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Can You Take Melatonin With Alcohol?

It’s best to take melatonin supplements with no alcohol in your system. If you’ve had alcohol to drink, wait for at least two to three hours after your last drink to take this specific sleep aid.

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Possible negative side effects of mixing melatonin and alcohol include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Fall risks
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep
  • Irritability
  • Passing out

In addition to these side effects, there is an additional risk of liver problems. The interactions of melatonin and alcohol can affect your liver and its ability to produce enzymes. This can lead to serious adverse effects like breathing problems, swelling in your feet, rapid heartbeat, trouble focusing, and fainting.

At the least, combining alcohol and melatonin can negate the effects of melatonin. Alcohol decreases your body's ability to get REM sleep. This can essentially "cancel out" melatonin's benefits.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the pineal gland. Melatonin functions to regulate your sleeping pattern. It typically starts to get released around 9 pm, and levels steadily rise until 1-3 am. Higher melatonin levels make you drowsy and also put you in a deeper state of sleep. 

Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter in the United States. In the UK and other countries, it is only available when prescribed by a doctor. They are a natural sleep aid used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems by regulating your circadian rhythm. Taking melatonin supplements boosts your sleep cycle, causing you to fall asleep faster and fall into a deeper sleep.

Melatonin bottle and pills

People who have trouble falling asleep or wake up constantly throughout the night, or those suffering from sleep disorders, may benefit from taking melatonin.

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How to Use Melatonin Safely

Doctors recommend taking 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before you go to bed. Dimming the lights in your house helps to stimulate your natural melatonin production. Avoid blue light and bright screens before bedtime. During the day, be sure to get enough light by sitting near windows or taking walks outside. 

Over 3 million adults in the U.S. use melatonin. It is typically recommended for people who experience insomnia, are undergoing jetlag, or need to fall asleep and wake up earlier. Each brand of melatonin will have its own set of instructions on the label, and you should use it as suggested. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers melatonin a dietary supplement, meaning it is not strictly regulated, and the medical benefits are not officially FDA approved. It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether melatonin is right for you.

Melatonin should not be used if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding. You should also avoid it if you have an autoimmune disorder, are prone to seizures, or have depression. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should speak with your doctor before taking melatonin. It also may have adverse effects, such as increased blood sugar levels, if you are taking hypertension medication. 

If melatonin does not have positive effects on your sleep-wake cycle after a week or two of use, you should stop taking it and speak to your doctor.

Melatonin Side Effects

Melatonin is generally considered a safe sleep aid. Most people who use melatonin will not experience adverse side effects. It has not been shown to cause addiction or withdrawal symptoms. However, it should still be used with caution. 

Common side effects of melatonin include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased body temperature

There have been other concerns that melatonin can increase the adverse effects of hypertension medications, other sleeping pills that contain zolpidem, and blood thinners such as warfarin. Research is limited on these potential side effects. However, you should consult your doctor before taking melatonin if you’re taking any other medications.

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Alcohol’s Effects on Sleep

In addition to interacting with melatonin, drinking alcohol has negative impacts on your sleep patterns. While having a drink or two before bed may help you fall asleep faster, even moderate alcohol use can reduce your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

REM sleep is the deepest sleep you can reach and is the most rejuvenating sleep you can get. Alcohol’s interference with REM sleep time can cause daytime drowsiness, focus problems, and irritability the next day. Prolonged use of alcohol to induce sleep may lead to an alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol also decreases the amount of melatonin your body produces naturally.

Tips for Getting Better Sleep

Poor sleep can have negative effects on your brain function, hormone production, and physical performance. It can also increase your risk of diseases and cause weight gain. Getting a good night's sleep is a crucial component of becoming healthier or losing weight.

