Sleep is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about magic mushrooms. While yawning can be a common side effect, the stimulation of a trip often pushes the thought of sleep to the background. The experience provided by psilocybin is not unlike a waking dream, though the similarities between the two situations continue well beyond the visuals they’re able to project onto your mind’s eye.
The direct effect of magic mushrooms on sleep
Perhaps the most well-known effect of psychedelics on the sleep of its users is the propensity for wild dreams:
“Even when I close my eyes and feel like the [acid] trip has run its course, my mind is still operating at an elevated activity level, I sat in a dark room, but I could still see light. I’d close my eyes and could see flashes of electricity.”
This outcome is probably due to the influence of psilocybin on the serotonin system. This neurotransmitter (a chemical that allows your brain to think) powers the parts of your brain associated with happiness, well-being, learning, and cognition. It also has strong connections to dreaming; namely the speed and frequency of shifts between phases of sleep.
The bulk of vivid dreams occur in the phase known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Research demonstrates that alterations of the serotonin system—SSRIs for the treatment of depression—can modify the time spent in REM sleep each night. The same effect is expected of classic psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms; you may find your dreams intense and vivid, or unremarkably dull or even nonexistent.
The connection between a psilocybin trip and dreaming
When researchers look at the brain images of patients tripping on psilocybin, they describe the pattern as similar to dreaming states—increased “volume” of activity in regions associated with sleep and primitive emotion. Further, when the drug is administered during or just before sleep, it seems to induce higher activity levels during REM sleep, confirming their connection.
Psychedelics have the capacity to blur lines between dreams and reality, with distortions of time and memory to match. While the realization that you’re dreaming only rarely saves you from a nightmare; a reminder that “it’s just a mushroom, it will end” often helps to soothe a bad trip.
Magic mushrooms and sleep
When it comes to sleep, there are two main things to keep in mind when taking magic mushrooms:
- Don’t expect to sleep on shrooms. While Dr. Carhart-Harris mentions above that psilocybin was administered to some patients before sleep, the situation is out of the norm. Make sure to give yourself enough time, at least 6-8 hours, between taking mushrooms and bedtime.
- Be prepared for vivid dreams. A very common side-effect, this outcome may ignite a trip-like dream—or equally intense nightmare. Yet another reason to avoid sleep after dosing, and gives a reason to trip in the morning!