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How Long Does Trazodone Last?

Key Points

  • Trazodone is commonly used for depression and increasingly for sleep disorders.
  • Its duration of action varies between immediate-release and extended-release formulations.
  • Immediate-release trazodone typically lasts 4-6 hours, suitable for initiating sleep.
  • Extended-release trazodone can last 8-12 hours, aiding in sustained sleep or managing depressive symptoms.
  • Trazodone's half-life ranges from 10-12 hours, impacting its elimination from the body.
  • Understanding these factors is crucial for deciding on trazodone's suitability and managing its potential side effects.

Trazodone, a medication often prescribed for depression, has also been increasingly used as a sleep aid. Understanding the timeline of trazodone’s effects is crucial for those considering its use. From immediate-release to extended-release formulations, trazodone’s duration of action varies, impacting its suitability for different treatment regimens and conditions.

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone is a medication primarily used to treat major depressive disorder.[1] It belongs to a class of drugs known as serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). While its exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, trazodone is believed to work by increasing serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, in the brain.

In addition to depression, trazodone may also be prescribed off-label for other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, insomnia, and chronic pain. Its sedative properties make it particularly useful in treating insomnia, and it’s often prescribed at lower doses for this purpose.[2]

Trazodone is usually taken orally in the form of tablets or extended-release tablets, and the dosage varies depending on the condition being treated and individual patient factors. It’s important to follow the prescribing healthcare provider’s instructions carefully when taking trazodone and promptly report any side effects or concerns.

How Does Trazodone Help With Sleep?

Does Trazodone Help With Sleep?Trazodone is often prescribed off-label to help with sleep due to its sedative properties, despite being primarily classified as an antidepressant:[3]

  • Sedation: Trazodone has sedative effects, meaning it can promote relaxation and drowsiness. This sedative effect is particularly useful for people with difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Antidepressant effects: Trazodone belongs to a class of drugs known as serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). While its exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, trazodone is believed to increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. By alleviating symptoms of depression, trazodone may indirectly improve sleep quality in individuals whose sleep is disrupted by depressive symptoms.
  • Anxiety reduction: Trazodone’s calming effects can also help reduce anxiety, which is often associated with difficulty falling asleep. By reducing anxiety levels, trazodone can make it easier for individuals to relax and transition into sleep.
  • Non-habit forming: Unlike some other medications used to treat sleep disorders, such as benzodiazepines, trazodone is generally considered non-habit forming. This makes it a preferred option for long-term management of sleep disturbances.
  • Low risk of tolerance: Trazodone’s sedative effects typically remain effective over time without developing significant tolerance. This means that individuals may continue to experience improved sleep with consistent use of trazodone without increasing the dosage.

It’s important to note that while trazodone can effectively promote sleep, it may not be suitable for everyone. Using trazodone should be discussed with a healthcare provider who can evaluate your individual factors and provide personalized recommendations for sleep management.

How Long Does Trazodone Last?

Trazodone’s effects can vary depending on factors such as dosage and formulation. Immediate-release trazodone tablets typically offer a shorter duration of action, lasting around 4 to 6 hours after ingestion. This makes them suitable for bedtime use to help initiate sleep. On the other hand, extended-release formulations are designed to release the medication slowly over an extended period, providing a longer action lasting anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. This sustained release benefits individuals seeking relief from depressive symptoms or improved sleep continuity throughout the night.

Despite the differences in duration between immediate-release and extended-release formulations, the half-life of trazodone remains relatively consistent, ranging from 10 to 12 hours.[4] This means it may take several half-lives for trazodone to be fully eliminated from the body after discontinuation. However, individual responses to medications can vary, and factors such as liver and kidney function can influence how long trazodone remains active.

For those using trazodone to manage depression, it’s typically taken daily over an extended period to achieve optimal therapeutic effects. In contrast, for insomnia, trazodone may be taken on an as-needed basis or regularly at bedtime, depending on the severity and pattern of sleep disturbances. Individuals must follow the prescribed dosage and instructions their healthcare provider provides to ensure safety and efficacy.

While trazodone can be effective in promoting sleep and managing depressive symptoms, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects and to report any concerns to a healthcare professional promptly.

Does Trazodone Have Any Potential Side Effects?

