Trazodone For Sleep:
Treatment For Short-Term Insomnia

Trazodone is commonly prescribed as a prescription sleep aid, particularly when a person is experiencing insomnia that has been caused by life stressors.

What’s keeping you up at night?

Maybe the past few months have been particularly busy at work and your mind can’t seem to escape the stress you’re feeling, even in the comfort of your bed. Or perhaps you’re personally going through a rough patch and you’re worried about how things are going to turn out in the end.

It could even be as simple as drinking one too many cups of coffee too late in the day.

Regardless of the reason you find yourself counting hundreds of sheep instead of sleeping in the middle of the night, insomnia can be debilitating to your productivity and daytime energy.

If you’re lucky, your sleep problems only last a few days and then happily resolve themselves. It could be as easy as updating bedding or changing your nighttime habits to help your brain shut down for the night.

But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

At times, no matter how many remedies you’ve tried, you just can’t seem to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

If this sounds like you, it may be a sign that it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider about insomnia and finding a sleep treatment that can help you.

Trazodone is one sleep prescription that your doctor may suggest.


Trazodone For Sleep

Trazodone, previously referred to under the brand name Desyrel, is actually an antidepressant that’s been around since the early ‘80s and is used to help those experiencing anxiety and depression.

It works by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin produced in your brain.

However, it’s also been found to be an effective option for short-term insomnia when prescribed at a low dose.

This medication is not classified as a controlled substance, unlike other commonly prescribed insomnia drugs like Ambien. It’s also important to point out that it’s not classified as a benzodiazepine.

It can also be found as an extended-release version under the brand name Oleptro.


What Trazodone Is Used For

Trazodone is FDA approved to treat depression; however, it’s commonly prescribed off-label and in lower doses to help with insomnia.

Off-label use of medication simply means that, while a drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s being prescribed for a reason the FDA hasn’t approved it for.

Most often, doctors will prescribe this drug in the instance a person is experiencing sleeplessness and hasn’t been able to find relief from lifestyle changes or sleep hygiene practices.

This specific medication has been shown in studies to be most effective in helping with acute insomnia, or sleeplessness lasting for a shorter period of time.

Acute insomnia generally lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of months and is often caused by a stressful life event such as increased pressure at work, a shift in your daily schedule, or a change to your personal life.

If you’re experiencing acute insomnia you may find that you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. In some cases, you might find yourself waking up earlier than you should or feeling like you can’t get a good, quality night of sleep.

Short-term insomnia can cause the same symptoms as chronic insomnia and those experiencing it can have a tough time functioning at their best during the day.


How Trazodone Works

Research is still being done to fully understand the effects of this medication and how it works to help you sleep better. But some evidence suggests that it influences serotonin.

Serotonin is a chemical produced in your brain that handles various jobs; it affects:

  • Mood
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Memory
  • Sexual function and desire

It’s also been found to help with sleep.

Researchers believe that Trazodone helps you sleep by restoring the balance of serotonin in the brain. Your body needs serotonin to produce melatonin, the primary hormone involved in sleep.


Trazodone’s Half-Life

Trazodone’s half-life is between 5 and 9 hours. As a result, the medication stays in your system for around 40 hours after taking a dose.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the effects last that long. Because doctors prescribe a low dose of the drug for insomnia, it usually stops having a sleep-aid effect after the first half-life, making you alert the next day after a restful night of sleep.

However, it’s important to point out that some people have reported feeling groggy when they wake up after taking their prescription. Because of this, healthcare experts often recommend you try your medication for the first time on a weekend when you don’t need to rush off first thing in the morning.

If by chance you do feel groggy after taking your sleep prescription, your doctor may suggest adjusting your dose or recommend a different sleep aid altogether.

Like any sleep medication, you should only take Trazodone when you have 7-8 hours available to sleep. Only use your prescription if you are able to go to bed right away and sleep for at least 7 hours.

Never operate a vehicle or other heavy machinery after taking your medication.


How Long Trazodone Lasts

When taken as directed, Trazodone will help you stay asleep for a full 7-9 hours of sleep.

Doctors recommend taking it right at bedtime to help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer.

Don’t take this prescription when you still have obligations to complete before bed. You want to make sure you can fall right asleep when it takes effect.

If you fall asleep without issue but tend to have trouble staying asleep, then doctors recommend taking your medication half an hour before bedtime.


Trazodone Dosage

When used to help with insomnia, this drug is prescribed in low doses - anywhere between 50-150 mg.

Taking too high a dose of Trazodone may have the adverse effect of keeping you awake rather than helping you sleep.

As with all prescription medications, dosage always depends on the individual and you should work with your doctor to find the right dosage level for you. Always be sure to take your prescription as directed by your doctor.

Also, always be sure to provide your doctor with a full and up-to-date medical history and include all medications you’re currently taking so they can make a fully informed recommendation.


Trazodone’s Side Effects

At low doses, this prescription causes few side effects. Still, as with any medication, they are possible.

The most notable side effect is sleepiness, which is actually what can make it such an effective sleep aid for some.

Other side effects can occur; however, in most patients, they disappear after using the medication over a short period.

Still, tell your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Priapism
  • Having paler than normal skin
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty walking
  • Uncontrolled muscle twitching
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Ringing in the ears

This is not an exhaustive list of side effects. Tell your doctor if you experience these or any other common side effects.

And though rare, some serious side effects have been reported after using this medication. Call 911 if you experience any life-threatening reactions.

It should also be noted that the FDA has added a Black Box Warning to several antidepressant medications, including Trazodone.


Who Shouldn’t Use Trazodone

Several drugs interact poorly with this medication. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re currently taking:

  • Blood thinners
  • Thioridazine
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • MAOIs
  • Diuretics
  • Cold, cough, and allergy medications
  • Medications used to treat fungal diseases
  • Medications used to treat HIV or aids
  • Medications used to treat heartburn
  • Antibiotics
  • Heart medications
  • Seizure medications

There are also certain conditions that you should tell your doctor about before starting your prescription. They include:

  • Recent heart attack or other heart problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • History of substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia or other mental illness
  • Epilepsy or history of seizures
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Problems urinating
  • Glaucoma
  • Pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding

As with any prescription drug, tell your doctor about any medications you take, or other conditions you have. A physician can talk you through your options and help you avoid any drug interactions.



As with any prescription, it’s important to consult with a doctor before starting to take Trazodone. They can help you decide the best sleep aid for you and give you other pointers to help you beat your insomnia.

Your healthcare provider may suggest an alternative treatment option, including:

  • Over-the-counter sleep aids
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Other sleep prescriptions

Some of these treatments may be taken in combination with one another, but should only be done with a recommendation from your doctor.

Additionally, your doctor will likely check to make sure you aren’t suffering from any other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, before pursuing a treatment path.