Many marijuana smokers say that after smoking, they do not dream at all. However, if the same people give up smoking, then they note that they have vivid and intense dreams at night.
We have the most vivid dreams during the REM sleep stage, so that raises the question of whether marijuana affects the stage of REM sleep.
Why Don’t Marijuana Smokers Dream?
A study conducted in 1975 (Feinberg, I., Jones, R, Walker JM, Cavness, C, March, J. Effects of high dosage delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on sleep patterns in man) compared the sleep patterns of heavy marijuana smokers with those of non-smokers.
The results showed that smokers had a lower speed of eye movement, and their REM sleep was very slow, which reduced their ability to dream.
Since marijuana tends to suppress your ability to dream, when you quit it, dreams come back with a vengeance. These can be brightly colored, emotional dreams or nightmares that sometimes feel too real.
Waking up and then falling asleep again, you find yourself in the same dream again. These vivid dreams usually occur every night about a week after giving up the habit of weed smoking and last about a month, after which they gradually taper off.
Thus, there is scientific evidence that marijuana smoking is closely related to one’s inability to dream, so the next time you smoke and can’t remember if you dreamed anything, you will know the answer to your question. 🙂
Marijuana’s Effect on Memory Functions
There is also a hypothesis that marijuana smokers simply don’t remember their dreams, but they do dream, just like everyone else.
A different study discovered that heavy marijuana use leads to a decline in short-term memory. The drug affects the user’s working memory, i.e. the ability to preserve and use the information for short periods of time.
Research by two neuroscientists, Giovanni Marsicano from the University of Bordeaux in France and Xia Zhang from the University of Ottawa in Canada, showed that this consequential effect occurs due to a hitherto unknown mechanism of signaling between neurons and astrocytes.
Astrocytes are brain cells which as a result of the current research were proved to be responsible for memory functions.
After a number of experiments on mice, the researchers discovered that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance present in marijuana, damages relations between neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain vital to memory formation.
The experiments were conducted using mice with genetically modified changes in the work of receptor units causing a reaction to marijuana – the so-called CB1 receptors (cannabinoid receptor type 1). The functioning of these receptors depends on the type of cell they are located on.
So, the results of the experiments, in which the mice were submitted to a number of memory tests, showed that the effect of THC on the brain was associated with CB1 receptors in astrocytes. This means that the drastic ingredient of marijuana has a negative effect on memory functions.
The researchers noted that the new findings could someday lead to the development of drugs with the same therapeutic characteristics but with fewer side effects.
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I smoked cannabis everyday for several years and woke up each morning without any memory of dreaming, it was very frustrating! I found it ironic as dreams can arguably let us access the subconscious thoughts and feelings that cause dependency, allowing one the awareness to take more control of it.
The most intense dream I had upon quitting involved me being an entity consisting of just light, pulsating and morphing with each thought. It was like learning how to ride a bike for the first time while on hallucinogens in another dimension, and it wasn’t fun. Let’s just say I didn’t wake up feeling refreshed.
Lesson learned: if you abuse drugs they will abuse you right back.