Patients with autonomic failure are disabled by orthostatic hypotension, which can be worsened by the nighttime pressure natriuresis induced by associated supine hypertension. Several pharmacological agents are available that effectively reduce nighttime hypertension, but none of them prevent pressure natriuresis. Because hypertension of autonomic failure can be driven by residual sympathetic tone, we hypothesized that clonidine would be effective in reducing blood pressure (BP) and nocturnal natriuresis. Therefore, we determined the effect of placebo, 0.1 mg clonidine, and 0.1-mg/h nitroglycerin transdermal patch on supine BP, orthostatic hypotension, and pressure natriuresis in 23 patients with primary autonomic failure and supine hypertension. Medications were given at 8:00 PM, and BP was recorded every 2 hours for 12 hours. The maximal decrease in BP was seen 6 to 8 hours after drug administration and was similar to clonidine and nitroglycerin (-29+/-9 and -30+/-10 mm Hg, respectively), as was the average fall in BP throughout the night. However, only clonidine effectively reduced nocturnal natriuresis (-0.09 mmol/mg Cr; 95% CI, -0.13 to -0.04; P=0.004), but this was not associated with improvement in morning orthostatic hypotension because of a residual hypotensive effect. The decrease in BP induced by clonidine was modestly but significantly correlated with the magnitude of residual sympathetic tone determined in 10 subjects by the fall in BP induced by ganglionic blockade (r=0.66; P=0.043). These results are consistent with residual sympathetic tone contributing to supine hypertension in autonomic failure, which can be targeted with clonidine to decrease BP and nocturnal natriuresis.