You're exhausted after a few nights of tossing and turning, yet even when you've made the effort to crash early, you just can't seem to naturally drift off to sleep. You open your bathroom cabinet and grab an antihistamine, hoping it'll make you just drowsy enough to fall asleep. Before you take it, you might think, "Should I really be doing this?"
Experts say it's actually relatively safe to take an antihistamine when you're not suffering from allergy symptoms, as long as you don't have any underlying conditions.
"Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (found in Chlor-Trimeton) can cause side effects such as rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, constipation, and urinary retention, while cetirizine (Zyrtec) may lower blood pressure," Michael Altman, MD, an associate professor of family and community medicine at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, told POPSUGAR. "These medicines tend to have a wide dosing range, so you can get into trouble if you go above and beyond a normal dose if you have underlying heart or bladder issues. If this is the case, talk to your physician before making this a habit."
You shouldn't need a sleep aid indefinitely, so work with your doctor to get to the root of your sleep issues. It's especially important to rule out conditions such as sleep apnea, in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. "Doctors don't want patients taking sleeping medications if there's an underlying condition interfering with the ability to breathe," Dr. Altman said.