Here are 7 tips for getting better sleep:

  • Regulate your sleep pattern — your body has a natural circadian rhythm. Sticking to the optimal time for your sleep and wake cycle can improve your long-term sleep quality.
  • Get bright light exposure during the day — Natural sunlight and blue light exposure throughout the day helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This increases your daytime energy and the quality of your sleep.
  • Decrease blue light exposure before bed — Blue light exposure in the evening can interfere with your body's natural melatonin production. Reducing screen time and being aware of your environment's lighting can help regulate your melatonin production and sleep quality.
  • Avoid caffeine after 3 pm — Most people in the U.S. consume caffeine. Small amounts can be beneficial. However, consuming any amount 6 hours before bed can decrease the quality of your sleep significantly.
  • Avoid alcohol — Alcohol disrupts natural melatonin production and disrupts your sleep patterns. Alcohol abstinence is the best way to ensure it does not affect sleep quality.
  • Don't eat before bed — Eating late at night can cause poor sleep and disrupt hormone production.
  • Exercise regularly — Exercise improves your overall health, including your sleep quality. However, some people may find that exercising later in the day may keep them up at night. This is due to the production of adrenaline and epinephrine.

Melatonin & Alcohol FAQs

Is it OK to take melatonin every night?

Yes, it is safe to take melatonin every night. However, this should only be done short-term. There is little research available on the long-term effects of daily melatonin use.

Does alcohol affect melatonin production?

Yes, research indicates that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce melatonin production by 15% to 19%.

Will I die if I mix melatonin and alcohol?

You will not die from mixing melatonin and alcohol, however there are a number of negative side effects that can occur if you mix melatonin and alcohol.

Takeaways

In summary:

  • It is not safe to mix melatonin and alcohol; doing so may cause potentially dangerous health effects
  • Melatonin is considered a safe, natural sleep aid, but you should speak with your doctor before taking an over-the-counter supplement
  • Alcohol can significantly decrease the quality of your sleep; avoid alcohol consumption to get better sleep
  • Good sleep is crucial to overall health
  • Regulate your sleep patterns, exercise regularly, and pay attention to your circadian rhythm to improve your quality of sleep

Resources

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Andersen, Lars Peter Holst et al. “The Safety of Melatonin in Humans.” Clinical drug investigation vol. 36,3 (2016): 169-75. doi:10.1007/s40261-015-0368-5, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26692007/

Hack, Lisa M et al. “The effects of low-dose 0.5-mg melatonin on the free-running circadian rhythms of blind subjects.” Journal of biological rhythms vol. 18,5 (2003): 420-9. doi:10.1177/0748730403256796, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14582858/

Otmani, S et al. “Effects of prolonged-release melatonin, zolpidem, and their combination on psychomotor functions, memory recall, and driving skills in healthy middle aged and elderly volunteers.” Human psychopharmacology vol. 23,8 (2008): 693-705. doi:10.1002/hup.980, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23229504_Effects_of_prolonged-release_melatonin_zolpidem_and_their_combination_on_psychomotor_functions_memory_recall_and_driving_skills_in_healthy_middle_aged_and_elderly_volunteers

Kurhaluk , Natalia. “Melatonin and Alcohol-Related Disorders.” Chronobiology International, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Apr. 2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32419511/.

Matsumoto, M et al. “The amplitude of endogenous melatonin production is not affected by melatonin treatment in humans.” Journal of pineal research vol. 22,1 (1997): 42-4. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079x.1997.tb00301.x, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9062869/

Wirtz, Petra H et al. “Oral melatonin reduces blood coagulation activity: a placebo-controlled study in healthy young men.” Journal of pineal research vol. 44,2 (2008): 127-33. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079X.2007.00499.x, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18289163/

Conroy, Deirdre A et al. “Dim light melatonin onset in alcohol-dependent men and women compared with healthy controls.” Chronobiology international vol. 29,1 (2012): 35-42. doi:10.3109/07420528.2011.636852, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51979910_Dim_Light_Melatonin_Onset_in_Alcohol-Dependent_Men_and_Women_Compared_with_Healthy_Controls

Rupp, Tracy L et al. “Evening alcohol suppresses salivary melatonin in young adults.” Chronobiology international vol. 24,3 (2007): 463-70. doi:10.1080/07420520701420675, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17612945/

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