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Trazodone vs. Ambien—Which Medicine Is Effective for Sleep?

Trazodone vs. Ambien—Which Medicine Is Effective for Sleep?

Sleep disorders have become a common issue, affecting the lives of millions. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 50–70 million adults are grappling with some form of sleeplessness. Effective treatments are available, and a visit to a sleep medicine specialist can be a game-changer.

Depending on your health, lifestyle, and the nature of your sleep issue, your doctor may recommend medications like trazodone or Ambien. But before choosing between these drugs, you should understand what their effects are and who should or shouldn’t use them. Get all the essential details in this trazodone vs. Ambien comparison.  

What Is Trazodone?

Trazodone is an antidepressant used in treating major depressive disorders. The drug was approved for sale in the U.S. in 1981 and is sold under various brand names, including:

  • Oleptro
  • Desidel
  • Desyrel Dividose
  • Trazodone D

The medication’s active ingredient is trazodone hydrochloride, a triazolopyridine derivative classified as a serotonin receptor antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI). While the substance isn’t addictive, the risks of misuse, dependence, or withdrawal can’t be disregarded.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), trazodone isn’t a controlled substance, but you can only get this medicine with your doctor’s prescription.

How Does Trazodone Work?

Trazodone alters the balance of serotonin in the brain, especially in areas that regulate mood and stress responses. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays several roles in the body, including promoting feelings of well-being and happiness. By increasing the levels of neurotransmitter, trazodone can alleviate the symptoms of depression, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Low mood

Trazodone also suppresses the levels of other neurotransmitters that promote wakefulness, such as histamine, dopamine, and noradrenaline. It induces relaxation and drowsiness, which can help individuals struggling with insomnia fall asleep quicker and maintain healthy sleep cycles.

How Is Trazodone for Sleep Dosed?

Trazodone comes in tablet (regular and extended-release), capsule, and liquid forms. The drug is available in six doses:

  1. 10 mg
  2. 20 mg
  3. 50 mg
  4. 100 mg
  5. 150 mg
  6. 300 mg

Healthcare providers typically prescribe 25 mg trazodone tablets to adults with insomnia, but the dose can be increased to 100 mg, depending on the patient’s lifestyle, health history, and underlying factors contributing to sleep issues.

You should take trazodone at least an hour before going to bed. This drug kicks in within 30 minutes of administration and reaches peak concentration after two hours. 

Trazodone’s effects last 5–9 hours, so make sure you can sleep for at least seven hours to allow it to subside naturally.

What Are the Side Effects of Trazodone?

Trazodone is generally a safe drug, but it carries the risk of side effects, which can be triggered or worsened by improper dosing. Some of the unwanted reactions include:

  • Drowsiness—If you feel sleepy during the day, avoid activities that require sharp focus, including driving and operating heavy machinery
  • Dry mouth—Can be managed by drinking plenty of water, sucking on ice chips, or chewing sugar-free candy or gum
  • Dizziness—If you feel lightheaded when rising suddenly from a sitting or lying position, getting up slowly may help
  • Headache—Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage this side effect
  • Nausea—Eating small, frequent meals and sipping water throughout the day helps alleviate this undesirable reaction
  • Constipation—Increasing fiber intake, exercising regularly, and drinking plenty of water can help alleviate this side effect
  • Unpleasant aftertaste—Chewing gum or mints can help manage this unwanted reaction
  • Muscle or bone pain—Over-the-counter pain relievers can help. Consult your doctor if the pain persists

This list isn’t exhaustive. If you experience adverse reactions to trazodone, inform your doctor immediately.

Source: Ron Lach

What Is Ambien?

Ambien—also known by its generic name zolpidem—is a sedative-hypnotic primarily used to treat insomnia in adults. The drug’s active component is zolpidem tartrate, a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor modulator.

The medication comes in two forms:

  1. Immediate-release tablets
  2. Extended-release tablets

The immediate-release tablet is typically used to treat sleep-onset insomnia. The extended-release form has two layers:

  1. The first layer is absorbed quickly to help you fall asleep
  2. The second layer is released slowly to help you stay asleep

Ambien is a Schedule IV controlled substance since it carries the risks of abuse and dependence. You can only get this drug with your doctor’s prescription.

How Does Ambien Work?

Ambien works by binding to GABAA receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that slows down the central nervous system (CNS). When the drug binds to the alpha-1 subunits of the specific receptors, it enhances the effects of GABA, including inducing a state of relaxation that promotes sleep.

How Is Ambien for Sleep Dosed?

Ambien is available in different forms and doses. Check out the table below for more details:


Available Doses

Immediate-release tablets (Ambien)

  1. 5 mg

  2. 10 mg

Extended-release tablets (Ambien CR)

  1. 6.25 mg

  2. 12.5 mg

Ambien dosing is typically more complex than trazodone dosing. For example, the average starting dose for male patients is 10 mg daily, while female patients typically start with 5 mg per day because they generally metabolize the drug more slowly. Your dosage also depends on other factors, including:

  • Age 
  • Health history
  • Specific sleep issues

Ambien is fast-acting, so you should take it right before bed. Take this medicine only if you can dedicate at least 7–8 hours to sleep. If you wake up earlier, you may experience unwanted reactions like memory loss and difficulty concentrating. In that case, you should avoid activities that require alertness until the effects subside.

What Are the Side Effects of Ambien?

Side effects of Ambien include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Memory problems
  • Performing activities while sleeping, including cooking, eating, walking, and even sleep-driving

If you experience these undesirable reactions, contact your healthcare provider immediately.


Which Is Better for Sleep—Ambien or Trazodone?

