If you're thinking about trying ketamine therapy, you may be wondering, “will ketamine help sleep?” You may be asking yourself this if you are someone who struggles with sleep or you’re concerned that ketamine might negatively impact your sleep in some way.
The truth is that the relationship between ketamine and sleep is complex. Taking ketamine at a clinic is quite different from taking the substance recreationally, for example, and this can end up changing how ketamine affects your sleep.
In this post, we explain the contexts in which ketamine can help sleep, and the ways in which it may interrupt high-quality sleep.
A range of mental disorders can have a negative impact on sleep. These conditions include the following:
It's also the case that poor sleep can be a contributing factor in the symptoms of these disorders. Sleep deprivation and lower quality sleep can worsen depression, for instance. This creates a negative feedback loop, where poor sleep makes depression worse, which disrupts sleep even more, and so on.
The above disorders can co-occur with insomnia, which is a condition where you find it hard to fall asleep, you wake up several times during the night, and you feel tired during the day. Around three-quarters of people with depression have insomnia symptoms. This makes sleep problems a core symptom of depression. Insomnia is common in anxiety and PTSD, too. With anxiety, sufferers can be unable to stop worrying. And PTSD patients often have disrupted sleep due to nightmares related to their trauma.
Studies have shown that depressed patients experience less deep sleep than non-depressed people. This is the stage of sleep when cells regenerate. This stage of sleep is crucial for our physical and mental health, so part of protecting the overall well-being of people with depression often depends on improvements to sleep.
For example, a 2013 study found that patients with depression experience an increase in total sleep and a decrease of waking during the first and second nights after a ketamine infusion. Studies have also shown that ketamine therapy can help PTSD patients sleep without needing to use sedatives, as well as stop their nightmares.
Dr D, underlines that ketamine “can lift mood, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep. But it absolutely shouldn’t be seen as something you can use on your own as a way to self-medicate.” The caution against self-medicating is important, as this could end up being counterproductive to sleeping well. Lets explore why.
A study published in Scientific Reports discovered that current ketamine users (both those with and without ketamine use disorder) and abstinent ketamine users have poorer sleep quality than healthy controls. The abstinent participants had abstained from ketamine for more than three months, yet they still had issues with sleep. This illustrates that all kinds of recreational ketamine use can negatively impact sleep quality.
While self-medication is not strictly the same as recreational use, the former kind of use can still turn into drug abuse and addiction. This is because, when you self-medicate, you take the drug in an uncontrolled way and without medical supervision.
Those self-medicating psychedelics, or using them recreationally, can end up taking higher doses of the drug. This could lead to an increase in frequency of use as well. When this happens, ketamine can lead to poorer quality sleep. Indeed, research has demonstrated that the acute use of ketamine has a different effect on sleep than chronic use.
There are several possible reasons why. The authors of the Scientific Reports study note that “poor sleep was positively associated with craving for ketamine, indicating a potential role of craving in mediating the relationship between sleep problems and ketamine use.” If you develop a psychological addiction to ketamine through self-medicating or recreational use, then your cravings for the drug can disrupt your sleep.
Also, while ketamine can have sedative effects, it can have stimulating effects as well. Many recreational users often take a dose to give them energy at a club, party, or festival. If taking ketamine this way, you may then use the drug late into the night and early morning. This will affect your sleep in two ways.
Firstly, you will be interrupting your natural sleep-wake cycle, by going to bed at an unusual time. Secondly, the stimulating effects of the ketamine will make it harder to fall asleep when you try to.
In contrast, at a ketamine clinic, you will undergo ketamine treatment during the day, not late at night. So by the time you’re ready for the bed, the effects of ketamine would be long gone. In this context, ketamine won’t disrupt your sleep.
While there's evidence that points to ketamine therapy’s ability to improve sleep, it doesn’t mean you should ignore sleep hygiene. After ketamine treatment, it’s important to ensure that you take steps that ensure good quality sleep, including the below.
By neglecting sleep hygiene, there's a higher risk of worsening your mental health. This, as we have seen, can then exacerbate poor sleep. Ketamine can help you to sleep soundly again, but it is no substitute for good sleep hygiene.
Finally, combining therapy with a ketamine infusion (ketamine-assisted psychotherapy) may help with sleep more than just the ketamine infusion alone. This involves talking about your ketamine experience with a trained therapist so that you can better make sense of it and apply it meaningfully to your life. This can help to enhance and maintain improvements in mental health — which, of course, will be better for your sleep.