When deciding whether to use a psychedelic substance, it’s helpful to consider not just how it’ll affect you in the moment but also what its aftereffects might be. And while mushrooms thankfully don’t tend to come with a comedown—like people often associate with MDMA—shroom experiences do vary in terms of how easy it is to sleep afterward.
“Anecdotal reports from users of psilocybin frequently describe difficulties falling and staying asleep immediately after taking hallucinogenic mushrooms,” says Matthew X. Lowe, PhD, Executive Director of Unlimited Sciences. But is this always the case, and can anything be done to prevent it? Read on for a guide to shrooms and sleep.
Sleeping on Shrooms—Is It Possible?
While it is possible to fall asleep under the influence of mushrooms, it may be more challenging than usual, especially if you take shrooms shortly before bed. “Taking hallucinogenic mushrooms can promote alertness and wakefulness in the hours immediately following ingestion,” says Lowe. “It is not recommended to take psilocybin-containing mushrooms immediately prior to sleeping.” However, he adds, “sleep typically returns to normal once the effects of psilocybin subside.”
A 2020 study in Frontiers in Pharmacology illuminates the effects of shrooms on sleep. For the experiment, people took either shrooms or a placebo and went to sleep after the effects wore off. Those who had taken shrooms took longer to reach REM sleep than those who received a placebo. However, their sleep quality and continuity (ability to stay asleep) did not suffer. Not everyone will experience this same pattern, though. “Some people can fall asleep [after taking shrooms], but they may wake up frequently, and the overall quality of sleep and restfulness is therefore lacking,” says Dr. James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Sleeping on Shrooms 101
According to Xiaojue Hu, MD, a psychiatrist and clinician-researcher at the NYU Center for Psychedelic Medicine, mushroom trips tend to last around four to six hours. So, if you’re planning a shroom trip, it’s best to start it at least six hours before your bedtime to minimize the chances that your sleep will be affected. Giordano recommends starting even earlier, especially if you are new to shrooms, so you can get a sense of how long you need to come down. Because the serotonin system in the brain sometimes takes time to recalibrate after tripping, he suggests planning your trip so that you sleep five or more hours after you come down.
Other than that, those wanting to ensure as restful a night’s sleep as possible after taking shrooms would benefit from avoiding screens right before bed, getting out in nature, taking a bath, or drinking relaxing herbal teas like chamomile, says Hu. It also helps to tell yourself it’s okay not to fall asleep immediately, as worrying about not sleeping can be counterproductive.
“If you’re feeling activated from some emotional content that came up during the mushroom trip and feel like you need to talk to someone about it, sometimes briefly processing some of that with a trusted person can also help,” Hu says. “I would advise discernment about choosing whom to share your mushroom experiences with, and I would definitely advise avoiding social media that night.”
Could Mushrooms Facilitate Sleep?
While shrooms can disrupt sleep for some, others might fall asleep while acutely under the influence of shrooms. “The wisdom I hear from underground therapists around that experience is for the person to not judge that it’s happening—like anything that happens in a psychedelic experience—and to trust that if they’re sleeping, it might be what their body is needing in order to process the psychedelic experience,” says Hu. “It’s possible that people can still be doing a lot of emotional processing while they’re unconscious, especially in the dream space.”
In addition, some people report improved sleep after microdosing mushrooms, sometimes even after just one dose, says Giordano, which may be related to psilocybin’s activation of the brain’s serotonin system. “Individuals who are traveling in a way that disrupts their circadian rhythm may be able to generate some benefit for their sleep-wake cycle by microdosing mushrooms because they won’t be circadian-desynchronized during the day,” he adds.
Even at higher doses, the psychological effects of mushrooms might make sleeping easier for some. “A lot of people, once they are down from shrooms, feel relatively fulfilled, cognitively enhanced, and energized, and then that tapers into a sense of mellowness,” says Giordano.
Is it Safe to Sleep After Taking Shrooms?
