You’ve likely heard of people reaching into their medicine cabinet for Benadryl when they can’t sleep. Or maybe you’ve tried this yourself.
Antihistamines like Benadryl are primarily used to treat allergic reactions, like itching or skin rashes. But they’re also known for having a drowsy side effect, which in some cases can be so powerful it actually helps put people to sleep.
But over-the-counter options like this aren’t always the most reliable or effective.
If stress or worry is keeping you up at night and you haven’t had any luck with other sleep treatments, your doctor may recommend Hydroxyzine.
Hydroxyzine is a prescription antihistamine. Similar to Benadryl, it’s most often prescribed to stop allergic reactions. But it’s drowsy side effect has made it useful for sleep, leading many doctors to prescribe it short-term for insomnia. In some cases, it’s even used alongside other medications for anesthesia.
Is Hydroxyzine Safe?
Hydroxyzine is considered safe. But just as with any other prescription medication, it may carry risks for some people.
Hydroxyzine has been known to cause some side effects. The most common, as we mentioned above, is drowsiness. In some cases, this drowsy side effect may last into the morning.
If you experience grogginess the following morning, speak with your doctor. They may adjust your dose to minimize this feeling or choose a different treatment altogether.
Other side effects can include:
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Headache with chest pain
- Severe dizziness
- Skin redness or rash
- Dry mouth
Speak with your doctor if you experience these or any other side effects.
To find out if Hydroxyzine is right for you, you’ll need to speak with a doctor.
To help reduce your chances of side effects after taking Hydroxyzine, always follow the directions provided with your prescription. Do not try adjusting the dose on your own without first speaking with your doctor.
Additionally, avoid using alcohol after taking your medication as it may increase side effects.
Who Shouldn’t Use Hydroxyzine?
You’ll need to discuss your medical history with your doctor. Always be sure to note if you have a history of any of the following:
- Personal or family history of long QT syndrome
- Blockage in your digestive tract
- Bladder obstruction or other urination problems
- Heart disease
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
Finally, Hydroxyzine can interact with other medications. These may include:
- Sleeping pills
- Narcotic pain medication
- Muscle relaxer
- Medications for seizures
- Heart rhythm medication
- Antipsychotic medicines
- Medications to treat cancer, HIV, AIDS, or malaria
Let your doctor know if you’re currently taking these or any other medications. This information will help your doctor create a treatment plan that is most suited 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.