Side Effects Of Taking Trazodone For Sleep

Trazodone is an FDA-approved antidepressant used for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Beyond its antidepressant function, Trazodone is allegedly beneficial in the treatment of insomnia, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, feeding and eating disorders, behavioral disturbances, sexual dysfunction, etc. The list of cases where this antidepressant can be useful is quite long. But, what do we know about Trazodone? How does it work and what are its side effects for those who are sleep deprived or have insomnia?

Because the majority of people using Trazodone don’t know the answers to these questions, we’ll make sure to answer them for you. In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at Trazadone, how it works, and what side effects it causes. So, let’s get started!

Trazodone Overview And Key Facts
Image Source: Terry Cralle

Trazodone Overview And Key Facts

As mentioned in the introductory part, Trazodone is an antidepressant medicine. The main function of this medicine is to balance chemicals in the brain. This means that its main use usually regards depression, anxiety, or the combination of the two. Trazodone is also used in cases of sleep deprivation, poor sleep quality, poor concentration, or insomnia. Trazodone cannot be bought without a prescription, and is usually sold in three different forms; capsules, tablets, or liquid form. Here are some other important key facts you should know about this antidepressant;

  • Trazodone is prescribed when other antidepressants haven’t worked during previous therapy. It can also be prescribed if other antidepressants cause side effects.
  • Trazodone can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to start working. In the majority of cases, it can take between 4 and 6 weeks to be completely effective and beneficial.
  • It is recommended to take Trazodone a few hours before going to sleep. That is because this antidepressant can make you sleepy, so to keep your full concentration throughout the day, you should take it in the evening or before bedtime.
  • If you want to stop taking Trazodone, you will have to do it by reducing the doses regularly. By reducing the doses, you will avoid possible side effects.
  • Trazodone is usually take in a dose of 75mg to 150 mg for anxiety and depression. In some serious cases, the dosage can go up to 300mg, where the user is advised to split the pill into two parts and take them separately throughout the day to reduce the side effects.
  • One can overdose on Trazodone, so if you feel sick, dizzy, nauseous, or you’re having problems with your heart and breathing, call your doctor immediately.

Trazodone And Sleep

Studies show that Trazodone is effective in decreasing sleep latency and increasing sleep duration in sleep-deprived or insomnia-suffering individuals. The studies demonstrated that non-depressed individuals who suffer from insomnia also find Trazodone beneficial for their sleep. It took between 6 and 12 weeks of active treatment to see a significant improvement in sleep, but after that period, subjects’ sleep was surely better.

It is important to mention that the best effects of Trazodone when it comes to sleep were shown in the following cases;

  • Secondary insomnia
  • People who experience chronic high caffeine intake
  • Patients with Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Pregnant women with insomnia
  • Patients with comorbid psychiatric conditions
  • People suffering from PTSD
  • Patients with cardiac disorders

However, despite these existing studies, in 2018 the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommended that Trazodone should not be used for chronic insomnia or sleep deprivation. The reasoning behind this recommendation lies in the lack of trials, studies, and research. There were further findings in 2018 that showed little or no evidence to support the claims that this antidepressant can be used for sleep disorders.

Trazodone Side Effects When Used For Sleep Disorders

Insomnia headache
Terry Cralle, RN

Even though there are claims that Trazodone is completely safe and has no serious side effects, we have to say that, of course, there are risks to it, just like any medicine. Here are some of the main side effects you should be aware of;

Common Side effects

  • Headaches and migraines (which disturb sleep)
  • Feeling sleepy and tired throughout the next day (after taking Trazodone)
  • Feeling nauseous throughout the day
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Constipation

