The effects of Marijuana on REM sleep

What is REM Sleep?

There are five stages of sleep, four of which are NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, and one of which is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The four stages of NREM sleep are:

  1. Light sleep – easily interrupted, usually lasts 1-7 minutes
  2. Deeper sleep – more difficult to wake from, usually lasts 10-25 minutes
  3. Slow-wave sleep – usually occurring during the first third of the night
  4. Slow-wave sleep – most difficult to wake from, lasts 20-40 minutes
  5. REM sleep – dream activity, increased heart rate, rapid, irregular breathing patterns

These five stages of sleep last for different durations and vary with age. For a typical sleeper, an average night of sleep is characterized by movement through the sleep stages in a sequential manner, with non-REM sleep occurring early on, and REM cycles increasing as the night progresses. Although dreams can occur during non-REM sleep, studies have shown increased dream vividness and improved dream recall occur during the REM sleep cycle. A loss of muscle tone and reflexes during REM sleep prevent the physical reaction to, or “acting out” of, dreams and/ or nightmares, protecting the individual from injury. In this post, we will discuss the relationship between marijuana and REM sleep.

The Effects of Marijuana on Sleep

Many marijuana users turn to their favorite strain and form of cannabis – usually one which contains a high level of THC – in order to help them initiate and/ or maintain sleep. Medical marijuana patients suffering with insomnia report both falling asleep faster and achieving improved sleep quality after using marijuana to initiate sleep. Those who suffer from PTSD have experienced more peaceful sleep with decreased nightmares or intense dreams, also resulting in better quality sleep and increased restfulness upon waking. There is a major lack of evidence regarding the effect of CBD on sleep, with most sleep studies focusing on the effect of cannabis containing high levels of THC, specifically Indica strains. Most of the available data suggests that CBD, often used during the day to increase alertness, should not affect an individual’s ability to fall asleep at night.

Research on Marijuana and REM sleep

A 2008 study showed that the use of marijuana had a pronounced effect on sleep, with both smoked and orally consumed cannabis containing THC making it easier for the subject to fall asleep, increasing Stage 4 sleep, and reducing the time spent in REM sleep. Although the use of marijuana does appear to help most users fall asleep faster and experience less intense, vivid dreams or nightmares, individuals can experience an “REM Rebound” effect after ceasing consumption for a time. This includes increased difficulty falling asleep, and an increase in the the amount and intensity of dreams that feel more realistic.

Because of its ability to prepare your mind and body for sleep, relieve stress and initiate physical relaxation, consuming marijuana prior to bed may help you fall asleep faster and achieve better quality sleep, waking in the morning feeling more rested and ready for the day. This can be especially helpful for medical marijuana patients suffering from insomnia, PTSD, chronic pain, nausea, anxiety, migraines, and other symptoms which can inhibit the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. If you find dreams or nightmares are interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, you may want to try using marijuana before bed to help you get the restful sleep you need to be your best.

Call the trusted MMJ doctors in Colorado Springs at Medical Alternatives Clinic today at (719) 246-0393, or email us at with your questions about the relationship between the use of marijuana and REM sleep, or to request an appointment with one of our medical professionals. We are here to help you discover possible treatment options and offer our recommendations on which type of medical marijuana treatment may be best for you. We’re happy to assist you in any way we can and provide you with a copy of any paperwork necessary for your medical records.