For people that consume cannabis on an occasional basis, their dreams will likely not be affected unless you stop and start with a specific rhythm but for those regular cannabis users, their dreams will be significantly affected. To understand how cannabis affects dreams and why, it is first necessary to talk a bit about sleep in general. As most people are aware, there are four distinct sleep cycles of varying lengths. The first three cycles grow increasing longer and produce deeper sleep. It is common for people who are light sleepers to wake up during one of the first 3 sleep cycles, maybe to use the bathroom or as a response to noise or some other distraction. The fourth sleep cycle is the longest and deepest and that is the one during which we dream. Called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle, this part of sleep lasts the longest, anywhere from 10-90 minutes and this is the sleep stage when we dream. The THC in cannabis suppresses our dreams during this stage. Why would this be a desired outcome?
Most of the time we associate dreaming with positive images but in reality it’s not all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to dreaming. The vast major of our dreams are simply neutral or slightly strange in nature. So why would we want to suppress something that is not harmful like dreams? The answer is, we may not but if you are someone who suffers from frequent nightmares or even just disturbing dreams on occasion, it can be a breath of fresh air to drift off to sleep each night knowing that you will not wake up in fear or confusion. As cannabis use controls the very ability to dream during REM sleep, for many people that can be a welcome relief, at least on a temporary basis.
If you are an occasional cannabis user, your dreams will definitely be affected based on when you actually consume cannabis and when you stop. For example, if you consume cannabis only on the weekends, once Tuesday or Wednesday rolls around and the THC is out of your system, you will start dreaming again and those dreams will likely be fairly vivid. Some people have reported very colorful dreams or especially strange dreams and a few unlucky folks have nightmares. This is temporary as your body readjusts and usually only lasts a few nights however if you repeat the cycle of consuming cannabis on the weekends, you may spend your midweek nights having some pretty strange dreams. Other factors come into play as well including how much cannabis you consume, just an edible or two will not affect your dreams much at all or a few bong hits is unlikely to stop your dreams completely. The amount of THC in the cannabis also matters as does the particular terpenes and other cannabinoids. The exact ways cannabis affects dreams is still be studied.
What benefits could there be from suppressing your dreams on a long-term basis? One area in which cannabis is proving extremely effective is in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Upwards of 70% of people with PTSD experience regular nightmares that interfere with the quality of their lives in a profound way. Treatment with cannabis has been quite successful in addressing PTSD nightmares. Up until recently PTSD sufferers were treated with antidepressants or hypnotics or often both and did not get much relief especially considering the potential for serious side effects. Cannabis has proven itself to be an effective treatment for this particular symptom of PTSD and allowed people with PTSD to get much better quality sleep and feel better during waking hours as a direct result. So although the idea of suppressing dreams may not sound appealing to everyone, for some it can truly change the quality of their lives in positive ways with little to no negative side effects.