It is generally safe to sleep while you’re on shrooms or after taking them, as long as you are in a safe place, says Hu. A possible risk, which would be rare, is that if someone becomes nauseated after taking mushrooms, they could theoretically vomit in their sleep, causing vomit to get into the lungs, says Giordano. So, take caution falling asleep on mushrooms if you are experiencing nausea. Giordano says shrooms could also potentially exacerbate sleep disorders like severe sleep apnea or sleepwalking. However, this is unlikely to be dangerous unless injuries are incurred during sleepwalking.
Do Magic Mushrooms Affect Dreaming?
“According to various theories on psychedelics, they’re supposed to lower our inhibitions to our unconscious and allow us more direct access to unconscious material,” Hu explains. “Dreams being ‘the royal road to the unconscious,’ as Freud put it—, they can definitely be impacted by psychedelic experiences from mushrooms.” Themes that came up during the mushroom trip may pop up again in your dreams, so Hu recommends paying attention to your dreams and possibly talking about them with a therapist or guide as part of the integration process.
Some find that their dreams are more vivid after psilocybin use. “Lots of people will dream in vivid colors,” says Giordano. “The imagery can be very strong, which can mean the cognitive emotions experienced with such vivid imagery can be stronger.” This can make for more blissful dreams as well as scarier nightmares. Someone with night terrors might want to be cautious about sleeping soon after taking shrooms, as their dreams may become scarier due to psilocybin’s rebound activating effect on the brain’s norepinephrine system, Giordano says.
While there isn’t much research on the topic, there are also some anecdotal reports of people experiencing lucid dreams—where you know you’re sleeping and have control over the dreams—after taking mushrooms, says Lowe.
Long-Term Effects of Psilocybin on Sleep
The effects of shrooms on sleep appear to be short-lived—if the early, albeit limited, research is any indication. “Research has not found that psilocybin has negative, long-term implications on sleep,” says Lowe. Still, for some, it may be possible for excessive psilocybin use to disrupt sleep in the long term due to dysregulation of the serotonin system, which can affect the availability of melatonin in your brain. “Continued use at higher doses of shrooms can cause some changes in your serotonergic neurochemistry and physiology, which may be disruptive to your sleep cycle,” says Giordano. “It’ll disrupt REM sleep so you can sleep, but the quality may be compromised.”
If you find yourself having difficulty sleeping after repeated use of mushrooms, Giordano recommends taking at least ten days off them and seeing if your sleep improves. If not, then it may not be the shrooms.
On the other hand, it’s also possible for shrooms to improve some people’s sleep in the long run by lessening the symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. “From what we know about the therapeutic impact of psilocybin on people with depression and anxiety, conditions where people often experience a lot of issues with sleep, we can hypothesize that psilocybin can probably help with sleep in people whose sleep issues stem from those emotional conditions,” says Hu. “Not every depressed and anxious person will benefit from psilocybin, however, so I think the impact on sleep will depend on psilocybin’s impact on their other symptoms as well.”
On the same token, someone with a mental health condition that impedes sleep could potentially experience an uptick in symptoms, including sleep issues, after taking shrooms. For instance, psychedelics could trigger a manic episode for someone who has Bipolar Disorder or is susceptible to it, leading to difficulties with sleep, says Hu.
“Another scenario is when a psilocybin experience can stir up or initiate some deeper emotional processes that may increase anxiety and emotional distress in the short term before that process is hopefully worked through and integrated,” she adds. “For example, if someone accesses certain traumatic memories during their psilocybin experience that they haven’t fully processed before, this may increase their emotional distress, and that may negatively impact their sleep.” If someone experiences this, Hu recommends seeking integration support and using this challenge as an opportunity to heal wounds that the mushrooms may have brought to the surface.
“For some people, this kind of distress may persist long-term, perhaps due to a lack of access to appropriate support, and their sleep may be proportionately impacted,” she adds. “This is why it’s so important to be thoughtful when deciding about whether or not to have a psilocybin experience and to ensure that one has access to appropriate integration and support afterwards.”