On Cannabis & Dreaming

I advocate for cannabis use for a variety of reasons, for a multitude of people.

I know cannabis isn’t a magic cure for everyone, but it is a really good solution for a lot of people.

Of course, like any mind-altering substance, there are drawbacks to cannabis consumption.

And the one issue I take with cannabis is something I don’t hear a lot about. THC makes you stop dreaming

Cannabis inhibits our REM sleep, the cycle of sleep where we dream. Whether we remember them or not, we all dream at night. But cannabis consumers, particularly heavy consumers, suffer from decreased REM cycles. Though scientists still don’t fully understand the function of dreaming, we do know that REM is an important stage of the sleep cycle because it stimulates the area of the bran associated with learning and memories.

I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. I chalk it up to my right brain dominance (I’m left handed) that I always had vivid dreams that lingered. I’ve kept dream notebooks and random notepads by the side of my bed so i could scribble down the nonsensical events my subconscious dreamed up before they escaped me or all of the dream logic was gone.

There was a time when I used cannabis to help me sleep. I’ve always been something of a poor sleeper; tossing and turning for hours on end before drifting off into a light doze where even the smallest outside noise would stir me awake. When I lived alone downtown, the passing of cars or sirens kept me awake for hours, as did the lingering paranoia that someone would break into my (third floor) apartment. Cannabis helped quiet my mind and lull me to sleep.

It didn’t really present a problem until last year, when about mid-July I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had a dream. I was knee-deep in daily cannabis use, fighting to keep my head above water in the middle of a pandemic, struggling with my freelance clients and desperately trying to finish house renovations. I’d been using cannabis to cope with a fragile mental state, to the point where I was no longer having memorable amounts of REM sleep.

It took me another month to sit with this realization, digest it, and get to a point where I wanted to do something about it.

I missed dreaming; the bright colors and sounds, the world that never made exact sense but always enough to function in, the movement and changing scenery, and how I got to see people I didn’t get to see in my day to day life. For someone who had been having vivid dreams their entire life, realizing that I was no longer dreaming was, without exaggeration, devastating. It felt like a special piece of me was missing.

So as hard as it was to resist that last bong rip, that late night joint, or just one more pull, I had to stop. I had to draw boundaries around my cannabis use and remind myself that the short-term gratification of getting high wasn’t worth the long term impact on my REM sleep.

It wasn’t (and often still isn’t) easy to resist, but as of late I’m happy to say I’ve started dreaming with my usual frequency again. I have a particular attachment to my dreams because they’ve always been so forceful. But it makes me wonder if other stoners have found themselves missing their dreams too.

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