The magical and potent hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) may have a new, clinically significant medical benefit: getting sleep. A new study, entitled “LSD Increases Sleep Duration the Night After Microdosing,” was published June 28 by researchers associated with the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
Results showed a significant improvement in sleep patterns, but that particular benefit took a day to kick in, after the initial effects wear off.
Researchers observed 80 healthy adult male volunteers over a six week time period as they took either LSD (10 µg) or placebo with doses self-administered every third day. There’s a reason for this. As MAPS notes, a solid tolerance of the effects of LSD develops and won’t wear off until 2 or 3 consecutive days.
Researchers used the microdose range in the study. The normal recreational dose range of LSD—50-250 μg—is still a small dose compared to other hallucinogens, but with a much more profound effect.
A “clinically significant” improvement in sleep patterns the next day was observed, including improvements in REM sleep time, the stage of sleep when most dreams happen and when dreams are more vivid.
Improved Sleep Time
“In this study it was found that participants in the LSD group had significantly increased sleep time compared to participants in the placebo group when they had taken a microdose the previous day, but no differences were found the night of the dose,” researchers noted. “These differences corresponded to an extra 8 minutes of REM sleep, 21 minutes of sleep time and 24 minutes of total sleep time the night after microdosing with no differences in sleep on the microdosing day itself with participants going to bed earlier the night after microdosing.”
The study was written by authors Nathan Allen, Aron Jeremiah, Robin Murphy, Rachael Sumner, Anna Forsyth, Nicholas Hoeh, David B Menkes, William Evans, Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, Frederick Sundram, and Partha Roop.
The authors continued, “There were no differences in the ratio of time spent in each sleep stage, nor were there detectable differences in the physical activity of participants between the groups or evidence of tolerance/sensation.”
The researchers explained that the purpose of microdosing compounds like LSD or psilocybin below the threshold to induce hallucinations has profound implications in psychotherapy, which includes improving mood and well-being, reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as potentially enhancing creativity and productivity.
LSD is complex and can have both stimulant and depressant effects.
They used a commercially available sleep/activity tracker to keep track of sleep duration during the study. Data from numerous nights of sleep showed that on the night after microdosing participants in the LSD group slept an extra 24.3 minutes per night compared to placebo. There were no reductions of sleep observed on the dosing day itself.
Implications for LSD in Medicine
“These results show clear modification of the physiological sleep requirements in healthy volunteers who microdose, and may have implications for the proposed therapeutic effects of microdosing in mood disorders such as major depressive disorder where sleep is frequently disturbed. The clear, clinically significant, changes in objective measurements of sleep observed are difficult to explain as a placebo effect.”
The authors noted that several microdosing studies have provided some subjective reporting around sleep quality. These studies tend to show bidirectional effects, with both improvements and difficulties in sleeping reported.
Meanwhile, the data aligns with confirmatory positive sleep responses reported by MindBio Therapeutics earlier this month. In that study, 80 clinical trial participants were given either a microdose of LSD or a placebo.
Also in 2022 a New York-based biotech firm has begun a clinical trial to study LSD as a treatment for anxiety.