Clonidine is a medication that is primarily prescribed to treat high blood pressure, however a doctor may also recommend it for a variety of other medical conditions. Many people take clonidine for sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Some doctors advocate the use of clonidine for sleep disturbances in children who also have an autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It works by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the heart rate. Patients should follow dosage instructions carefully and talk to their doctors about potential side effects.
This medication is available as a patch to be worn on the skin or as tablets to be taken by mouth. When a doctor prescribes clonidine for sleep disorders, he may start the patient on a low dose and increase it gradually as needed. Patients may take the tablet two to three times daily to maintain an effective level of the drug in their body.
Those using the patch will wear one patch for seven consecutive days. They should apply the patch to a clean, hairless area of skin and press it down firmly. After seven days, the first patch should be removed and a second patch should be applied to a new area of skin. Patients using clonidine for sleep problems should avoid discontinuing the medication abruptly, even if their quality of sleep improves because withdrawal symptoms can occur, including uncontrollable shaking, nervousness, and headaches.
Some side effects may occur with the use of clonidine for sleep disorders, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. These may include decreased sexual ability, fatigue, and weakness. Constipation, nausea, and vomiting have also been reported. More severe side effects require immediate medical care, such as problems breathing or swallowing, swelling of the facial area, or hives. Other potentially dangerous side effects may rarely include hallucinations, feeling faint, and shortness of breath, along with a heartbeat that is less than 60 beats per minute.
Before taking this drug, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are breastfeeding should not use clonidine, and those who are pregnant should discuss the potential risks with their doctors. Clonidine may be contraindicated for use by those with heart disease, kidney disease, or a history of heart attack or stroke. It may interact with other drugs, including antidepressants, digitalis, or any other medicines used to treat high blood pressure. In addition, the consumption of alcohol should be avoided.