THC and REM Sleep
Have you ever noticed that when you smoke weed, you dream less? And when you stop, your dreams become much more intense and vivid? According to Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience at Berkeley, this is because THC can actually disrupt your sleep. While marijuana may help people fall asleep faster, it agitates and shortens the REM cycle which is not only known as the “dream stage” of sleep, but also what helps the brain process and organize the events of the day. Whenever the body has had a night, or multiple nights, of lacking REM sleep, it goes into what’s referred to as a “REM debt,” as Dr.Walker calls it. To pay this debt back, the body tries to make up for lost time by inducing a more prolonged and potent REM period, hence the more intense, weird, and vivid dreams.
What are the potential consequences of lost REM sleep?
According to a 2017 study, in otherwise healthy adults, short-term consequences of sleep disruption include:
- Increased stress responsivity
- Somatic pain
- Reduced quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Mood disorders
- Cognitive, memory, and performance deficits
How does CBD affect REM sleep?
While there’s not enough data to say for sure, generally speaking CBD shows no signs of negatively impacting REM sleep and according to one study, may even enhance REM cycles by mitigating anxiety-induced REM suppression. THC, nicotine, and alcohol are all known to suppress REM sleep, but one of the biggest culprits of REM disruption is anxiety. Since CBD has gained a lot of interest as a potential anxiety reducing compound, it makes sense that it could potentially lengthen and strengthen REM cycles. One limited study which looked specifically at REM sleep disorders found that “before taking CBD, the patients experienced disorder symptoms 2–7 times per week. After taking CBD, the symptoms occurred 0–1 times in a week.” While these were small, isolated studies, they highlight the hope that researchers have for CBD’s potential as a powerful sleep-aid.
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