The most popular theory about the purpose of dreams is that they aid in sorting through feelings, memories, and information. Many people take cannabidiol (CBD) for its positive effect on sleep quality. However, there are persistent anecdotal stories surrounding CBD and bad dreams. We've all woken up from bad dreams—and In recent CBD news, researchers investigate CBD sleep. Studies reveal a potential link between the cannabis compound and CBD nightmares. CBD and Dreaming: Does CBD Make Your Dreams More Vivid? Unfortunately for us cannabidiol (CBD) enthusiasts, we’re still in the earliest stages of figuring out exactly how CBD works, or even what
What Science Says About CBD Dreams
The most popular theory about the purpose of dreams is that they aid in sorting through feelings, memories, and information. Many people take cannabidiol (CBD) for its positive effect on sleep quality. However, there are persistent anecdotal stories surrounding CBD and bad dreams.
We’ve all woken up from bad dreams—and it doesn’t exactly leave us feeling refreshed. If you’re under a lot of stress, bad dreams can push your stress levels further in the wrong direction, making you wonder if CBD is the right compound for you.
The research on how CBD affects dreams isn’t extensive, but preliminary studies on rats indicate that CBD may reduce non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM sleep and has some anxiolytic effects, which may support a better night’s sleep quality overall .
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how CBD may impact dreams, and how you can use CBD for a more restful sleep.
Bad Dreams & Weird Dreams: Why Do We Dream?
There’s no definitive answer for why we dream, but the most agreed-upon theory is that it’s how our brains process and consolidate information and memories .
Other interesting theories suggest that dreams are internal therapists, deep in our subconscious, that help us work through emotional dramas from our waking life. Or dreams can be fight-or-flight training simulators that help us with our survival, which may explain the physiological stress we encounter in nightmares and bad dreams.
No matter how absurd or bizarre dreams seem, researchers have done studies on participants’ dream journals and found that only about 10% of the dream’s contents are of distorted reality . Whatever the reason for our dreams, it seems that dreams are a blend of stories and emotions that may appear completely random but are in fact, related to our thoughts and preoccupations in our lives.
What Impacts Our Dreams?
Our emotional and mental states impact the content of our dreams. Some people even experience strange dreams from eating dairy or spicy food in the late evenings.
What this boils down to is that our dreams are not completely separate from our waking life. Lifestyle habits from stress levels, how much sleep you’re getting, exercise, food, and supplements may have a direct impact on the quality of our dreams.
We can even consciously impact our dreams through psychological techniques such as lucid dreaming, where you can experience a state of mind where you’re fully conscious while dreaming. People use lucid dreaming techniques to make impactful life decisions, gain insight into their subconscious minds, and even stop recurring nightmares.
Can CBD Oil Cause Weird Dreams?
There’s very little research surrounding CBD and weird dreams. CBD and other cannabinoids primarily work in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is tasked with modulating vital systems involved with stress, memory, sleep-wake cycle, and much more. ECS’s main focus is maintaining a Goldilock’s zone of homeostasis for optimum function.
Since everyone’s baseline for their health will vary from one individual to another, CBD affects everyone differently, so it’s entirely possible that CBD can cause bad dreams for some people.
To understand how CBD and other cannabinoids may affect sleep, we’ll quickly break down the stages of sleep.
The Five Sleep Stages
The sleep cycle is made up of five sleep stages and two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.
Each stage is characterized by different activities in the brain and eye movement patterns and plays unique roles in the brain and body’s restoration. Once you fall asleep, you cycle through the following stages multiple times.
Stage 1 (Non-REM)
The first stage of sleep occurs when you’re just starting to fall asleep. It’s the lightest stage and generally lasts a few minutes. You may feel the sensation of falling as your muscles involuntarily contract in what’s called hypnic myoclonia or hypnic jerks.
Brain wave frequencies seen from an electroencephalogram (ECG) are slightly slower, producing alpha and theta waves, which are observed in creativity, intuition, and daydreaming.
Stage 2 (Non- REM)
Stage two represents deeper sleep, though it’s still considered a period of light sleep. You’re much less likely to be awakened in stage two compared to stage one, and it lasts for roughly 25 minutes.
Ideal “power-naps” should take you into this stage.