Trazodone and Ambien can be effective for sleep, but their benefits vary among patients. Ambien may work better if you have primary insomnia, while trazodone may be the right choice if you have sleep problems exacerbated by depression or mood issues.

Still, no drug is a one-size-fits-all solution. The best treatment for sleeplessness should also tackle the underlying issues while helping you make meaningful lifestyle changes to improve your sleep hygiene. If you want a long-term solution to sleeplessness, you should see a sleep medicine specialist. 

With a patient-to-sleep-specialist ratio of 43,000:1, getting an appointment with an expert in the U.S. is easier said than done. The good news is that telemedicine platforms can make the process simpler and quicker. 

Kick, an online performance medicine clinic, lets you consult sleep medicine specialists in a record-breaking 15 minutes and begin treatment quickly.

Kick—Celebrate Your Mornings

Source: cottonbro studio

Designed by a Stanford sleep medicine expert, Kick’s program offers prescription medications and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) coaching to help you regain restful nights.

Our doctors tailor treatment to your specific sleep issues and medical history. Kick’s team also offers ongoing consultations and adjusts your treatment continuously if necessary, helping you achieve rejuvenating sleep as soon as possible.

When you join Kick, your designated doctor will prescribe two trial medications based on your medical profile. Our medications include:

  1. Trazodone
  2. Gabapentin
  3. Hydroxyzine
  4. Ramelteon
  5. Cyclobenzaprine 
  6. Doxepin

These medications are fast-acting, helping you find the most effective medicine quickly. Glowing reviews on Trustpilot are a testament to our program's effectiveness.

Getting Started With Kick

Joining Kick is simple:

  1. Go to our Sleep Visit page to start your 15-minute consultation
  2. Enter your medical history and sleep problems in the intake form
  3. Provide your delivery preference and payment details

When getting your medication, you can choose between the convenience of home delivery or local pharmacy pickup. Kick is a risk-free sleep programif our team decides you’re not the best candidate for the program, you won’t pay for the initial consultation, according to our Doctor Guarantee.


Trazodone vs. Ambien for Sleep—Who Should and Shouldn’t Use These Drugs?

While Trazodone and Ambien are both generally safe and effective sleep aids, they’re not right for everyone. Check out the table below for an overview of who should and shouldn’t use each drug:


Who Should Use It?

Who Shouldn’t Use It?


  • Adults (18+) 

  • Patients with major depressive disorder

  • Individuals with sleep problems

  • People allergic to trazodone

  • Children with insomnia

  • Patients with a recent heart attack, kidney issues, or liver problems

  • Individuals with a history of long QT syndrome

  • Epileptic and diabetic patients

  • People with a history of suicidal thoughts

  • Individuals with porphyria or pheochromocytoma

  • Patients with low sodium levels in the blood


  • People who have trouble falling asleep

  • Individuals with difficulty staying asleep

  • Patients allergic to zolpidem

  • Persons who consumed alcohol during the day or just before going to bed

  • People with a history of depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts

  • Persons with a history of drug or alcohol addiction

  • Patients with lung disease or breathing problems

  • Individuals with glaucoma, renal dysfunction, or liver disease

Before taking trazodone or Ambien, inform your doctor about your medical history, including any concerning conditions or procedures you’ve had. This will help them decide on the best and safest treatment for you.

Ambien vs. Trazodone—Potential Interactions With Other Medications

Both trazodone and Ambien can interact with other medications, exacerbating or contributing to their side effects:

Medication Category

Interaction With Trazodone

Interaction With Ambien


Can contribute to drowsiness

Can add to side effects like drowsiness and dizziness

Anti-seizure medication

Can raise the risk of convulsions

Consult your healthcare provider for more details

Anti-HIV drugs

Can slow down trazodone metabolism in some cases, raising the risk of an overdose

Can raise the risk of drowsiness in some cases

Blood pressure medication

Can raise the risk of low blood pressure

The potential for interaction is low, but risks can’t be disregarded

Blood thinners

Can enhance the risk of injury and bleeding

Not enough information to claim that it’s safe to mix these drugs

Heart medication

Can add to the risk of irregular heart rhythm

Consult your doctor for specific details

Herbal supplements

Can enhance the sedative effects

Can reduce Ambien’s potency

Infection medications

Consult your doctor for specific details

Can enhance the risk of unwanted reactions

Muscle relaxants

Can raise the risk of serotonin syndrome

Can contribute to drowsiness and confusion

Opioids and CNS depressants

Can contribute to sedation

Can raise the risk of drowsiness

Sleep or anxiety medications

Can enhance the sedative effects

Can contribute to sedation

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Can affect platelet function, resulting in easier bruising under the skin—even with minor bumps or scrapes—or gastrointestinal bleeding 

The potential for interaction is low, but risks can’t be ruled out

Ambien vs. Trazodone for Sleep—Potential Interactions With Food and Drinks

Trazodone and Ambien can interact with some foods and drinks, as explained in the table below:


Interaction With Trazodone

Interaction With Ambien



Can contribute to dizziness and drowsiness

Can raise the risk of respiratory distress

You should avoid alcohol when using these sleep drugs

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice

Can enhance the risk of an overdose

Can slow down the metabolism of Ambien in the body

You shouldn’t mix trazodone or Ambien with grapefruit or grapefruit juice

Trazodone and Ambien for Sleep—Alternatives To Consider

If you can’t use trazodone and Ambien due to a high risk of interaction, your doctor may recommend alternatives, such as:

These alternatives can also have potential side effects and interactions, so you shouldn’t switch from one medication to another unless it’s approved by a medical professional.

Featured image source: cottonbro studio