As with most medications, trazodone can have potential side effects. These may include:[5]

  • Drowsiness: Trazodone is known for its sedative effects, which can cause drowsiness, especially when taken at higher doses or in combination with other sedating medications.
  • Dizziness: Some individuals may experience dizziness or lightheadedness, particularly when standing up quickly from a sitting or lying.
  • Dry mouth: Trazodone can reduce saliva production, leading to a dry mouth sensation.
  • Blurred vision: Trazodone may cause temporary changes in vision, such as blurred vision or difficulty focusing.
  • Constipation: Some people may experience constipation while taking trazodone, although this side effect is less common compared to other antidepressants.
  • Weight changes: Trazodone can occasionally cause weight gain or loss, although significant weight changes are less common with this medication than with others in its class.

Less common but potentially more serious side effects of trazodone may include:

  • Irregular heartbeat: Trazodone can affect heart rhythm in some individuals, leading to irregular heartbeats or palpitations. This side effect should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately.
  • Priapism: Priapism is a rare but serious side effect of trazodone characterized by a painful and prolonged erection lasting more than four hours. Immediate medical attention is necessary if priapism occurs.
  • Serotonin syndrome: In rare cases, trazodone can cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by dangerously high levels of serotonin in the body. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include agitation, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, fever, sweating, tremors, and muscle stiffness. Serotonin syndrome requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to trazodone, which can manifest as rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing. Allergic reactions to medications require prompt medical attention.

How Can I Decide if Trazodone is Right For Me?

Deciding if trazodone is right for you should always begin with a consultation with a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms and treatment goals. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your medical history and preferences.

Review trazodone’s potential benefits and risks with your doctor, including its efficacy and side effects. You should discuss alternative treatment options with your doctor to explore potential alternatives. Address any concerns or questions about your treatment plan, monitor your response closely, and communicate any changes or concerns.

Schedule regular follow-up appointments to assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments. By working collaboratively with your healthcare provider, you can make an informed decision that best supports your health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trazodone

Trazodone is not considered addictive in the same way as drugs like opioids or benzodiazepines. It doesn’t typically produce a euphoric “high,” and people don’t tend to develop cravings for it. However, like many medications, it can lead to dependence if used long-term. Therefore, following your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and avoiding abruptly stopping the medication without medical supervision is essential.

The onset of action of trazodone varies among individuals. Some people may notice improvements in their symptoms within the first few days of treatment, while others may require several weeks for the full therapeutic effects to become apparent. It’s essential to continue taking trazodone as prescribed, even if you don’t notice immediate benefits, as it may take time for the medication to reach its maximum effectiveness.

If you miss a dose of trazodone, take it as soon as you remember unless it’s almost time for your next scheduled dose. In that case, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Refrain from doubling up on doses to make up for a missed one. Taking too much trazodone at once can increase the risk of side effects and complications. Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance if unsure what to do.

Weight gain is a potential side effect of trazodone, although it tends to be less common compared to some other antidepressant medications. Some individuals may experience weight changes while taking trazodone, while others may not. If you notice significant changes in your weight while taking trazodone, discuss this with your healthcare provider. They can guide managing weight-related concerns and may consider alternative treatment options if necessary.

Abruptly stopping trazodone or rapidly reducing the dosage can lead to withdrawal symptoms in some individuals. Common withdrawal symptoms may include dizziness, nausea, headache, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and flu-like symptoms. To minimize the risk of withdrawal, it’s essential to taper off trazodone gradually under the guidance of a healthcare provider. If you experience withdrawal symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for assistance in managing them.

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[1] Shin, J. J., & Saadabadi, A. (2023). Trazodone. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470560/#:~:text=Trazodone%20is%20an%20FDA%2Dapproved 

[2] Pelayo, R., Bertisch, S. M., Morin, C. M., Winkelman, J. W., Zee, P. C., & Krystal, A. D. (2023). Should Trazodone Be First-Line Therapy for Insomnia? A Clinical Suitability Appraisal. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 12(8), 2933. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm12082933

[3] Jaffer, K. Y., Chang, T., Vanle, B., Dang, J., Steiner, A. J., Loera, N., Abdelmesseh, M., Danovitch, I., & Ishak, W. W. (2017). Trazodone for Insomnia: A Systematic Review. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(7-8), 24–34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5842888/ 

[4] Bryant, S. G., & Ereshefsky, L. (1982). Antidepressant properties of trazodone. Clinical Pharmacy, 1(5), 406–417. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6764164/

[5] Trazodone (Oral Route) Side Effects – Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Www.mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/trazodone-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20061280

Last medically reviewed April 1, 2024.