CBD is the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant that aids in relieving physical pain and stress. In addition, plenty of anecdotal reports have suggested that CBD may affect the way our dreams play out and the vividness in which we experience them. Sometimes, users report waking up from terrible nightmares after ingesting CBD. The question is, why? It would seem that a substance that helps with stress relief wouldn’t also be nightmare fuel.
The answer to this question lies in the science behind CBD. In particular, its interaction with our brain chemistry and its relationship with REM sleep as a cognitive process. Keep reading as our article will take a closer look at CBD dreams and tell you why using CBD products might have adverse effects on your sleep patterns.
Can CBD Affect the Way We Dream?
Contrary to the nightmares described above, one study found cannabidiol (CBD) effective at reducing instances of REM sleep behavioral disorders in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. (1) Moreover, it was found CBD effectively blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression while having only a relatively small effect on non-REM sleep.
One thing to consider when trying to answer questions relating to CBD as a sleep aid is its relatively untapped research potential. Even less explored is its relationship to our dream state and how it improves or degrades our overall sleeping experience.
However, we know from preliminary studies conducted on rats that CBD may influence the overall length of REM sleep in some users. REM sleep is a vital aspect of a successful night’s rest, so anything that shortens the process has a chance of disrupting sleep in general while affecting how we dream.
That means, for most of us, CBD can work to reduce stress and improve the quality of our REM sleep. Of course, genetic variance always exists, so it may not be the case for everyone.
To better see how CBD can positively or negatively impact dreams, we first must understand the different stages of sleep and how the compound interacts with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.
- Related Content – CBD VS. Melatonin – Which Is Best For Sleep?
Four Stages of Sleep
The human body cycles through two primary stages of sleep: (1) rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and (2) non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM is divided into three stages, N1 to N3, while REM sleep has two stages, phasic and tonic.
NREM Stage N1
Stage 1 is the earliest phase of sleep and the shortest–only around five minutes. In this stage, you may feel your muscles involuntarily contract in what’s known as hypnic myoclonia or hypnic jerks. People can be awoken somewhat easily in this state, being more akin to a nap compared to later stages.
Research has not reported CBD to affect stage one, at least to any veritable degree. As we’ll see, CBD has a much more profound effect as we fall into a deeper sleep.
NREM Stage N2
The following stage of non-REM sleep accounts for most of our total sleep duration and is considered a lighter state of sleep from which we can readily be awakened. It is the stage before you actually fall into a deep sleep.
Stage 2 Non-REM sleep marks a further slowing down of the heartbeat and breathing, and the brain produces rapid, rhythmic bursts of brainwave activity known as sleep spindles.
This stage has shown an overall time increase when CBD is ingested before bed, which could impact sleep and dreams depending on how much longer it takes to recede into an even deeper sleep.
NREM Stage N3
Also known as slow-wave sleep, the final non-REM stage is the climax of deep sleep and is one of the most crucial aspects of our sleep cycle.
CBD is known to decrease the overall length of this stage. For some, that could lead to issues, depending on how much an individual’s body relies on Stage N3 for a good night’s rest.
REM Stage N4
Stage 4 comprises two alternating phases of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: phasic and tonic. The former is when our eyes move rapidly, and the latter is when they don’t.
CBD probably has the most profound effect on this stage. It effectively blocks any anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression in this stage, leading to a much better REM sleep overall for anyone with anxiety-induced sleep disorders.
Now that we’ve explored the different stages of sleep and the effect of CBD on their processes, let’s look at how the compound may affect us depending on our current physiological and psychological well-being.
What Can Positively or Negatively Impact Our Dreams?
Knowing the delicate nature of our sleep patterns, it should come as no surprise that compounds like CBD could have a significant effect on the dream states of some users. Unfortunately, the question of how (or if) CBD might impact your dreams is hard to answer without first trying it for sleep.
But, if you’re anxious about these CBD-induced nightmares, remember many factors can impact our dreams. That, in turn, may influence how CBD affects us.
Things we aren’t even consciously aware of can impact our dreams. Influential factors can include what we eat for dinner, the comfort level of our sleeping situation, our emotional state before going to sleep, and even subconscious actions our bodies perform while we are asleep.
Ultimately, everything that comprises our daily life gets reflected in our sleep patterns. If our life is in great turmoil, we can almost guarantee our dream states are just as chaotic and restless.
