The effects of trazodone with L-tryptophan on sleep-disordered breathing in the English bulldog

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Nov;160(5 Pt 1):1659-67. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.160.5.9812007.


Obstructive sleep apnea hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS) is a prevalent disorder, for which there are no universally effective pharmacotherapeutics. We hypothesized that in OSAHS, excitatory serotoninergic influences are important for maintaining patency of the upper airway in waking, and that in sleep, reduced serotoninergic drive plays a significant role in upper airway collapse and OSAHS. The previously reported small responses in humans with OSAHS to serotoninergics may relate, in part, to study design and the drugs/doses selected. We therefore performed multitrials/dose, multidose, randomized sleep studies testing the effectiveness of a combination of serotoninergics, trazodone, and L-tryptophan, in our animal model of OSAHS, the English bulldog. Trazodone/L-tryptophan caused dose-dependent reductions in respiratory events in non-rapid-eye-movement sleep (NREMS) and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REMS). During NREMS, the respiratory disturbance index (RDI) +/- standard error was 6.3 +/- 1.4 events/h (placebo) and 0.9 +/- 0.3 (highest dose), p < 0.01. During REMS, the RDI was 31.4 +/- 6.1 events/h (placebo) and 11.5 +/- 4.3 (highest dose), p = 0.002. Trazodone/ L-tryptophan dose-dependently reduced sleep fragmentation, p = 0.03, increased sleep efficiency, p = 0.005, enhanced slow-wave sleep, p = 0.0004, and minimized sleep-related suppression of upper airway dilator activity, p < 0.02. Trazodone with L-tryptophan can treat sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in an animal model of OSAHS; the effectiveness of this therapy may be related to increased upper airway dilator activity in sleep and/or enhanced slow-wave sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Polysomnography
  • Respiration / drug effects
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep, REM / drug effects
  • Trazodone / administration & dosage*
  • Tryptophan / administration & dosage
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Tryptophan
  • Trazodone