Have you ever dreamt that you were being chased by some malicious creature? That you were standing butt naked in front of your friends, parents, and grandparents? That you were having a steamy love affair with Barack Obama, and Michelle found out and tried to murder you?
We all have dreams every now and then that are so vivid they wake us up screaming, sweating, or sexually aroused. But, as is the same with any other life experience or biological process, these vivid dreams can be intensified and mutated by drugs. In fact, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and MDMA all affect our sleepytime fantasies in very unique and remarkable ways.
Here's how they influence your dreams:
Dreams are: intense and intricate.
A couple of vodka tonics can induce some intense and powerful dreams. The stage of our sleep cycle in which we dream, REM (or rapid eye movement), occurs during about 20 percent of our sleep cycle when we’re sober. But when we’re hammered, the alcohol suppresses our REM cycle. We may pass out the second we hit the pillow, but we won’t have a single dream until all of the alcohol in our body has been metabolized, about 4 or 5 hours later. When the alcohol has finally been taken care of, our REM comes back with a vengeance: this is called “REM rebound.” Our brains drastically boost the duration of our REM cycle, making our dreams longer and more intricate. Also, because REM rebound occurs in the latter half of our slumber and we’re very easily awoken from REM, we’re far more likely to wake up remembering all of the lucid details of our dreams.
Dreams are: nonexistent.
Among the 4 stages of sleep, we spend the most time in REM and slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep). THC lengthens the amount of time our brains spend in deep sleep and leaves us robbed of all our REM. Weed actually has a tendency to suppress REM so much that our sleep is entirely dreamless. However, if you’re a heavy smoker trying to quit the piff cabbage, you can expect REM-rebound to hit you like a ton of bricks.
Dreams are: missing in action if you're a recreational user, but also fucking terrifying if you're trying to quit it.
Cocaine takes our desire to sleep and mercilessly destroys it. Our girl snow-white works by blocking our brains’ ability to reabsorb dopamine, leaving an excess of happy chemicals swimming around in our noggins. This results in a manic burst of energy that positively fucks with our circadian rhythms. Ordinarily, our circadian rhythms are our “natural clocks” that tell our bodies to wake when the sun rises and sleep when the sun sets. Every bump of cocaine resets our clock back to the beginning (the way the morning sun is supposed to) and can permanently disrupt our sleep cycles. Just like with marijuana, cocaine suppresses REM enough to make our slumber devoid of dreams. The only difference is, with cocaine, REM rebound is particularly gruesome. Many people quitting blow report horrifying nightmares as their brains try to re-establish normal chemical activity.
Dreams are: more fucked up than Kelly at the sorority wine mixer.
Of all the drugs we researched, molly can have the most horrendous effect on your dreams. A molly binge can induce night terrors and sleep paralysis far after the drugs have left your system. Post-molly night terrors are more intense than your everyday nightmares — they’re remarkably vivid episodes that wake you up screaming, thrashing around in sheer panic, or leaping out of bed. Post-molly sleep paralysis occurs when your night terrors make you physically powerless to fight against your horrifying fantasies. Sleep paralysis leaves you completely unable to move or speak as you’re waking from your nightmares. The same chemical process that molly uses to give you a euphoric high — a severe alteration in levels of serotonin — is precisely what causes these night terrors and sleep paralysis. As your brain tries to rectify your fuck-up and normalize its chemical balance, you could be in for weeks or even months of traumatic nightmares.
Our dreams and the period of sleep in which we produce them are essential to being happy, functional human beings. Practically any substance we put into our bodies is going to toy with the chemical balance in our brains and affect us in the dead of night as our minds attempt to regain equilibrium. Whether it’s alcohol inducing REM-rebound and conceiving vivid dreams right before waking, marijuana and cocaine suppressing REM and making our sleep a dreamless void, or MDMA causing petrifying night terrors, dose and dream at your own risk.