This article was originally published by VICE Netherlands
Another thing that happens when you give up the green, doesn’t affect your wallet so much as it does your brain: That’s your dreams. A few days after I quit smoking weed for the first time, I started dreaming again and those dreams seemed more vivid than ever. I realised that as a stoner, I actually hardly ever dreamt at all, and that the few dreams I had weren’t half as intense as my dreams these days. What’s up with that?
According to Dr. Hamburger, this resurgence of dreams happens because weed suppresses your REM sleep. When you put your rolling papers, pipe or vapourizers away for a while, your REM sleep suddenly gets the free reign it had before you became a superficially sleeping stoner
Because I’m not a somnologist myself, I asked doctor Hamburger what REM sleep exactly is: “Every night, you go through about four or five sleep cycles. Each cycle takes about ninety minutes, during which you go through different phases. There’s superficial sleep, deep sleep and finally REM sleep. During that REM period, you have most of your dreams. You don’t usually remember your dreams if you continue sleeping. The last REM period just before you wake up takes the longest – and you’ll only remember the dreams you had in that time if you wake up during it. If you don’t wake up during the REM period, you won’t remember a thing.”
Alcohol, surprisingly, has the opposite effect: If you go to bed shitfaced, the phases of REM sleep last longer. That is not to say that drinking two bottles of vodka before going to bed will help you get a good night’s sleep. “Too much alcohol suppresses the deep sleep and gives you more REM sleep, but it makes you more restless and wake up more often. If you drink way too much, you’ll be twisting and turning all night and keep waking up,” says Hamburger.
Anyway, back to smoking weed. The effect weed has on your night’s rest is clear. But why are your dreams so hyper realistic and feverish after you stop smoking weed? Hamburger explains that this is called the “rebound effect”: “If you’ve been taking a drug that suppresses a certain phenomenon for a while, then that phenomenon will come back stronger when you stop using that drug. That’s what we call ‘the rebound effect’ – which is also noticeable in people who take a lot of sleeping pills. If they stop taking those, they often get very strange and intense dreams. That is also often the reason why people keep taking those sleeping pills – they become dependent on them, which is to say, addicted.”
I decided to call Dr. Hans Hamburger, neurologist, somnologist (sleep expert) and head of Holland Sleep Research – a specialist research centre for sleep disorders in the Netherlands.
Illustrations by Timo ter Braak
The less you give your brain the change to sort this shit out during REM sleep, the more dazed and confused you are during the day. This may explain why the seasoned stoner will often put off tasks and decisions until the very last minute: you failed to anticipate these issues properly, which is why you’re late filing your taxes again, or can’t remember where you left your house keys.
Original journalistik og dokumentarfilm om alt det, der betyder noget.