Effects of CBD on People With Insomnia and Anxiety
To first understand how CBD might affect dreams and help people with sleeping disorders, we’ll have to acknowledge that a bad night’s rest usually depends on something we are experiencing in our waking hours. Thus, insomnia goes hand-in-hand with psychological disorders like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
Despite the lack of research in the realm of sleep science, CBD has had many more veritable studies regarding its effects on anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Much of the research has pointed to an undeniably positive effect on users with these conditions.
And so, relief through CBD can potentially lead to a better night’s sleep overall and is likely a solution for their insomnia.
The numbers back this statement up quite well. For example, 80% of participants using CBD for anxiety reported a decrease in the severity of the condition. In addition, some 65% reported improvements in their overall quality of sleep. (2)
So, chances are, if you experience any of these common psychological or sleep disorders, CBD could be of great benefit. But how does CBD interact with people with relatively normal sleep patterns?
Effects of CBD on People With Normal Sleep Patterns
Though we have mentioned it before, we should again highlight the fact that more research into CBD dreams needs to happen before its effects can be better understood. Many of these studies show that using CBD as a sleep aid helps many people, except those with unbalanced REM sleep patterns.
To understand precisely how it affects people with standard sleep patterns, we’ll have to look at some existing studies to see what they have concluded. Multiple studies show CBD’s positive effects on healthy sleep patterns, which could support the sleep-promoting effect of the compound.
Despite this, not everyone experiences the same benefits from using CBD for sleep, and different dosages may cause varying effects, including on dreams. Although a few studies show the potential positive effects of CBD on sleep behaviors, studies about CBD’s effects on slow wave sleep (SWS) in normal sleeping humans are still lacking. (3)
Early studies suggest a positive impact on anxiety, pain, and, perhaps, even sleep. Ultimately, more research is needed to establish how effective CBD is at improving sleep and how best to dose it and use it most effectively. These studies are the most critical way to determine the effect of CBD on dreams and sleep-wake cycles.
Effects of CBD on People With REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is marked by involuntary actions or spoken words while in REM sleep. For many, this disorder could turn into sleepwalking, which can be very dangerous in some circumstances. (4)
Cannabidiol can help decrease the amount of REM sleep and also the movements that occur in individuals who are experiencing behavior disorders related to REM sleep. Additionally, some studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) influences sleep cycles, improving symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).
To summarize, CBD can improve sleep quality for people with already healthy sleep patterns and relieve REM sleep behavior disorder, insomnia, and anxiety. That, in turn, might lead to a more positive dream experience.
However, such positive effects may not be the case for you. Depending on your need for REM sleep, you could require more, or CBD could have the opposite effect. That is where CBD can quickly become nightmare fuel for some individuals with sleep disorders.
Understanding CBD Dosages
Finally, we come to proper dosages. The amount you take has the potential to impact sleep quality and, perhaps, your overall dream experience as much as your genetics.
Deciding on an appropriate dose of CBD is more practical with oils, lotions, or drops purchased at the store than with ingesting or smoking parts of the cannabis plant. These often have dosage recommendations. However, it’s important to remember that the dosage is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleep.
We recommend you start at the lowest recommended dosage to get used to the product and its effects. Once you are comfortable with the lowest level, you can up your dosage levels to an amount you feel is most beneficial.
Too high of a CBD dose might throw your REM sleep off-balance, which is why it’s good to play it safe and start low if you want to avoid a restless night or even CBD nightmares. Alternatively, pay attention to what dosage helps ease your symptoms when examining your own effective dose.
Plenty of factors can play a role in determining the optimal dosage (and consumption method) for your symptom. These variables could include your body weight, how much CBD is contained in the product you’re using, and what you’re using CBD for. Ultimately, figuring out the right dosage is crucial.
CBD and Dreams: A Final Note
If there are any key takeaways here, it’s that we’re all different. CBD may very well be a cure-all for some people with the right genetics, but it’s clear that some don’t receive any benefit from it.
It may be best to try CBD to see if it has any positive or negative effects on your nighttime routine. After all, despite some people reporting CBD dreams turning to nightmares, most seem to see CBD as a godsend for getting a solid night’s rest. Chances are you fall into this category as well.