Serious Side Effects

  • Serotonin Syndrome – Serotonin syndrome occurs when serotonin builds up in the body. Because antidepressants like Trazodone work by affecting the serotonin levels, it can cause serious side effects, especially for people who are not depressed or anxious. This usually occurs in cases where people take Trazodone for sleep deprivation. Serotonin syndrome can result in hallucinations, dizziness, increased heart rate, headaches and migraine, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Nausea and drowsiness – there have been reports that Trazodone causes nausea and drowsiness the day after taking it for sleep. This makes it potentially dangerous for an individual’s workplace and work responsibilities. For example, after taking Trazodone, one should not operate heavy machinery or execute responsible and potentially dangerous tasks.
  • Dizziness and fainting – a study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that people (especially seniors) are more likely to feel dizzy and to faint after taking Trazodone for sleep. As a result of fainting and falling, the seniors experienced osteoporotic fractures and hip fractures.
  • Palpitations – there have been reports of Trazodone causing palpitations and general heart-rhythm disorders. This usually causes people to develop anxiety or can trigger panic attacks in certain cases.
  • Priapism – some evidence suggests that taking Trazadone for sleep can result in priapism or persistent erection. This is a serious side effect that requires medical emergency observation and possibly surgery. If not treated promptly, priapism can lead to incredible pain and impotence in worst-case scenarios.
  • Suicidal thoughts – taking Trazodone can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in young adults and children, as well as suicidal, depressed, or anxious individuals. If this side effect occurs, you should contact the Emergency or your doctor immediately.
  • Allergic reactions – taking Trazodone can cause some serious allergic reactions, like skin rash, skin that is itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling, tightness in the chest and throat, trouble breathing and swelling in the face. If any of this occurs after taking Trazodone, you need to immediately go to the hospital.

Note: This is not the list of all Trazodone side effects; these are just side effects reported when the antidepressant is taken for sleep disorders. For the full list of side effects make sure to check the information leaflet you receive within the medicine package.

So, Why Is Trazodone Used For Sleep Disorders?

Many doctors recommend the use of Trazodone for the treatment of sleep disorders, even in non-depressed patients. But, why is this antidepressant so frequently used for chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation?

  1. One of the main reasons lies in the fact that Trazodone is not FDA approved as a controlled substance for insomnia. So it is widely prescribed off-label at lower doses for chronic insomnia treatment, under the belief that the lack of FDA approval justifies such use. This generally leads to abuse of Trazodone, and doctors can prescribe as many pills as they want to their patients.
  1. Another reason for the frequent use of od Trazodone in sleep disorder cases might lie in the fact that it is unlikely to cause dependency. Doctors and practicing physicians believe this antidepressant to be generally safe, especially because it is prescribed at lower doses for sleep disorders.
  1. A further, more obvious reason for frequent use of Trazodone lies in the price. This antidepressant is fairly inexpensive and can be found at generic places and stores. For example, you can buy Trazodone for $4 at Walmart and similar stores.
  1. And finally, there is no evidence that Trazodone can cause any impairment when it comes to walking, concentrating, eating habits, sexual drive, etc. That is usually the case with other antidepressants and insomnia medicine. Also, many doctors believe that insomnia won’t come back after you’re done taking Trazodone, which is a huge deal.

Note: The number of Trazodone prescriptions has increased from 13 million in 2004 to approximately 26 million in 2014. Trazodone is mostly prescribed to those between 40 and 60 years of age. Approximately 37% of Trazodone users are over 60 years of age. (source, CVS Pharmacy)

How To Deal With The Side Effects?

  • Take your time – before taking Trazodone, you should know that it can take a few days until your body adapts to the new medicine. In those few days, you will feel more sleepy and tired, than usual. So, to minimize these side effects, make sure to improve your diet, cut down on alcohol, and avoid operating heavy machinery or dangerous tools. Also, make sure to get enough sleep, and try to stay physically active.
  • Beware of what you’re drinking – as mentioned, you should cut down or completely leave alcohol when taking Trazodone. Instead, increase your water intake; this will prevent the side effects related to headache, nausea, and weakness.
  • Eat before taking Trazodone – before you take Trazodone, make sure to have a light meal or a snack. This way, you won’t experience nausea and vomiting, and also, prevent constipation. However, make sure to generally avoid rich and spicy food while taking Trazodone.
  • Chew gum – if you experience stomach issues or dry mouth in the morning, try to chew on some sugar-free gum. This will help with stomach acid and will keep your mouth salivated due to constant chewing.

Final Thoughts

Despite several studies claiming that Trazodone is good for the treatment of sleep disorders and insomnia, we cannot simply ignore the warnings and recommendations from respectable health organizations. However, if you do decide to take Trazodone for sleep, make sure to read the side effects list thoroughly, and consult with your doctor about them and what to do if they occur. If you start feeling like any of the aforementioned side effects, make sure to contact your doctor or go to the hospital right away.

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