CBD Oil And Nightmares

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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. We take a look at how CBD affects sleep patterns and dreams. Are nightmares a possible side effect of this compound? Here's what you need to know.

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 [1].

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 [2].

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 [3]. 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.

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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 [4].

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 [5].

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 [6].

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.

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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.

Rough Night

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.

Conflicting Reports

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.

Jury’s Out

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.”

Nightmares and Bad Dreams from CBD Oil? Here Are the Facts…

There is no academic or clinical evidence suggesting that CBD oil – or any CBD product – causes nightmares or bad dreams. With that being said, if you go online and search some forums on the topic, it’s quite easy to find plenty of anecdotal reports that claim the opposite.

In this article, we discuss whether or not the CBD oil (or any other CBD product) you’re taking may be resulting in weird dreams while you’re asleep.

The Myth of “Non-Psychoactive” CBD Oil

Before we talk about CBD oil, nightmares, bad dreams, and so on, let’s discuss the myth of CBD oil being non-psychoactive.

From a medical perspective, the word ‘psychoactive’ is quite broad in its scope; it essentially refers to any substance (prescription drugs or otherwise) that alters the function of the brain.

We know through research that CBD impacts things like stress, anxiety, PTSD, and so on, so in this sense, it is a psychoactive compound.

The confusion lies in the fact that CBD does not produce a high. Many resources (including some that are quite reputable) refer to CBD as a non-psychoactive compound since it does not produce the psychedelic effects of a high. The proper verbiage to use, however, is non-intoxicating.

This doesn’t have much to do with CBD causing nightmares or bad dreams, but we figured now was a good time to point out this relevant bit of information.

CBD & Nightmares/Bad Dreams: Is There Any Evidence?

Again, we reiterate the fact that there is no evidence linking the use of CBD to bad dreams – or any erratic dreaming episodes, for that matter. In fact, several research studies point to the fact that CBD may be beneficial in terms of achieving healthy, quality sleep.

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One randomized study, for instance, concluded with a report suggesting that CBD “…[does] not alter normal sleep architecture.” The placebo-controlled, double-blind study – which was designed to gauge the effects of a 300mg CBD dose on sleep-wake cycles in human test subjects – concluded that CBD “did not seem to interfere with the sleep cycle of healthy volunteers.”

A separate study, published in Neuropharmacology in 2012, suggests that CBD actually “reduces physiological REM sleep in normal rats.” This is relevant since most dreaming episodes occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. However, the study also noted that, aside from the anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects of CBD, the effects of the compound on “anxiety-induced sleep disturbances remain unclear.”

Finally, in a more recent 2019 publication that was developed to observe CBD’s specific effects on sleep and anxiety, researchers found that nearly 70% of patients experienced an improvement in sleep over the first month of the study. CBD was “well-tolerated” in 95.8% of the patients, and the study made no mention of nightmares, bad dreams, or enhanced dreaming episodes.

So Why Do Some People Say CBD Oil Gives Them Nightmares or Bad Dreams?

Anecdotal evidence – i.e., non-scientific accounts of people’s personal experiences – generally holds little merit within the clinical, medical, and scientific communities. Those who think they may be able to benefit from CBD should not let anecdotal reports of nightmares (such as those found in popular online forums) influence their intentions of using CBD.

Is it possible that some people have experienced bad dreams or nightmares after taking CBD oil? Absolutely. Is there any evidence suggesting it was the CBD that caused these nightmares? No.

As with all things, it is suggested to use CBD moderately at first, and if needed, work up gradually in terms of daily milligram consumption. And of course, always try and speak with a doctor whenever possible about implementing CBD into your daily routine.

If you have taken CBD and experienced bad dreams, it could prove beneficial to try and take CBD earlier in the day rather than right before going to bed.

Furthermore, for individuals that hold a medical cannabis card or have access to legal recreational cannabis dispensaries, it may be worthwhile to try a small dose of a higher THC product, such as an oral 1:1 THC: CBD spray. THC is known to increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep, which is a stage of sleep typically void of any dreaming episodes.

Additional Information on Sleep Stages

Normal sleep is broken up into REM sleep and three distinct stages of non-REM sleep. The first stage of non-REM sleep (Stage 1) typically lasts just several minutes and occurs when an individual begins to shift from wakefulness to actual sleep. Brain waves begin to slow here, the heart rate lowers, and muscles start to relax.

Stage 2 sleep involves even more dramatic relaxation of the muscles, as well as continued lowered heart rate and decreased body temperature. Deep sleep, or Stage 3 sleep, is crucial when it comes to cellular repair processes. This is when the body and the brain are at their most relaxed. When individuals enter into a deep sleep, they don’t typically dream because cerebral activity is largely halted.

REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, on the other hand, is the stage of sleep where most dreaming episodes take place. In a physiological sense, REM sleep (which typically occurs about an hour and a half after someone falls asleep) involves several peculiar – albeit entirely normal – processes.

The eyes shift quickly behind the eyelids from side to side, breathing becomes erratic, and heart rate and blood pressure levels rise considerably compared to non-REM sleep stages. Again, based on the above-cited research, CBD does not appear to directly affect any specific stage of the sleep-wake cycle.

Final Thoughts on CBD, Nightmares, and Bad Dreams

All in all, there is little concern (and zero scientific evidence) that CBD oil causes nightmares or bad dreams. While there are plenty of reports of individuals experiencing weird dreams after taking CBD, there is nothing to support the notion that CBD specifically causes the problems.

That being said, always remember to use CBD responsibly, and try and do plenty of research before making any purchases to find the safest, highest quality, most reliable CBD products you can afford.

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