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What to Know About Clonidine for Sleep

Introduction

Insomnia is a condition that affects your sleep. If you have it, you may experience problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling unrested during the day. In your search for relief, you may have heard that clonidine can help treat insomnia.

Clonidine is primarily used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). It’s also used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, it’s not FDA-approved for insomnia.

Still, one of the side effects of clonidine is sedation, or sleepiness. Results from some clinical trials suggest that clonidine may be helpful in treating insomnia in children with ADHD, but these results are limited. Here’s what you should know about using clonidine to help you sleep.

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Clonidine for insomnia

Clonidine for insomnia

Clonidine causes side effects like drowsiness. Limited studies have tested clonidine as a treatment for insomnia, and they’ve only looked at this use in children with ADHD. However, according to a meta analysis, initial studies indicated that clonidine may have helped these children fall asleep more quickly and wake up less during the night.

Still, these study results don’t provide enough information to confirm clonidine as a safe and effective treatment for insomnia, even in children with ADHD. Additionally, this use of clonidine has only been studied in children with ADHD, not in the general population. Because of this, it’s impossible to accurately say how it would affect other groups of people.

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Alternatives

Other treatments for insomnia

The primary treatment for insomnia is lifestyle changes. You may want to try the following lifestyle changes to treat insomnia:

Do’s
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
Don’ts
  • Don’t drink liquids and caffeine in the evening.
  • Don’t eat heavy meals just before bedtime.
  • Don’t use a TV in your bedroom.
  • Don’t use your phone in bed.
  • Don’t take naps during the day.

If lifestyle changes don’t improve your sleeping problems, talk to your doctor. Certain medications are approved to help treat insomnia. They may be right for you, but most people should not use them for extended periods. For more information, read about lifestyle changes, behavior therapy, and medication as treatments for insomnia.

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Side effects

Side effects of clonidine

In addition to sleepiness, there are other common or mild side effects of clonidine. These side effects include:

  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • dizziness
  • stomach upset or pain
  • constipation
  • headache

Clonidine also has some more serious side effects, although they are rare. These side effects include:

  • initial increase in blood pressure before a decrease
  • abnormal heart rate
  • orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when you stand), which causes dizziness
  • passing out
  • slowed breathing or trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t real)
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About clonidine

More about clonidine

Clonidine belongs to a class of drugs called centrally acting alpha agonists. To treat high blood pressure, clonidine stimulates certain receptors in the brain stem. This lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Clonidine also affects the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is the part that helps regulate behavior, attention, and expression of emotion or affect.

It’s believed that the effects clonidine has on the prefrontal cortex makes it an effective treatment for ADHD in people who are 6 years or older.

Clonidine comes in different forms, including immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, and patches. Immediate-release clonidine tablets and clonidine patches are used to treat high blood pressure. The extended-release clonidine tablets are used in children to treat ADHD.

Read more: Complete drug information for clonidine »

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Takeaway

Talk with your doctor

Clonidine is approved to treat high blood pressure and ADHD, but there’s not enough data yet to support its use as a treatment for insomnia. While clonidine may cause drowsiness as a side effect, the benefit of this effect doesn’t outweigh the risks of the other side effects.

Talk to your doctor about changes you can make to help if you have trouble sleeping. If lifestyle changes don’t work for you, your doctor may be able to recommend a treatment that is more effective for you.

Related: Best insomnia apps of 2016 »

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