one week, itching is 50% better and nausea has gone completly. Hope this is helpfull.

  • mike says:

    I hope this is helpful to someone!

  • mike says:

    I feel more in control of my life, without weed!

  • Andy H says:

    After quitting cannabis after many years, I too am in ‘The World of Dreams’ as I call it.
    A world in which anything can happen from anywhere and does, in full colour and audio.
    I compare it to the brain being like a computer that, due to cannabis, has been off-line for many months, or even years.
    Now, after quitting, it’s like going back on-line and finding that there are many, many updates ready to be instaled.
    Keep them coming. Sooner or later you’ll have the latest, and best, version of your brain.

  • Anonymous says:

    Smoked weed for 53 years stopped because visited another country sleep is still easy for me but dreams are remembered now. I don’t feel like I have any withdrawal symptons after 3 weeks without. Life goes on just a little more bored with it. Everything’s better with a bag of weed. : )

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