Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease: Trazodone, Sleep, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and Future Directions

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;67(3):923-930. doi: 10.3233/JAD-181106.


In this issue, an article by La et al. provides evidence that trazodone delayed cognitive decline in 25 participants with Alzheimer's disease (AD), mild cognitive impairment, or normal cognition. For participants considered to have AD pathology, trazodone non-users declined at a rate 2.4 times greater than those taking trazodone for sleep over a 4-year period. In the analysis of sleep complaints, the relationship between trazodone, a widely used medication for sleep problems in the elderly, and cognition was associated with subjective improvement of sleep disruption. Due to the design of the study, it was not possible to prove that the benefit of slowing cognitive decline was due specifically to the improvement in sleep. However, trazodone uniquely improves the deeper phases of slow-wave sleep. Other sedative medications are generally associated with worse cognitive function over time, and they do not improve sleep characteristics as does trazodone. Trazodone has a variety of effects on several monoaminergic mechanisms: a potent serotonin 5-HT2A and α1-adrenergic receptor antagonist, a weak serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and a weak antihistamine or histamine H1 receptor inverse agonist. Because of the potential importance of this finding, further discussion is provided on the roles that trazodone may play in the modulation of monoamines, cognition, and the development of AD. If trazodone really does provide such a dramatic slowing in the development of dementia associated with AD, a great deal more research on trazodone is needed, including environmental and behavioral factors related to improvement of sleep, energy management, and neuroplasticity.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; energy; neuroplasticity; norepinephrine; serotonin; sleep; trazodone; treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Humans
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • Sleep
  • Trazodone*


  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Trazodone