What to Know About Clonidine for Sleep

What to Know About Clonidine for Sleep:

Clonidine is a drug used to treat insomnia. It works by increasing the amount of natural chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters which are responsible for regulating mood, emotions, and other functions. These drugs increase serotonin levels and decrease dopamine levels.

Serotonin increases feelings of happiness while decreasing feelings of sadness. Dopamine increases energy and decreases fatigue.

Melatonin is another drug used to treat insomnia. Melatonin blocks the effects of light and helps you fall asleep faster. It also reduces the production of cortisol, a hormone that causes stress during sleep.

It’s effectiveness depends on several factors such as your age, health status, and whether or not you have diabetes.

How Long Does It Take For Clonidine To Work?

The length of time it takes for clonidine to work depends on many things. First, you need to understand that the main reason why clonidine for sleep works so quickly is because it acts directly on the receptors in your brain. Your body doesn’t produce these compounds itself; instead, they’re produced naturally by certain cells within your body.

Once clonidine attaches to these receptors, the amount of time it takes for you to feel the effects will depend on how many receptors are within your brain. These receptors are commonly referred to as autoreceptors, and they work by regulating the production and release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Depending on how many autoreceptors your brain has will determine the speed at which you’ll feel the effects of clonidine for sleep.

For most people the drug will begin working within an hour. If you’ve only got a small amount of these autoreceptors in your brain, you may not feel the effects for more than a few hours. A small amount of receptors means that clonidine won’t be able to bind very effectively to them.

As a result, it will take longer for you to feel the drug’s sedative effects.

If you’ve got a large amount of these receptors in your brain, clonidine for sleep will begin working on you immediately. But this isn’t always a good thing. People with high levels of autoreceptors tend to not do well on this type of drug as it can lower serotonin levels to dangerously low levels.

The FDA has issued a warning to people with high levels of autoreceptors to not take clonidine for sleep. The agency also says that those with high levels of autoreceptors should only take the drug for a short amount of time. You should never take clonidine for sleep on a daily basis as this could lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.

What Are the Side Effects of Clonidine?

Clonidine for sleep may have some side effects. Just like with any drug, you should be aware of the possible risks that you may experience while taking clonidine.

The most common side effect of clonidine for sleep is drowsiness. Even though you’ll fall asleep fast, you might still experience bouts of drowsiness throughout the day. It may even be difficult at first to make it through your morning classes or work without needing a nap.

Another common side effect of clonidine for sleep is dry mouth. Chances are you’ll have to wake up several times during the night to get a drink of water. It’s not uncommon for people who take this drug to also complain about having a dry mouth while they’re awake.

This is why having a bottle of water by your bed at all times is important while taking clonidine for sleep.

Clonidine can also lead to problems with your digestion, especially when you first start taking the drug. You may find yourself having issues with constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both. If you experience any of these issues, it’s important to let your doctor know right away.

They may be able to prescribe an over-the-counter or alternative medication to help relieve your symptoms.

Another potentially dangerous side effect of clonidine for sleep is respiratory distress. This side effect is most common in people who have taken the drug for a long period of time. In some cases, it can even be fatal – especially in elderly patients.

If you notice that you’re having problems breathing while on clonidine, let your doctor know immediately.

What Is the Long-Term Effects of Clonidine?

Just like any other drug, clonidine should not be taken on a long-term basis as this increases your chances of experiencing long-term side effects.

Taking clonidine for sleep can cause issues with your ability to fall asleep without the drug over time. This is why clonidine should be taken for only a short period of time.

If you begin to experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking clonidine and contact your doctor immediately:



Personality changes

Difficulty breathing

Stomach pain


Loss of appetite

Organ damage

How Do You Prevent Withdrawal From Happening?

It’s not uncommon to experience a significant amount of anxiety when you stop taking clonidine. Most people refer to this type of anxiety as a “hangover” from clonidine and it can last for several days. It’s also not uncommon for people to begin experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.

There are some steps you can take in order to prevent or minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms:

Never stop taking clonidine abruptly. This increases your chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. If you were taking clonidine once a day, switch to taking it twice a day for a few days before stopping completely.

Drink plenty of fluids while you’re taking the drug (water is best). This will help prevent dehydration while your body is eliminating clonidine.

Get plenty of rest when you first stop taking clonidine. You may have difficulty falling asleep and this can cause you to feel anxious.

Talk to your doctor about Cymbalta. This is a medication that can help prevent or minimize the severity of clonidine withdrawal symptoms.

Find Ways to Distract Yourself

While you may not be able to prevent the onset of clonidine withdrawal symptoms, there are things you can do in order to feel better when they set in.

Distract yourself from your physical symptoms by watching TV, reading a book, or doing another activity that can keep your mind off of them.

Plan out healthy meals for when you withdraw, as this can help prevent you from experiencing intense hunger pangs.

Exercise. This releases endorphins in your brain which can help offset the feelings of anxiety and depression that come with clonidine withdrawal.

Seek counseling. Dealing with physical and emotional symptoms of clonidine withdrawal can be a tough experience. Let a professional help you through the situation.

What Else Can You Do to Manage Symptoms?

While clonidine is a useful drug for helping you fall asleep, there are other lifestyle changes you can make in order to lessen your symptoms.

Avoid caffeine – one of the best ways to manage clonidine withdrawal symptoms is to avoid sources of caffeine. Caffeine can have a rebound effect and make you feel more awake than ever.

Manage your stress – stress can cause you to feel more anxious and depressed while you’re withdrawing from clonidine. Try breathing exercises, meditation, or even reading something that inspires you to help manage your stress levels.

Keep a sleep diary – this is very important to do if you’re going to be withdrawing from clonidine in order to determine the effectiveness of your withdrawal management strategy. Each morning, jot down how you feel.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – this can help your body get into a routine that helps it adjust from the clonidine.

Exercise – one of the best ways to manage depression is to get some exercise. Take a long walk, go for a bike ride, take your dog for a long walk, or find some other way to get active each day.

Manage Your Expectations

While clonidine withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t expect to feel terrible for weeks on end. With the right management strategies, you can make it through this process and come out feeling much better.

Sources & references used in this article:

Pediatric prescribing practices for clonidine and other pharmacologic agents for children with sleep disturbance by CJ Schnoes, BR Kuhn, EF Workman… – Clinical …, 2006 – journals.sagepub.com

Case study: adverse response to clonidine by DP Cantwell, J Swanson, DF Connor – Journal of the American Academy of …, 1997 – Elsevier

Combining methylphenidate and clonidine: pharmacologic questions and news reports about sudden death by CW POPPER – Journal of Child and Adolescent …, 1995 – liebertpub.com

The memory function of noradrenergic activity in non-REM sleep by S Gais, B Rasch, JC Dahmen, S Sara… – Journal of Cognitive …, 2011 – MIT Press