Your muscles begin to relax, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature cools slightly as you prepare to enter deep sleep. The slow eye movements come to an end, and although brain waves may diminish, there are sporadic bursts of neural activity, shown in an ECG as “sleep spindles.”
Stage 3 & 4 (Non-REM)
Stages three and four are progressively deeper stages of sleep, known as slow-wave or delta sleep. You’re much harder to wake from these sleep stages.
The ECG shows a much slower frequency in brainwaves, and the body is completely relaxed. If you’re awoken during these deep, non-REM stages, you’re likely to feel groggy and perform poorly on cognitive tests.
Stage 5 (REM)
Stage five is characterized by quick twitching movements of the eyes, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate and brain activity.
This is the sleep stage where dreams occur, and it happens roughly 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first REM stage lasts for about 10 minutes and will get longer with each cycle through the night.
Interestingly, the ECG shows brain activity similar to that of when you’re awake However, your muscles become temporarily paralyzed, though you may experience involuntary twitches. This temporary paralysis is believed to prevent injury.
The Effect Of CBD On Sleep
CBD has quickly become a natural way to support a good night’s sleep.
One of its most notable effects is deep relaxation and regulating healthy inflammation levels, which may help calm the body to prepare for sleep.
Many people struggle to fall asleep in the first place because of racing thoughts due to stress. Taking high doses of CBD (50 mg +) before bed may help with this along with other sleep hygiene practices such as:
- Limiting screen time
- Dimming the lights
- Cooler room temperatures
Quality sleep from using CBD may also have something to do with CBD’s influence on GABA neurotransmitters. Higher levels of GABA in the brain act as a sort of brake-pedal to the fight-or-flight response, helping the body prepare for rest-and-digest mode for restorative sleep .
What Science Says About CBD and Dreams
Studies on the effects of CBD on dreams are extremely limited, and for that reason, there’s no concrete data on precisely how CBD affects dreams. And so, the idea that CBD can cause you to dream more, or expose you to nightmares, is unsupported by science.
In a study investigating the effects of CBD on the sleep-wake cycle of healthy people, researchers found that CBD doesn’t cause any disruption, and in a different study, it was found that CBD was effective at minimizing anxiety-induced REM sleep .
The association of CBD with nightmares is a result of anecdotal reports, meaning it’s not substantiated through research.
Frequently Asked Questions About Taking CBD and Dreaming
Can CBD Help Dream Recall?
Vivid dreams usually happen during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
How many times have you awakened from a dream, only to fail to remember what the dream was about? If you’re on medication or have consumed alcohol before bed, these factors may minimize your ability to recall your dreams.
Even if you’re healthy and not under the influence of drugs, you can still quickly forget your dream when you awake. Researchers haven’t established whether CBD can improve one’s ability to recall dreams, but according to anecdotal reports, CBD may help some people to have a greater ability to recall their dreams. The best tip for keeping track of your dreams is to keep a journal at your bedside so that you can note down the dreams first thing when you wake up.
Can CBD Support Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is characterized by twitching eyes and minimal muscle movement. But sometimes, the dreamer might start acting out their dreams by producing sounds and making fervent movements with their arms and legs.
Shouting, punching, and kicking while asleep are some of the symptoms of this sleep disorder. This condition sharply decreases sleep quality, exposes you to injuries, and increases your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.
Although research is limited in this space, one study found CBD to be effective at reducing instances of REM sleep behavior disorder in those with Parkinson’s disease .
Is it Okay to Take CBD Oil Before Bed?
It’s perfectly safe for most people to take CBD oil before bed. The best time for ingesting CBD oil depends on your health goals.
For instance, if you’re looking to boost your energy, you can take CBD in the morning, and many will take CBD before bed to help them unwind and prepare for sleep.
Can You Stop Dreaming From Taking CBD?
There is no evidence to prove that CBD stops you from dreaming. According to scientists, everyone dreams. It’s just very difficult to hold onto the memory of your dreams when you awake. However, there are some medications, specifically antidepressants that are known for interfering with REM sleep, which is the sleep stage when dreams occur.
The Takeaway: CBD And Dreams
We want to underscore here that there is no scientific research that proves CBD causes nightmares or bizarre dreams.
Our dreams are influenced by a lot of factors in our waking life and deep in our subconscious. While there’s still a lot we don’t understand about dreams, the most prevalent theory we have for why we dream is to help us sort out and cull information and emotions.
