Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many naturally occurring chemicals in the cannabis plant. Today, people take CBD for all sorts of reasons. Its popularity isn’t hard to understand given what we know about its ability to treat anxiety, depression, pain, inflammation and more.
What about side effects? To the extent that there are any, they tend to be mild. Common ones include diarrhea, changes in appetite and sleepiness. You may also have heard anecdotal reports about CBD’s effects on dreams.
For example, some individuals claim that CBD gives them more vivid and memorable dreams. Others report experiencing bad nightmares. There is even a theory that CBD can be used to provoke lucid dreams.
Is there anything to this? Well, since it’s not possible to verify or disprove anecdotes, all we can do is look at the science.
What to know about CBD
When most people hear the word cannabis, they think of marijuana. It’s true that CBD is certainly an important ingredient in marijuana, but it is also found in high concentrations in industrial hemp.
Unlike marijuana, hemp does not make you high. That’s because it contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
In other words, CBD is non-intoxicating. Therefore, any CBD product that contains little or no THC—like those from Crescent Canna—will not get you stoned. That is an important fact to keep in mind when discussing CBD’s effects on dreams.
CBD and sleep
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear yet, CBD appears to function as a natural sleep aid. One possibility is that it binds to receptors in our endocannabinoid system that have a direct influence on sleep patterns and sleep cycles. Another is that CBD nurtures a chemical in our brains that helps regulate sleep.
Yet another possibility—one that’s easier for us laypeople to make sense of—is that CBD improves sleep hygiene by alleviating common sources of insomnia (anxiety, pain, inflammation, seizures, etc.).
In any case, studies have demonstrated that CBD can help us fall and stay asleep. In one of them, published in 2018, the effects of several cannabis strains were tested on hundreds of insomnia patients. The study found that strains with higher levels of CBD were better at treating insomnia than strains with higher levels of THC.
In a more recent study, CBD was shown to markedly improve sleep scores in people with anxiety, particularly in the first month of treatment.
Sleep stages and CBD
Sleep is divided into two main categories: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. There are three stages of non-REM sleep. The first covers the five or ten minutes after you begin to doze off. In the second stage, which lasts up to 25 minutes, your heart rate and body temperature drop as your body prepares to enter a deep sleep.
Stage 3 is the deepest phase of sleep. Known as “delta sleep,” this is the period in which your body repairs your tissues and muscles, and reinforces your immune system.
About 90 minutes after you fall asleep, you begin to cycle through phases of REM. And this is where things get interesting. During these REM phases—which vary in length—your breathing, heart rate, and brain activity all increase significantly. This spike in brain activity, as you can imagine, results in more intense dreams.
So where does CBD fit in? Why do some people report experiencing weird dreams after ingesting it?
There is no research into this specific question, but it seems logical enough when you consider that CBD promotes better sleep habits. If you’re sleeping well, you’re spending a lot of time in REM. And the more time you spend there, the more vivid and intense your dreams are going to be.
Whether CBD somehow increases your ability to recall those dreams upon waking up is an intriguing question—the answer to which appears to vary from person to person.