Why You Don’t Dream After Smoking Weed

Article by Bethy Squires, Broadly


You’d think getting blazed out of your mind would encourage crazy dreams, but the opposite is actually true. If fear is the mind-killer, as the stoner-classic novel Dune posits, then weed is the dream-killer. But when you stop smoking, your dreams may come back with a vengeance.

“On the few occasions that I don’t go to sleep stoned, my dreams are super intense,” says Rod*. “I always thought it had something to do with having used up all my mental imaging faculties being high.”

Good news for Rod, your brain doesn’t actually run out of pretty pictures, but smoking pot does change where those pictures come from. To understand this, you first have to look at sleep itself.

“Sleep is divided into several different stages,” says Dr. Elliott Lee of the Royal Sleep Disorders Clinic in Ottawa. Lee says that these stages can be lumped into two basic categories. “There’s REM [Rapid Eye Movement] sleep, sometimes called dreaming sleep. Everything else is non-REM sleep.”

Non-REM (NREM) sleep comes in three flavors: N1 sleep is when you’re just dozing off, transitioning from awake to asleep; N3, also called slow wave sleep (SWS), is “the most physically and mentally restorative,” according to Lee; N2 sleep occurs when you transition from one stage of sleep to another, say from N1 to REM, or from REM to N3—it’s the cream in your sleep Oreo.

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