We’re not sure how CBD affects sleep, but there is evidence to show that CBD may support deep sleep thanks to its calming and relaxation properties in the brain.
Since CBD may affect individuals differently, we can’t say for certain that CBD products will not affect your dreams—It’s something that you will have to experiment with on your own.
Always make sure you’re shopping for high-quality CBD products with third-party lab tests to back up their contents. You may want to keep a dream journal by your bedside to help you recall your dreams when you wake up.
CBD Seems to Be Giving People Bizarre Nightmares
CBD is all over the place — and so is the research on it.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, gave Yasmin Tayag terrible nightmares. Or maybe it didn’t.
The cannabis compound that doesn’t get you high is seemingly everywhere right now, so when Tayag received some CBD oil as a gift, she didn’t see the harm in smearing it on her forehead before bed, according to a story she penned for Inverse.
When the hellish nightmares started, the CBD was the only thing she could think to blame — but her subsequent investigation revealed that, despite its growing ubiquity, no one seems to really know what CBD does.
The logic behind Tayag’s suspicion that the CBD oil caused her nightmares is sound — after all, the dreams started when she started using the oil, and stopped when she stopped.
She even found others online who shared her experience. But then she also found people who said the compound prevented them from having dreams, and others who claimed it gave them vivid dreams that weren’t scary.
And the science on CBD’s effect on sleep was about as contradictory as the anecdotal evidence, as Tayag would learn from the published research and her conversations with both cannabis and sleep experts.
Ultimately, Tayag was left with little choice but to accept that her suspicion about a link between the oil and her nightmares would remain unconfirmed — another indication that our best understanding of CBD remains thin.
“And considering the gray legal area in which CBD currently exists,” she wrote, “it may be some time before its effects on sleep, dreams, and everything else it’s purported to touch can be distilled into a science.”
CBD and Dreaming: Does CBD Make Your Dreams More Vivid?
Unfortunately for us cannabidiol (CBD) enthusiasts, we’re still in the earliest stages of figuring out exactly how CBD works, or even what it works for: for example, the scientific literature is still very mixed on whether or not CBD works as a sleep aid or what it’s effect on sleep is, so it should come as no surprise that the published scientific literature has very little to say about CBD and dreaming.
As with so much about CBD, we’re forced to rely mostly on anecdote. Let’s be honest though: anecdotes are more fun. But when it comes to CBD’s effect on dreaming, anecdotes are mixed: a lot of people say it gives them more vivid dreams, some say it gives them nightmares, and yet others insist that it allows them to lucid dream.
What’s our take on this? Well, one of our Remedy Journey team members happens to be a skilled and experienced lucid dreamer who cultivated this skill over many years, and who also happens to be an avid CBD user.
Though she normally uses CBD during the day, she was willing to serve as a guinea pig and take increasingly large doses of CBD before bed and see the effect it had on her lucid dreaming skills.
In this article, we touch briefly on the existing evidence about CBD’s effect on dreams, and then let her tell her story.
What does the science say about CBD’s effect on dreaming?
While the scientific literature on CBD’s effect on dreaming is pretty scant, there is some preliminary data, but the results have been mixed.
In one 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology , CBD was found to reduce symptoms of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder in Parkinson’s patients; in particular, REM sleep latency (the amount of time it takes for REM sleep to onset) was increased in the subjects. Why is this significant? Because shortened REM sleep latency is a sleep disorder associated with depressive symptoms.
REM sleep is the stage before deep sleep in which dreams occur, so a reduction in REM sleep behavior disorder would indirectly hint at a positive effect on dreaming.
However, another more recent study published in 2018 in the Frontiers of Pharmacology Journal found that CBD did NOT have any effect on sleep-wake cycles in healthy young men.
What to make of these different results?
The authors of the 2018 study note that “ the therapeutic effects of CBD might depend on the presence of specific clinical conditions.” Translation: what effect CBD has on sleep likely depends on the specific circumstances of the user. In the 2013 study, the subjects had a sleep disorder, and CBD was found to have a positive effect on that disorder (the 2013 study was also significantly longer and involved higher dosage of CBD). In the 2018 study, the patients were healthy young men with no sleep disorders, and no effect was observed. The authors also note that, in the scientific literature, CBD has been found to have relatively few side effects and no psychoactive effects, which makes it a small-downside treatment.
