Drug and Alcohol

Trazodone for Sleep: All You Need To Know About this Sleep Aid

Trazodone is often used for sleeping disorders. While generally safe, there are some real risks to this medication. Learn more about Trazodone.

Trazodone for Sleep: The Facts About this Risky Sleep Aid

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 27, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Sleep, the elusive elixir of life, seems to escape too many of us, leaving us tossing and turning in restlessly. Counting sheep, herbal teas, and even meditation…we've tried it all. But what if there's a lesser-known remedy that holds the key to a tranquil slumber?

Enter Trazodone, the unsung hero of the sleep world. This medication, designed initially as an antidepressant, has become a surprising ally for those battling insomnia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey findings, stating that 13.2% of American adults aged 18 or more have used antidepressant medications in the last thirty days. They also mentioned that women are more likely to use antidepressants than men, with 17.7% (women) and 8.4% (men).

A few commonly prescribed antidepressant medications are Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Citalopram, Escitalopram, Paroxetine, and Trazodone. Today, we will discuss Trazodone which is an antidepressant but sometimes gets prescribed as an off-label treatment medicine for insomnia.

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone is a prescribed antidepressant medication sold under brands like Oleptro, Desyrel, and Dividose. It is prescribed by doctors to treat patients suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. They are sometimes also prescribed for off-label uses to treat conditions like alcohol addiction and insomnia. Off-label use of any medication implies using them for treating a problem that is not approved.

Is Trazodone a controlled substance? No. Trazodone is not a controlled substance because it has not been reported for a significant dependence rate. Whether Trazodone can lead to addiction is debated, but various cases of dependence have been noted. 

The trazodone drug class is a Serotonin Antagonist and Reuptake Inhibitor (SARI)—terms like phenylpiperazine Antidepressants or serotonin modulators, or SARIs. Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a monoamine neurotransmitter responsible for stabilizing mood. Depression can be caused when there are low levels of the chemical messenger.

This is where SARIs take control. They target the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A, which blocks neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. SARIs help in passing these neurotransmitters through nerve cells. 

A healthy concentration of serotonin will lead to a balanced brain, decreasing anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders. Earlier, barbiturates were prescribed to patients as a sleeping aid, but soon Trazodone replaced it. The reason was barbiturates were cautiously known for causing addiction as they were highly potent.

Trazodone is an oral medication available in several doses ranging from 25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg tablets. 

What is Trazodone Used For?

Trazodone is among the older medications that were once commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. It is no longer a first-line drug; various alternatives like Ambien, Silenor, Unisom, Lunesta, and Restoril exist.

Trazodone has sedating properties, which cause users to feel drowsy. This is why it is sometimes used in helping patients who have acute insomnia and insomnia. There is a clear distinction between the two.

Acute insomnia is a short-term condition lasting a few days to a few weeks. On the other hand, insomnia is a long-term chronic condition where the individual cannot sleep properly for at least three nights a week and goes on for three or more months. 

Trazodone works by improving mood with the help of increased serotonin levels. However, this is not the only neurotransmitter trazodone affects. It also blocks a neurotransmitter known as histamines. Histamines are neurotransmitters that are released by our immune system. Their purpose is to help our body fight against foreign substances, making us awake and more alert.

So, when Trazodone blocks this neurotransmitter, we become sleepier. Benadryl is another antihistamine that works similarly. However, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has warned against its use despite the benefits. They have mentioned that it can do more harm than good.

How Effective is Trazodone?

First, it is essential to remember that Trazodone is not a sleeping aid. Rather, drowsiness and sleepiness are one of its side effects.

However, Trazodone is efficient at inducing sleep, taking about 30 minutes to make the average person sleepy. The sleepy effect produced by Trazodone can last between five to nine hours. Some reports have claimed that Trazodone's effect can continue even during morning hours. This is especially the case if someone has just started taking it or if they have taken it later in the night.

It is recommended not to drive a car or operate heavy machinery until you are familiar with its effect on your body. 

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Are There Benefits of Taking Trazodone?

Why is it even recommended if Trazodone is not approved as a sleep aid? The answer is that other methods sometimes do not work. These methods include lifestyle modification or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Trazodone is used when these methods are not effective. Some doctors prescribe Trazodone mainly because of its combined effects. This is because it has a sleep-inducing effect and reduces anxiety and depression.

The biggest advantage of Trazodone is its non-addictive nature. The reports may look conflicting, but it's not addictive since it's not a controlled substance. Most insomnia medications lead to dependence which eventually leads to abuse and addiction. Such is not the case with Trazodone. For instance, Restoril and Halcion are benzodiazepines classified as Schedule IV controlled substances. They are for short-term use only.

