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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Trazodone effects on obstructive sleep apnea and non-REM arousal threshold

  • Author(s): Smales, ET
  • Edwards, BA
  • Deyoung, PN
  • McSharry, DG
  • Wellman, A
  • Velasquez, A
  • Owens, R
  • Orr, JE
  • Malhotra, A
  • et al.

Copyright © 2015 by the American Thoracic Society. Rationale: A low respiratory arousal threshold is a physiological trait involved in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) pathogenesis. Trazodone may increase arousal threshold without compromising upper airway muscles, which should improve OSA. Objectives: We aimed to examine how trazodone alters OSA severity and arousal threshold. We hypothesized that trazodone would increase the arousal threshold and improve the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) in selected patients with OSA. Methods: Subjects were studied on two separate nights in a randomized crossover design. Fifteen unselected subjects with OSA (AHI ≥ 10/h) underwent a standard polysomnogram plus an epiglottic catheter to measure the arousal threshold. Subjects were studied after receiving trazodone (100 mg) and placebo, with 1 week between conditions. The arousal threshold was calculated as the nadir pressure before electrocortical arousal from approximately 20 spontaneous respiratory events selected randomly. Measurements and Main Results: Compared with placebo, trazodone resulted in a significant reduction in AHI (38.7 vs. 28.5 events/h, P = 0.041), without worsening oxygen saturation or respiratory event duration. Trazodone was not associated with a significant change in the non-REM arousal threshold (-20.3 vs. -19.3 cm H2O, P = 0.51) compared with placebo. In subgroup analysis, responders to trazodone spent less time in N1 sleep (20.1% placebo vs. 9.0% trazodone, P = 0.052) and had an accompanying reduction in arousal index, whereas nonresponders were not observed to have a change in sleep parameters. Conclusions: These findings suggest that trazodone could be effective therapy for patients with OSA without worsening hypoxemia. Future studies should focus on underlying mechanisms and combination therapies to eliminate OSA.

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