This variable effect of CBD — providing positive benefits for some but no effect for others — aligns with the anecdotes you can read online of how CBD has affected people’s dreams: some say it’s had a positive effect, some say it gave them nightmares, and some say it had no effect at all. It appears to all come down to context.
It’s also worth noting that THC is known to suppress REM sleep (and therefore dreams), and that in many cases CBD serves to reverse the effects of THC. This may imply that CBD (or perhaps even other cannabinoids) can reverse the REM-suppressing capacity of THC.
So, now comes the question: what effect does CBD have on the dreams of someone who is a skilled lucid dreamer? We tried to answer this with our experiment below.
CBD dreaming experiment: how CBD tripped out my already-trippy dreams
First, a little background: I’m now 22, and learned how to lucid dream over the course of several years when I was in high school. Let’s just say my life wasn’t amazing at the time, and the idea of galavanting about however I wished in my dreams sounded amazing. So, I started a dream journal, writing down every detail I could remember of every dream right after I woke up and “reality checking” during the day, a process where you make yourself meticulously aware of your surroundings at random points in the day, so that you can eventually do the same when you’re sleeping at night to tell if you are dreaming.
After years of practicing I was able to conjure whatever adventure I wanted in my sleep, but I’d found that ability diminished over the last couple of years. I’d heard that CBD gave some people trippy dreams, so I decided to give it a shot to see if it could help me regain my lucid dreaming thunder.
I carried out this experiment in three different sections over the course of three consecutive nights, increasing the dosage each night, all administered within one hour of going to bed. Immediately after waking up, I wrote down everything I could remember from my dreams to get the clearest sense of the effect CBD had. I used NuLeaf Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Oil.
Experiment 1: small dose
On the first night I took 5 drops of oil, which came out to about 12mg of CBD. At this dosage, I didn’t notice any significant changes in my ability to control my dreams. I felt that my dreams were more a recorded movie that I was being forced to watch, like a movie comprised of incoherent scenes put in an incorrect order that didn’t have a flow or make sense, kind of like the scenes in the movie “Memento.”
12mg is small potatoes, though, so I didn’t necessarily expect a huge effect at this dosage. Let’s step it up a bit.
Experiment 2: moderate dose
On the second night I had a full dropper, which is about 25mg of CBD. That night I experienced a slight increase in my ability to control my dreaming environment, meaning I was able to control some of my actions. It was as if I were watching a movie, but could periodically will my consciousness to move myself within that specific moment.
Perhaps a better way to explain this is that in my dream I felt like a marionette being moved not of my own will, and at spontaneous moments I was able to make my own movements, and only briefly. Simply put, I could control a small fraction of what I was doing.
Experiment 3: high dose
The third night I took two full droppers, about 50mg of CBD, I experienced a couple of interesting differences I have never experienced before. Not only did I have free control to do whatever I wanted in my environment, but I also felt like everything in my dream was happening in real time.
Things didn’t occur in scenes, it was more like a continuous storyline. My environment didn’t suddenly change in 0.002 seconds, and neither did what I was doing. It was as if I was walking in a different world going about my day like it were normal.
So, I noticed that CBD did improve my ability to lucid dream, and that there was a dose-response relationship to this effect: the more CBD I consumed, the more lucid my dreams seemed to be. As someone who genuinely loves lucid dreaming, this is an exciting result, and one I plan to test in the future, perhaps with other CBD products like a different tincture to see what kind of wild dreams I have.
As for what people can take away from this experiment, it’s that for certain people CBD may be a helpful tool in developing the skill of lucid dreaming. But again, the anecdotes and the available evidence indicates that this won’t be the case for everyone.
FAQ about CBD and dreams
Does CBD affect dreaming?
Yes, the science and anecdotes both show that CBD can affect dreaming, but it also appears to only affect dreaming for certain people. Whether or not CBD influences your dreams may depend on whether or not you have any sleep disorders.
Does CBD help nightmares?
No, there is no evidence (and very few anecdotes) which suggest that CBD can help diminish nightmares in any way. In fact, the few stories you find indicate it’s more likely to do the opposite and make your dreams wilder and more vivid.
Does CBD suppress REM sleep?
Few studies have been conducted on this topic, but the evidence suggests that CBD does NOT suppress REM sleep like THC does, and that it may in fact help improve REM sleep disorders.