Study Finds MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Improves Sleep in PTSD Patients

A new study has found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy may improve sleep in PTSD patients. The study’s findings were reported in the “Journal of Traumatic Stress.”

Study author L. Jerome of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation stated that the researchers were interested in learning whether MDMA-assisted therapy could decrease sleep difficulties in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and who suffer from disrupted sleep as a result. Jerome explained that being hypervigilant and having intrusive thoughts made it hard for individuals to get sleep, noting that slumber could also be interrupted by nightmares associated with trauma.

In the report, she observed that Linnae Ponte, her colleague, prompted MAPS to add a measure of self-reported sleep quality to its phase 2 studies, which evaluated the effectiveness and safety of MDMA-assisted therapy in reducing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Thus far, the researchers have conducted six phase 2 clinical trials, with about 100 participants in total. Each trial investigated the effect of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder.

Results from prior studies show improved symptoms in PTSD participants who received MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in comparison with the control group.

For their study, the researchers administered the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to measure self-reported sleep quality in 63 of group participants then conducted a secondary analysis on the data they gathered from their double-blind, randomized phase 2 trials. They discovered that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was also linked to improvements in daytime dysfunction, sleep latency and sleep quality.

In an interview, Jerome stated that the participants in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies who had received between 75 and 120 mg of MDMA in MDMA-assisted therapy had better sleep in comparison with those who had received less than 40 mg of MDMA. She also explained that lower scores in the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index were a sign of better sleep, revealing that improved sleep comprised of less daytime drowsiness and falling asleep faster. Jerome noted that the positive changes they observed in the study were still present even a year later, in addition to improvements in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study had some limitations, including the fact that researchers used a measure of self-reported sleep, which relied on the participant’s ability to decipher their sleep quality. Jerome stated that measuring sleep in other ways would be helpful, noting that the most accurate but expensive way to measure sleep would be through the use of an EEG, which measures an individual’s brain waves by attaching electrodes on their skull. She added that a cheaper or easier way would be through a device or application which records motion.

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