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.