Another benefit associated with Trazodone is its inexpensiveness. The rate of precipitation drugs is already very high. In addition, Trazodone is a generic medication that is cheaper than other alternatives. Most insurance plans cover Trazodone, too.

A few reports have suggested Trazodone can be helpful to people with problems like sleep apnea. It has been said to promote stable breathing patterns and improve the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI). 

What Are Some Trazodone Side Effects? 

Trazodone has various side effects that range from standard to severe. Let's get a detailed look at all of them.

Mild Trazodone Side Effects

Common side effects of Trazodone are dizziness, dry mouth, headache, fatigue, constipation, blurred vision, vomiting, muscle pain, confusion, diarrhea, rashes, palpitations, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, weight change, tremors, and an uncoordinated gait.

Serious Trazodone Side Effects

Serious side effects of Trazodone include hypertension, fainting, stroke, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm, hallucination, seizure, anemia, coordination problems, involuntary facial movements, hypomania, worsening psychosis, hepatitis, suicidal thoughts, and syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH).

It is essential to seek medical attention when you face side effects or worsening of any side effects. They have to know about all the medication you have taken alongside Trazodone. The reason is that Trazodone is known for negative interaction with certain medications. There is a condition known as serotonin syndrome, which happens when someone takes Trazodone with other medication that acts on serotonin. This increases the chance of a fatal reaction.

Another negative effect is that Trazodone can pass through breast milk. It’s generally advised that pregnant people should not take it. On top of everything, one must also consult their physician before they stop using this medication. Trazodone can cause withdrawal symptoms

Remedies for Insomnia

Narcotic medication and medicinal tablets are not the only way to remedy sleep-related disorders. There are many options available to get a healthy amount of sleep. Some of these remedies include:

Melatonin

Melatonin can be an option. It is a natural sleep aid that can be taken without any prescription. In addition, most medical professionals consider melatonin supplements to be safe.

Benadryl

Benadryl has similar properties to Trazodone without being addictive. It can help with sleep too.

Mediation

Meditation is an excellent way to treat sleep troubles. It relaxes both body and mind, automatically reducing anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

Exercise

Exercising is another great way to boost sleep. A proper exercise regime would improve sleep quality. Although, it is warned that too much vigorous exercise can lead to troubled sleep.

Certain Beverages

Warm tea and milk can help with sleep, too. Avoid alcohol and take up these warm beverages to unwind in the evening. 

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown good results too. For example, it has increased sleep efficacy and improved sleep latency in people. 

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Risks of Trazodone Use

Trazodone is a long-term medication that is considered safe for use. It is not inherently dangerous to our system, but there are chances of becoming dependent on it. The easiest way to know whether you are addicted to Trazodone is by checking if you do not feel normal without it or undergo withdrawal symptoms after stopping it.

Overdosing on this medication is not fatal, but it can happen. 

People with Trazodone overdose have experienced confusion, restlessness, diarrhea, shivering, twitching, increased heartbeat, and blood pressure. There is a need for immediate medical assistance if anyone experiences signs such as seizure, high fever, uneasiness, and irregular heartbeat. No other substance should be mixed with Trazodone,

Mixing Trazodone with alcohol, sedatives, and barbiturates can become fatal. Likely, many people who abuse Trazodone might also be abusing other drugs. Therefore, identifying the context of their abuse and addiction becomes vital. This is why a comprehensive evaluation is required.

Treating Trazodone Addiction

A drug rehab center will formulate a recovery program based on the individual. It can include the following:

Drug Detox

Medical drug detox helps with physical dependence by removing toxic substances from the body. 

Staff at a treatment center will evaluate whether you are suffering from any co-occurring disorders like mental health illnesses like depression, personality disorder, and anxiety. They will also check if you have a physical injury or trauma that has led to addiction.

Inpatient and Outpatient Care

There are two forms of rehab facilities: inpatient and outpatient. The intensity of addiction, the pattern of abuse, family support, and lifestyle will determine which one would be the best.

Psychotherapy

Behavioral therapies will emphasize factors that contribute to a person's addiction. This will include queries related to the origin, triggering points of addiction, learning coping skills, and forming relapse prevention techniques.

Aftercare

Long-term aftercare plans are schooled in the treatment to ensure continued sobriety. This can include support group meetings, 12-step programs, and peer-led activities. 

Feeling Like Trazodone is Taking Over Your Life? Reach Out to The Forge Recovery Center

Substance abuse and addiction is a chronic health condition with a complex nature. It is classified as a chronic condition that affects an individual's physical and mental capacity. Addiction is a brain dysfunction caused by excessive and regular use of drugs, substances, or alcohol consumption.

The Forge Recovery Center is a fully accredited dual-diagnosis drug rehab center. Our addiction center is a safe space where the roots of addiction can be safely – and effectively – explored.

To learn more about our effective, evidence-based addiction treatment programs, please reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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