Geraldine is a lifestyle and wellness writer. She writes about substance abuse, mental health, and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
With the rise of natural remedies for sleep, more and more people turn to melatonin as a daily sleeping aid. While melatonin is generally safe, not knowing its interactions with other substances is causing people to mix melatonin and alcohol.
If you’ve been drinking, taking melatonin to sleep might not be the best combination. Ideally, you’d want to wait at least three hours before taking melatonin as a sleep aid after drinking any alcoholic beverage.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that regulates the sleep cycle. The cycle, also known as circadian rhythm, helps us feel sleepy and have a restorative night. Melatonin plays a critical role in maintaining the sleep cycle. Once the sun goes down, your body’s natural production of melatonin starts, but most of it is made between 11 pm and 3 am.
If you take melatonin often, keep reading to learn more about its interactions with alcohol.
What Happens if You Mix Melatonin and Alcohol
In essence, alcohol works as a short-term sedative and can make you feel sleepy. However, it also reduces the way your body produces melatonin. This can interrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Alcohol also causes the muscles around your airways to work differently, making it harder to sleep if you have breathing issues.
Potential side effects of mixing alcohol and melatonin include:
- Increased anxiety
- Higher blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
In addition, the combination of these two substances can affect your liver’s ability to create certain enzymes needed to break down alcohol and eliminate it from your body. In some cases, complications can occur, including:
- Flushing in your face
- Swelling in your feet and ankles
- Abnormally fast heartbeat
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Trouble breathing
- Passing out
If you struggle with falling asleep or insomnia, talk to your doctor before trying a natural remedy like melatonin. Your doctor may decide that it isn’t the best solution for your sleeping problems. Other medications or treatments may be more effective in treating sleep disorders.
Can You Overdose on Melatonin and Alcohol?
While you won’t overdose on the combination of these substances, you could overdose on melatonin. High doses of melatonin can result in increased drowsiness that can cause you to pass out. Nonetheless, you probably won’t die from taking too much melatonin.
Melatonin is best in small doses. Usually, quantities are between one and three milligrams and no more than five milligrams per day. Dosage will depend on health issues, age, metabolism, and the length of time taking it. However, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate melatonin, it’s hard to know the precise dose needed.
How to Take Melatonin
Before taking melatonin, discuss it with your doctor to understand the dosage and best practices. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
- Take melatonin at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed.
- Although there are different ways to consume melatonin, tablets are the safest and most effective way to get melatonin in your system.
- After taking melatonin, avoid activities that expose you to blue light, such as your phone or TV. This type of light can slow down melatonin production and make the supplement less effective.
- Avoid alcohol after taking melatonin. Most melatonin supplements are time-released. This means they begin working about 30 minutes after you take them. Drinking alcohol interrupts this process and can make the supplement not work as effectively.
- If you’re planning on drinking alcohol, avoid taking melatonin that night or wait for at least three to four hours after your last drink to take the supplement. Mixing melatonin and alcohol can have side effects and disrupt your sleep cycle.
Potential Dangers and Side Effects of Melatonin
Melatonin supplements don’t have any risks or side effects for healthy people. However, it can have interactions with some prescription drugs such as:
- Blood thinners
- Birth control
- Diabetes medications
If any, possible side effects of melatonin supplements include:
- Disruption of your sleep cycle
- Feeling sleepy during the daytime
- Abnormal dizziness
- Occasional headaches
- Short episodes of depression or depressive feelings
How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep
In addition to interacting with melatonin, alcohol has adverse effects on your sleep patterns. While having a drink before bedtime can help you feel sleepy, moderate drinking can reduce your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
REM sleep is the most profound cycle, and it’s the most regenerative sleep you can get. Here is when our bodies rest. When you drink too much, your REM cycle can be disrupted, which causes focus problems, drowsiness, and irritability the next day. Not to mention, moderate to excessive drinking can also cause hangover side effects that can be tiring.
Not to mention, prolonged use of alcohol to induce sleep can trigger a tolerance that could lead to an alcohol use disorder.
5 Tips for Getting Better Sleep
Poor sleep can have detrimental effects on your hormone production, brain function, and overall mood. For improved health, a good night’s sleep is critical. Here are some tips to improve your sleep naturally:
- Create a sleep schedule – train your body to follow its natural circadian rhythm. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to improve your sleep quality.
- Avoid blue light before bed – blue light exposure can slow down melatonin production. Reduce screen time before bedtime to regulate your melatonin levels.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon – stay away from coffee and caffeinated beverages after 3 pm to avoid disrupting your sleep patterns.
- Don’t eat before bed – eating late at night can disrupt hormone production and interfere with your sleep.
- Avoid alcohol – alcohol interferes with melatonin production and can disrupt your REM sleep cycle and affect sleep quality.
A good night’s sleep is so vital for our overall health. If you take a melatonin supplement, watch out for your alcohol consumption and focus on committing to long-term lifestyle changes to improve your sleep routine.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Geraldine Orentas