Home > Psychiatry > ECNP 2022 > Psilocybin > Antidepressant properties of psilocybin might be related to changes in sleep

Antidepressant properties of psilocybin might be related to changes in sleep

Presented by
Dr Tomas Palenicek, National Institute of Mental Health, Czech Republic
ECNP 2022
A Czech study evaluated the effect of the psychedelic antidepressant psilocybin on sleep architecture and neuroplasticity. In healthy controls, a single administration of psilocybin enhanced REM sleep latency, increased subjective sleep latency, and decreased slow-wave activity expression.

Both disturbances of sleep and poor concentration or indecisiveness are symptoms associated with depression [1]. On a neurobiological level, depression is associated with disturbed neuroplasticity and synaptic dysconnectivity [2]. The serotonergic agonist psilocybin is a psychedelic with antidepressant potential [3]. Additional to its antidepressant properties, psilocybin may modify sleep quality via induction of neuroplasticity.

Dr Tomas Palenicek (National Institute of Mental Health, Czech Republic) and colleagues hypothesised that psilocybin, similar to other classical antidepressants, would reduce REM sleep and prolong REM sleep latency the night after its administration [4]. Moreover, they hypothesised that psilocybin would promote slow-wave activity expression in the first sleep cycle, as a marker of sleep-related neuroplasticity. This was tested in 20 healthy volunteers who underwent 2 drug administration sessions of either psilocybin (0.26 mg/kg) or placebo in a randomised, double-blind design.

All participants mentioned a profound psychedelic experience and positive effects on mood and well-being after psilocybin administration. The study results revealed a prolonged REM sleep latency after psilocybin administration and a trend toward a decrease in overall REM sleep duration. No changes in non-REM sleep were observed. Psilocybin administration did not affect EEG power spectra in non-REM or REM sleep when examined across the whole night. In addition, and contrary to the hypothesis, psilocybin did not promote but rather suppressed slow-wave activity in the first sleep cycle. So, no evidence was found for sleep-related neuroplasticity induced by psilocybin.

“Overall, this study suggests that potential antidepressant properties of psilocybin might be related to changes in sleep quality. However, the results do not support a role for psilocybin in changes in neuroplasticity,” concluded Dr Palenicek.

  1. Riemann D, et al. Neuropsychopharmacol. 2020;45:74–89.
  2. Abdallah CG, et al. Annu Rev Med. 2015;66:509–523.
  3. Carhart-Harris R, et al. N Eng J Med. 2021;384:1402–1411.
  4. Palenicek T, et al. The effects of daytime psilocybin administration on sleep: implications for antidepressant action. Abstract S03.04, ECNP Congress 2022, 15–18 October, Vienna, Austria.


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