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, 2016; Garcia, 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.
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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.
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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.