Use of clonidine in children with autism spectrum disorders

Brain Dev. 2008 Aug;30(7):454-60. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2007.12.007. Epub 2008 Feb 15.


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit sleep and behavioral disorders. Treatment of sleep disorders can be difficult in these children. Clonidine, an alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonist, has been shown to be effective in reducing impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity, as well as in serving as a sedative for medial procedures. An open labeled retrospective study of clonidine in treatment of insomnia, and/or hyperactivity, inattention, mood disorder, and aggressive behaviors was conducted using parent reports of sleep initiation and maintenance, as well as behaviors prior and during clonidine treatment. Clonidine was effective in reducing sleep initiation latency and night awakening, to a less degree in improving attention deficits hyperactivity, mood instability and aggressiveness in this cohort of 19 children with ASD. The side effects were largely tolerable. Further evaluation with placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial of clonidine use in ASD will provide more insight into the clinical efficacy and safety of the medicine in ASD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attitude to Health
  • Autistic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clonidine / adverse effects
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / drug therapy
  • Impulsive Behavior / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Clonidine