Sleeping and stimulants. How do you rest after taking stimulants?
As the name suggests, stimulants have a stimulating effect on the body. This is often accompanied by problems falling asleep and sleep deprivation. Commonly used stimulants are cocaine, MDMA and amphetamine (speed), but also caffeine and some new psychoactive substances such as 4-FA and 3-MMC belong to the category stimulants.
In the Netherlands we have an expression: plafonddienst. Which means you are lying in your bed but you can’t sleep, so you have to watch the ceiling. It is as if it is your shift/watch to watch the ceiling. Kinda funny so we’ll translate it below to ceiling watch.
How does ceiling watch happen?
Neurotransmitters (“messenger substances” in the brain) such as dopamine and serotonin have a stimulating effect on the body. When you are awake, these neurotransmitters are therefore most active and fastest; during light sleep they slow down and during deep, slow wave sleep these neurotransmitters are hardly active anymore.
Stimulants such as amphetamine and cocaine block the reuptake of these neurotransmitters in a brain cell, which means that the neurotransmitters cannot be discharged, the neurotransmitter content in the space between the cells rises and the next cell is therefore stimulated more. While normally neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, become less and less active so that we can sleep, stimulants ensure that these neurotransmitters remain active and we therefore have difficulty falling asleep.
How does sleep deprivation affect the effect of coke?
Stimulants and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand. Research in sleep-deprived rats shows that the negative effects of cocaine use are enhanced by sleep deprivation. For example, rats that were sleep deprived and administered cocaine showed more stereotypical behaviors (a type of compulsive movements such as repetitive nodding of the head) than rats that were not sleep deprived. It seems that sleep-deprived rats are more sensitive to drugs that act on the neurotransmitter dopamine than rested rats. While this may seem difficult to translate to humans, it does show that sleep deprivation enhances the effects of cocaine, so sleep deprivation is a risk factor for the adverse effects that cocaine can have.
Still fell asleep? Lucky you! But how do you sleep then?
Stimulants cause a decrease in total sleep and a decrease in REM sleep. When the drug is not active anymore, the body will try to make up for the lack of REM sleep and this results in excessive REM sleep; there is then a REM rebound effect.
Since REM sleep is the phase in which we dream, intense dreams are often reported after using uppers. The changes in REM sleep don’t do much good for sleep quality and can cause chronic sleep problems in the long run.
While some stimulants suppress fatigue and its short-term effects, at the same time, the negative effects of sleep deprivation go unnoticed when they do exist. When the drug wears off, the effects of sleep deprivation will therefore also be felt extra intensely due to the increased contrast of feeling very excited and alert by the upper, and afterwards feeling lifeless, vague and exhausted due to the lack of sleep.
- Rest well at least 3 days before use. Stimulants can initially ensure that you do not notice that you are actually sleep deprived. However, this deficiency can influence the negative side effects of a stimulant.
- Plan when you want to go to sleep and keep this in mind when you use stimulants. So think carefully about whether you are going to use an stimulant, and stop taking it in time to avoid your ‘ceiling watch’. Due to the stimulating effect, the use of stimulants is often accompanied by problems with falling asleep. In the case of speed, this can last for up to 12 hours.
- Make sure you also have time to recover in the days after use. Once asleep, REM sleep is reduced, and with it the overall quality of sleep. As a result, you are tired and need more time to recover.
By: Lizet Wilken
With the collaboration of: Layla Deibert, Raoul Koning, Sarsani Schenk and Teun van der Velden
- Andersen, M. L., Perry, J. C., & Tufik, S. (2005). Acute cocaine effects in paradoxical sleep deprived male rats. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 29(2), 245–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2004.11.007
- Boutrel, B., & Koob, G. F. (2004). What keeps us awake: the neuropharmacology if stimulants and wakefulness-promoting medications.. Sleep, 27(6), 1181–1194.
- Fischman, M. W., & Schuster, C. R. (1980). Cocaine effects in sleep-deprived humans. Psychopharmacology, 72(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00433800
- Magill, R. A., Waters, W. F., Bray, G. A., Volaufova, J., Smith, S. R., Lieberman, H. R., . . . Ryan, D. H. (2003). Effects of Tyrosine, Phentermine, Caffeined-amphetamine, and Placebo on Cognitive and Motor Performance Deficits During Sleep Deprivation. Nutritional Neuroscience, 6(4), 237–246. https://doi.org/10.1080/1028415031000120552
- Schierenbeck, T., Riemann, D., Berger, M., & Hornyak, M. (2008). Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: Cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12(5), 381–389. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2007.12.004