Sleep Quality Improvements After MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Sleep disturbances (SDs) are among the most distressing and commonly reported symptoms in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite increased attention on sleep in clinical PTSD research, SDs remain difficult to treat. In Phase 2 trials, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)–assisted psychotherapy has been shown to greatly improve PTSD symptoms. We hypothesized that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy would improve self-reported sleep quality (SQ) in individuals with PTSD and be associated with declining PTSD symptoms.
Participants in four studies (n = 63) were randomized to receive 2–3 sessions of active MDMA (75–125 mg; n = 47) or placebo/control MDMA (0–40 mg, n = 16) during all-day psychotherapy sessions. The PSQI was used to assess change in SQ from baseline to the primary endpoint, 1–2 months after the blinded sessions. Additionally, PSQI scores were measured at treatment exit (TE) and 12-month follow-up. Symptoms of PTSD were measured using the CAPS-IV.
At the primary endpoint, CAPS-IV total severity scores dropped more after active MDMA than after placebo/control (−34.0 vs. −12.4), p = .003. Participants in the active dose group showed more improvement in SQ compared to those in the control group (PSQI total score ΔM = −3.5 vs. 0.6), p = .003. Compared to baseline, SQ had improved at TE, p < .001, with further significant gains reported at 12-month follow-up (TE to 12-months ΔM = −1.0), p = .030. Conclusions Data from these randomized controlled double-blind studies provide evidence for the beneficial effects of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in treating SDs in individuals with PTSD.