Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine, a drug that reduces the levels of histamine.
Histamine, a natural chemical produced in your body, increases when you experience an injury or an allergy. And antihistamines like Hydroxyzine reduce the symptoms that accompany the release of this chemical, like itching and skin rashes.
One of the most prominent side effects of Hydroxyzine is its calming effect, something that makes it an effective option for many who struggle to fall asleep at night.
Hydroxyzine is considered to be non-addictive and is not a controlled substance.
What Is Hydroxyzine Used For?
Like we mentioned above, Hydroxyzine is chiefly used for itching and allergy relief.
But how does it work to help you fall asleep when you’re combatting insomnia? Very similar to the way other antihistamines, like Benadryl, that many people turn to when they can’t sleep.
Research has shown there’s a connection between histamine levels in your body and your natural sleep-wake cycle.
Increased histamine in your body can cause you to feel wide awake.
Antihistamines, on the other hand, suppress activity in your brain and promote a calming effect, which together leads you to feel drowsy and drift off to sleep.
When prescribed for insomnia, Hydroxyzine is taken once a day at bedtime. In most cases, it can be taken on an as-needed basis and doesn’t need to be taken every day.
Additionally, Hydroxyzine may be used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and to help you feel calm before or after surgery.
It’s important to note that Hydroxyzine is meant to be a short-term solution for all of these conditions. In fact, those who take it for too long or too often may build up an intolerance to its sedating effects.
Does Hydroxyzine Have Any Side Effects?
It’s possible to experience side effects after taking Hydroxyzine, although in most cases these are mild.
Regardless, if you do notice any side effects with your prescription you should always alert your doctor.
Most often side effects may include:
- Skin redness or rash
- Dry mouth
And in rare but more serious cases, side effects may also include:
- Signs of an allergic reaction, including hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your lips, tongue, face, or throat
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Headache with chest pain
- Severe dizziness
If you experience any of these serious side effects, reach out for immediate medical attention.
To minimize or eliminate the possibility of experiencing any side effects, it’s important to review your full medical history and let your doctor know about any other medications you’re currently taking before starting your prescription.
How Do I Know If Hydroxyzine Is Right For Me?
Similar to Benadryl, Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine with calming properties making it an effective sleep treatment for many. But as with all prescription medications, it shouldn’t be used by everyone.
Speaking with a doctor about your insomnia and all potential treatment options available to you will help you determine if a Hydroxyzine prescription is right for you.
Reviewed by Dr. Alex Dimitriu
Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a Stanford-trained physician with dual board certification in psychiatry and sleep medicine. The included content is not intended to replace medical advice. Always be sure to discuss any prescription medications with your doctor.