07 Sep Nightmares due to food or cannabis withdrawal
Have you ever noticed that eating before sleep can bring on nightmares? Last night, I was so tired, I fell asleep with the light on, and got up in the early hours to turn it off. I was feeling peckish, and decided to have a piece of toast with honey. I knew then, that I would end up having a nightmare in the night, and I did!
Why does eating before sleep make you have nightmares? Apparently it is because it stimulates your metabolism, and therefore your brain activity, and so, your brain is more active in sleep, giving you dreams and nightmares.
Cannabis withdrawal and REM
There are other reasons why you might have vivid dreams or nightmares. People who are giving up cannabis find that their vivid dreams and nightmares can last for six to seven months after they have quit this drug.
This is because smoking pot reduces REM sleep patterns and lengthens SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) patterns. Smoking weed introduces cannabinoids to the brain, so when you quit cannabis you have low levels of natural cannabinoids in the brain.
Stages of sleep
When you quit cannabis, you may experience REM rebound. There are four stages of sleep. Stage three is REM and stage four is SWS. When doing through withdrawal from cannabis, one might go straight to REM, increasing the amount of vivid dreams.
You actually rest in the fourth cycle of sleep, the SWS, and you get less of that sort of sleep with lower levels of cannabinoids, so that is why it can feel as though you have barely rested when you have been dreaming all night in REM.
Apparently the sleep disturbances can last for 6 – 7 weeks, but I found that I was having intermittent nightmares and sleep disturbances for a lot longer than that.
Now, I just know that if I eat before bed, I am sure to dream of something bizarre, like a police shoot out with laser guns in a cafe, and a back entry into a hotel on the run, to find a seat at a bar, with a meaningful song, and a vice grip around my wrist.
Wake up!! It is a dream!
References: Feinberg (1975).