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While some perceive the practice of microdosing psilocybin as a nootropic (a cognitive enhancer), others may argue that it instead works as a hypnotic (sleep inducer). There is no doubt that microdosing helps people overcome anxiety and become more creative and focused, but does it help with sleep?
Reports claiming that microdosing improves symptoms of insomnia birthed the Nightcap Protocol, a practice of taking a regular microdose before going to bed.
This practice sparks a great debate; some claim that psilocybin can negatively impact sleep quality, potentially disrupting the delicate balance of hormonal secretion that occurs before sleep. Let's explore the various perspectives and come to the truth.
With most mainstream microdosing protocols, you take your dose in the morning and observe the effects throughout the day. The Nightcap Protocol is different. According to some online reports, microdosing before going to sleep may ease the process of falling asleep and even treat insomnia in some cases.
Here's how the Nightcap Protocol works: you take your dose approximately an hour before you plan to fall asleep. This way, the effects kick in while you're sleeping, hopefully making your sleep deeper and more refreshing.
There are two popular ways to microdose with this protocol.
The first one follows the standard Fadiman Protocol, and the only difference is that you'll be dosing in the evening. Take your dose on the first and fourth nights, with a two-day break in between. This also goes on for four to eight weeks, followed by a rest period of two to four weeks.
The second method allows you to take your dose every other night. For example, microdose on the first night, take a break on the second, microdose on the third, and rest on the fourth night. Repeat this for four to eight weeks, and then take a break to prevent building up a tolerance.
Keep in mind that taking too much psilocybin can make it hard to fall asleep. For this reason, it is important to find your ideal dose. Thus, some advise that it's not the best idea to start with this protocol if you're a complete beginner to microdosing.
This question opens up a debate. Some oppose the idea of microdosing at night stating that psilocybin can negatively impact sleeping patterns. At the same time, others claim that microdosing helped them cure insomnia. Let's take a look at what the science has to say.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that modulates neural activity. Together with dopamine, it plays an important role in sleep quality. It determines how well and how long you'll sleep. Without serotonin, your brain wouldn't be able to make melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Psilocybin is structurally similar to this neurotransmitter, thus it activates serotonin receptors primarily in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls perception and mood. By latching onto these receptors, psilocybin simulates the effects of serotonin. However, if too much serotonin is secreted it can cause euphoria and intense feelings of joy, which may keep you awake at night.
A recent animal study, conducted in 2022, showed that magic mushrooms may destabilize and cause fragmentation in sleep patterns, especially in the initial hours after the dosage. While this study offers valuable insights, it's important to remember that findings in mice may not directly translate to humans. The dosage also plays an important factor, as microdosing revolves around taking small, sub-psychedelic doses. Thus the intensity of these euphoric and uplifting effects will at most be mild.
There are five stages of sleep, but only the last one is important for dreaming. This stage is known as REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). REM sleep, also known as active or desynchronized sleep, is when most dreams occur.
Scientists believe that psilocybin mushrooms induce an 'awake' dream state in people. The reason behind this is that these mushrooms induce brain states that are normally only experienced during sleeping. Does this mean that microdosing psilocybin improves sleep quality? It's uncertain, as the intensity of these effects may depend on the dosage.
As you might already know, studies on microdosing are limited. However, a recent study from June 2023, explored the possibility of increasing sleep duration by microdosing LSD. In this study, 80 adults received either a microdose or a placebo every third day.
Data shows that on the night of microdosing, participants in the LSD group slept longer compared to those who took the placebo. A phase 2 clinical trial is being prepared and hopefully, we will see some promising insights into the potential benefits of microdosing on sleep.
While the practice of microdosing on its own does not create any adverse effects in healthy people, some medical researchers claim that it may pose a potential risk of misuse and addiction, although these speculations lack of evidence and research.
When it comes to microdosing at night, the only real threats to a peaceful night's sleep are the “vivid dreams” many people are reporting. For some, vivid dreams may be a pleasurable experience, especially if they’re active dreamers. On the other hand, some people might find these dreams a bit overwhelming.
If you're struggling with sleep and considering microdosing as a potential solution, the Nightcap Protocol may be a good option for you. For further exploration of different microdosing protocols check our article here.