Sleep quality

Forget Counting Sheep, Try LSD: Microdosing Study Shows Significant Improvement in Sleep Quality

A recent study published in Translational Psychiatry has revealed that microdosing with LSD can significantly improve sleep quality, including earlier bedtimes and longer sleep durations. 

This research adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that psychedelics when used in controlled clinical settings, can have substantial health benefits.

“Results show a clear modification of the physiological sleep requirements in healthy male volunteers who microdose LSD,” research authors wrote. “The clear, clinically significant changes in objective measurements of sleep observed are difficult to explain as a placebo effect.” 

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), often known colloquially as “acid,” is a powerful psychedelic drug that, at sufficiently high doses, can induce altered states of consciousness in a user, including potent visual and auditory hallucinations. 

First synthesized in the late 1930s, LSD was initially used in psychiatric research during the 1950s and 60s for its potential for treating various mental health conditions. It was also infamously explored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a potential mind control tool or interrogation aid and by the U.S. Army as a form of psychochemical warfare

Due to its widespread recreational use and the subsequent sociopolitical backlash, in 1968, LSD was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, making it illegal for medical and recreational use. 

However, in recent years, there has been renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, including LSD. In March 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the first-ever “breakthrough therapy” designation to an LSD-based drug for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. 

Microdosing, the practice of taking small amounts of psychedelics, has gained popularity in recent years, primarily for its purported benefits in overall well-being without the mind-altering side effects. 

Microdosing has been the subject of numerous studies in recent years. However, one area that has been virtually ignored is the effect of LSD microdosing on a user’s sleep patterns. 

Before these recent findings, only a single empirical study, performed nearly 60 years ago, objectively measured the impact of microdosing on sleep quality. The study found that LSD significantly increased REM duration. However, the overall qualitative aspects of sleep, such as duration, were not explored. 

To help close the knowledge gap on LSD microdosing and sleep quality, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted a double-blind parallel-groups trial involving 80 healthy male volunteers aged 25 to 60. 

Participants were randomly assigned to either receive a microdose of LSD or a placebo for six weeks. Those in the microdosing group took 10 micrograms of LSD every third day. The participants’ sleep patterns were then closely monitored using Fitbit devices.

The results were striking. On nights following the microdosing days, participants fell asleep about 25 minutes earlier and slept an average of 24 minutes longer than those in the placebo group. Additionally, the duration of their REM sleep, a critical phase of sleep for cognitive functions, increased by an average of 8 minutes.

Intriguingly, researchers found that participants in the LSD group only showed improved sleep quality when they had taken a microdose on the previous day. This same group demonstrated no changes in their sleep patterns on the first night after microdosing.

Researchers hypothesized that a potential explanation for the extra “Dose +1 sleep requirement” could stem from the drug modifying participants’ physical activity patterns on the day of microdosing. However, analysis of Fitbit data did not reveal a significant difference in participants’ average baseline physical activity on day 1 or day 2 of microdoses. 

Ultimately, these results leave a lingering mystery surrounding the exact mechanisms behind the interaction between LSD microdosing and sleep quality. 

Nevertheless, researchers underscored the importance of their findings, noting that the extra 24 minutes of sleep participants received on the Dose +1 night was not only statistically significant but also clinically meaningful compared to the sleep quality of the placebo control group. 

The results, though not fully understood, suggest that future LSD microdosing therapies might be more effective with an every-other-day dosing schedule rather than a daily regimen. 

“Practically speaking, this result has implications for both the design of therapeutic microdosing protocols with LSD and their potential therapeutic mechanism of action,” researchers wrote. “Pragmatically, the unexpected finding of the extra sleep required after microdosing suggests that it is important for microdosing protocols to have at least one day “off” between doses to ensure that patients are well rested/recovered before the next microdose is taken.” 

Despite the promising results, the researchers acknowledge that their study had limitations. All participants were healthy males, so the findings might not be generalizable to women or individuals with health conditions. Additionally, the study did not collect subjective sleep quality data, leaving an open question about how the observed changes translate into perceived restfulness and overall well-being.

Ultimately, the findings from this study are not just isolated observations. They are part of a more significant trend of research exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. For instance, a 2021 study conducted by researchers at Yale University found that administering a single dose of psilocybin to lab mice resulted in immediate and long-lasting increases in neural connections. 

Additionally, the significant statistical and clinical impact that LSD microdosing had on participants’ sleep quality could represent an important milestone in psychedelic research.

Since the resurgence of interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics in recent years, researchers have been divided on whether microdosing drugs like LSD or psilocybin provide any meaningful benefits. Numerous past studies have often concluded that the subjective “mystical experience” and altered states of consciousness are vital to unlocking the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. 

In a 2022 placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers found that controlled microdosing of psilocybin failed to relieve symptoms associated with anxiety or depression. 

“The consensus [is] you need the subjective effects, or the altered states of consciousness, to get the full and enduring benefits from these drugs,” study co-author and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Konstanz, George Fejer, told The Debrief. “These effects are quite dose-specific, and I think that it is a disadvantage of microdosing that it does not aim to facilitate explicit changes in subjective experience. Even if we only consider the neurochemical interactions, I think larger doses are more likely to yield positive effects, in which case the experience is a very important therapeutic modality to work with.” 

While admittedly skeptical of microdosing, Fejer acknowledged that psychedelic research is still primarily in its infancy, and ongoing studies like those by University of Auckland researchers could have a significant impact on shaping our understanding of psychedelics and mental health. 

As the stigma surrounding psychedelics continues to diminish, more research is likely to follow, potentially leading to new therapeutic applications. For now, this study offers a fascinating glimpse into the potential benefits of psychedelic therapy, particularly in their ability to enhance sleep quality.

Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the Intelligence Community and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan.  Tim can be reached by email: or through encrypted email: