There’s been a lot of talk within the community about CBD and dreams. With how commonly CBD is mentioned as a possible sleep remedy, this perhaps comes as no surprise. We also know that THC might inhibit dreaming, so is it possible that CBD might also have an impact? Maybe.
Currently, there isn’t a lot of science about CBD and its impact on dreams. Most of the information we have seems to be anecdotal, often coming in the form of community discussions. While we don’t want to discredit or take away from anyone’s experience, without the science to back this information up, we can’t make any claims either way.
What we can do, however, is take a look at the sleep cycle and some of the things we do know about how CBD might be impacting our body’s sleep rhythms.
The Sleep Cycle
When we sleep, we go through cycles of sleep stages. Knowing these stages is the first step to understanding the potential impact, if any, CBD has on dreaming. Thankfully, since this is a heavily researched topic, we have a strong knowledge base to draw upon.
On average, we go through four to six sleep cycles a night, which can vary in length. During each cycle, we’ll (hopefully) spend adequate time at each of these sleep stages. Things like age, weight, alcohol consumption, and other variables can all contribute to how these cycles play out.
Classified as a non-rapid eye movement stage (NREM), according to the sleep foundation, stage one of the sleep cycle doesn’t last long. This is the falling asleep stage, when an individual, if undisturbed, begins drifting off.
Another NREM stage, this is when our bodies begin adjusting to rest. Things like body temperature and breathing change, and our brains begin to show different activity. Typically, this stage lasts for 10-25 minutes.
The last of our NREM stages, this is when an individual becomes harder to wake up. Due to a brain pattern called Delta Waves that occurs within this stage, it may also be referred to as delta or slow-wave sleep. This stage of deep sleep may be pivotal to our recovery and restoration throughout the night, potentially even boosting our thinking and creativity abilities. We typically spend 20-40 minutes at this stage, though later on in the night, we end up spending less time here and more time in REM.
The last stage is REM (rapid eye-movement), where brain activity is nearly as active as when we’re awake. Although dreaming is possible in other sleep stages, it’s more common within REM sleep. Typically, we don’t enter REM until about 90 minutes into our sleep cycle, though REM stages get longer as the night goes on. REM may be essential to proper cognitive functioning – things such as memory and learning.
Throughout history, theories about why we dream and the importance of them have varied widely, from divinations, therapeutic processing, to accidental brain activity. Right now, while a lot of research has been done into dreams and many theories have been developed, we still don’t have any clear answers.
CBD and Dreams
In terms of CBD’s impact on our sleep cycles, again, the research is still new. What we do know is that CBD influences our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a series of receptors and neurotransmitters that help regulate everything from appetite and mood to sleep. Often times, this regulation can come in the form of things like anxiety and pain management – things which can hinder and prevent sleep from occurring.
That said, when it comes to CBD’s direct impact on the way our body experiences sleep cycles, less is known. This literature review, after compiling a collection of 39 studies, found that while there may be potential for cannabis to impact sleep cycles, dose and the cannabinoid makeup (THC vs. CBD levels) of products vary widely, so definitive conclusions are hard to make. Another study, though conducted with animals, suggests that CBD may be useful in preventing anxiety-related sleep disruptions to REM sleep, and therefore may have applications as a treatment for things like PTSD or Parkinson’s disease. In contrast, this study found that with healthy participants, CBD did not seem to have any noticeable impact on our sleep cycles
If CBD does prolong REM sleep, or in the very least prevent it from being inhibited by other factors, it could account for some of the intense dreams community members have been reporting. That said, the research isn’t substantial enough for us to start making any claims.
There’s also something to be said about the specific chemical makeup of the particular CBD product you’re consuming. Terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids may all make a difference and contribute to CBD’s overall effect – including what impact it has on our sleep. Assessing the contributions of each of these compounds and how they work together can be harder to determine. Ultimately, more research is needed, especially where dreams and the sleep cycle in general are concerned.
In contrast to CBD, THC may inhibit dreaming, possibly due to how it may shorten periods of REM sleep. While this is interesting, there’s not a lot of information out there about how THC and CBD interact in regards to sleep and dreaming. However, it’s possible that a CBD product that contains THC, like Full Spectrum, might have a slightly different effect on sleep than pure CBD would, just like other supporting cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids might. Dose and amount of THC to CBD may also matter.
Currently, besides a lot of anecdotal discussions, we don’t have a lot of evidence to suggest that CBD can or cannot impact our dreams. As we continue to study CBD, hopefully we’ll see more research emerging in the future. That said, we do know that CBD can play a role regulating our sleep, particularly through the ECS. It also may have applications in suppressing anxiety- related sleep disturbances in REM, which is the sleep stage we dream the most in.