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You’ve just stopped using cannabis, and you’ve been having the wildest dreams of your life. Sound familiar? Turns out that crazy post-herb dreams are a real thing. This final segment of our Sweet Dreams series gives you the details on just why we have vivid dreams after quitting cannabis. 

Cannabis and REM sleep

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As mentioned earlier in our Sweet Dreams series, cannabis decreases the time we spend in REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and it’s one of four primary stages in the sleep cycle.

Consuming activated cannabis (cannabis that has been decarboxylated using heat) before bed extends your time in deep sleep, the stage just before REM sleep. So, this creates a kind of a trade off. You get more deep sleep and less REM sleep.

Why is this important to know? REM sleep is when you dream. You may have noticed that when you use cannabis at night, you sleep a lot harder than normal. You might also notice a strange absence of dreams. This is because you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of deep sleep rather than REM sleep.

Without cannabis, you typically spend more time in REM sleep toward the morning. This is why you remember dreams when you first wake up. Cannabis changes the length of the last two stages of the sleep cycle, so many nighttime canna-lovers tend to remember dreams less than their non-consuming counterparts.

What happens during REM sleep?

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Sleep science is still veiled in mystery. Yet, somnologists (sleep experts) have a few theories about the purpose of dreams. Evidence shows that REM sleep is for processing memories and expectations of things to come. New information that we had received earlier in the day are filed away and stored in memory banks.

In an interview with VICE, Dutch somnologist Dr. Hans Hamberger explains the functions of REM sleep:

One of those functions is reliving the things you have experienced and coming to terms with them, as it were. Processing all kinds of psychological influences is something you do in REM sleep. You also anticipate the things that will happen the next day or the days after that. While you’re sleeping, you already consider those and make decisions in advance. -Dr. Hamberger

Dreaming helps us come to terms with any information or experiences we have encountered during the day. It also helps prepare us for the future by going over possible outcomes to imagined events.

Vivid dreams after quitting cannabis

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Those who have stopped using cannabis for any length of time may have experienced an interesting phenomenon. While you once woke up kind of groggy after a heavy, dreamless sleep, you’re suddenly lit up with extremely, surreal, long-lasting,vivid dreams. It’s as if your sleeping mind has suddenly created its own movie theater, and you’ve somehow found yourself pulled into the show.

Dreams after quitting cannabis can be extremely intense. But, why is this? Dr. Hamberger has an answer:

It is a temporary attempt to catch up on all the dreaming you missed when you were smoking weed. It usually goes away after two to three weeks. Your body will know when it’s all caught up and ready to go back to business as usual. – Hamburger

Post-cannabis, you fall prey to the “rebound effect”. While your dreams were previously suppressed by the herb, they come back with a vengeance once cannabis is no longer in your system. This is almost like a boomerang that just so happens to gain speed and force as it comes flying back to you.

So, there you have it! Post-cannabis dreams are more vivid because your brain is working like crazy to catch up on all of the dreams it missed. While it may be a little intense, the best thing you can do is sit back and enjoy the show. After all, it’ll be over in a couple of weeks. Sweet dreams, everyone!

Have you had any vivid dreams after quitting cannabis? Share your story with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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Delilah Butterfield

Delilah Butterfield is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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