Sedative effects of antihistamines

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1987 Jul;80(1):94-8. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(87)80197-5.


The central effects of a newly developed, long-acting H1 antihistamine, loratadine (10 and 40 mg), were compared with those of a standard H1 antihistamine, diphenhydramine (50 mg three times a day) with measures of performance and daytime sleepiness (multiple sleep latency test). Sixteen healthy adults (six women and 10 men), 19 to 35 years of age, received each of the drugs and placebo for 2 days, separated by 5 days at home. Each day, the drug or placebo was administered at 8 A.M. and 12 and 4 P.M. Diphenhydramine was administered in three equal doses (50 mg), and loratadine was administered in a single dose followed by two placebo doses. Mean latency to sleep on tests done at 9 and 11 A.M. and 1, 3, and 5 P.M. was reduced significantly with diphenhydramine compared to placebo, whereas neither loratadine dose reduced sleep latency. Performance measured at 9:30 P.M. and 1:30 P.M. with a battery of tests, including reaction time, vigilance, digit symbol substitution, and symbol copying tasks demonstrated a significant reduction in symbols copied and digits substituted after diphenhydramine compared to both loratadine doses. These results demonstrate that loratadine (10 and 40 mg doses) did not have clinically significant central nervous system activity, whereas diphenhydramine increases sleepiness and disrupts performance efficiency.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cyproheptadine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyproheptadine / pharmacology
  • Diphenhydramine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives*
  • Loratadine
  • Male
  • Sleep / drug effects


  • Histamine H1 Antagonists
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Cyproheptadine
  • Loratadine
  • Diphenhydramine