Melatonin and Alcohol Interactions: What Happens When You Mix Them?
If you have trouble sleeping, there is a chance that your doctor will recommend that you try taking melatonin.
For many patients with insomnia, melatonin can be an effective sleep aid. But you do need to make sure you are using it correctly in order to stay safe.
Part of that involves avoiding potentially dangerous interactions.
For a lot of people, drinking is a regular part of daily life, and many people enjoy their alcoholic beverages like wine in the evening - right around when they might be thinking of taking their nightly melatonin.
Does melatonin interact with alcohol? In this article, we’ll answer that question in-depth.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone.
In your body, it is produced by the pineal gland.
It is melatonin’s job to signal your body to go to sleep at night.
The majority of your body’s melatonin is produced between 11 pm and 3 am.
Even though your body manufactures melatonin on its own, some people are able to benefit from taking extra melatonin in the form of a supplement.
While a doctor may recommend that you take melatonin, you do not need a prescription to purchase it.
It is available over-the-counter.
In fact, there is a wide selection of OTC melatonin products you can try. Your neighborhood pharmacy should have one or more brands available.
If you cannot find what you need in person, you can also try shopping online.
There you will have access to the widest selection of melatonin supplements.
KEY POINT: Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your pineal gland.
To bolster your melatonin levels, you can take a melatonin supplement.
While both natural and synthetic melatonin supplements are available, the synthetic ones are recommended for reasons of purity.
Why is Melatonin Prescribed?
Melatonin is usually prescribed for sleep problems. According to WebMD (1), it is most likely effective for the following types of sleep disorders:
- Sleep disorders of the blind
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome (common in children and adolescents)
- Sleep-wake cycle disturbances and interruptions
- Reduced REM sleep
There is also some research to support taking melatonin for any of the following conditions:
- Sleep issues related to the use of beta-blockers
- High blood pressure
- Primary insomnia
- Jet lag
- Pre-surgery anxiety
- Sunburn prevention (when applied topically)
- Tumors (in conjunction with chemo)
- Low blood platelets
There are a number of other anecdotal uses for melatonin as well, but they currently do not have enough research to back them up.
KEY POINT: Melatonin is usually taken for various types of sleep disorders and disturbances.
It may also be useful for treating some other conditions such as endometriosis and high blood pressure.
Do Melatonin and Alcohol Interact?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what melatonin is and why you might be taking it as a supplement, let’s talk about melatonin and alcohol.
Somewhat ironically, alcohol actually can get in the way of your body’s own melatonin production.
This is one of the reasons alcohol tends to disrupt sleep, despite being a “downer.”
So if you have a sleep disorder, you probably should be avoiding indulging in alcohol late at night to begin with.
But if you are taking melatonin supplements, there is another good reason to be cautious with alcohol - and that is that these two substances interact.
When this happens, your liver becomes overburdened, and my not be able to effectively produce important enzymes.
This can lead to a slew of adverse effects, some of which are merely unpleasant, others of which are potentially dangerous.
KEY POINT: Alcohol and melatonin do interact, so you should avoid combining them.
What Happens If You Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?
Some side effects which may occur when you mix alcohol and melatonin are:
- Increased drowsiness
- Increased dizziness
- Heightened anxiety
- Higher blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Swollen ankles and feet
- A sensation of being cold
- Cognitive problems
- Breathing difficulties
Obviously, you can see why it is vital to avoid these adverse effects.
If you pass out from an interaction, you could harm yourself or others. Just imagine if you were behind the wheel of a car.
What Else Can Melatonin Interact With?
Alcohol is not the only substance with which melatonin may interact. Here are some others:
- Birth control pills or devices
- Blood thinners
- Diabetes meds
- Other sedatives
- Nifedipine GITS
Each of these interactions may cause different effects.
If you are taking any of these medications, do some research and consider consulting with a doctor before you start taking melatonin supplements.
Also, be aware that melatonin may interact with certain health conditions as well.
- Bleeding disorders can increase when you are taking melatonin.
- If you have depression, it might be intensified when you use melatonin.
- Blood sugar levels can rise when diabetic patients use melatonin.
- Those who are prone to seizures may get more of them when taking melatonin.
- Taking melatonin may increase high blood pressure.
- If you are taking an immunosuppressant to prevent your body from rejecting a transplanted organ, taking melatonin could cause complications with the transplant.
- One should also not take melatonin if one is pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, avoiding melatonin may help. Any condition involving irregular ovulation may be made worse by using melatonin.
Again, if you have any doubts as to whether melatonin is the right choice for you, talk to your doctor.
KEY POINT: Melatonin interacts not only with alcohol, but with a number of other drugs and health conditions as well.
Can Melatonin Cause Side Effects in General?
Even if you do not mix melatonin with alcohol or other substances or conditions, there is a chance you could experience some common side effect. These include:
- Stomach cramps
These side effects can be pronounced enough that WebMD mentions you should wait at least four to five hours after your dose before you consider driving or operating machinery.
Considering that, you can picture how much worse these side effects could be if you mix melatonin and alcohol.
How to Avoid Mixing Melatonin and Alcohol
Obviously the best way to avoid interactions between alcohol and melatonin is simply not to drink.
For most people though, that is too big an ask.
So how can you avoid inadvertently mixing the two?
If you have already had an alcoholic beverage, try to avoid taking melatonin until at least 2-3 hours have passed.
Likewise, if you have already taken melatonin, you should not have a drink right away. You should wait for at least a few hours.
Ideally, though, you shouldn’t drink at all after taking melatonin for several reasons:
- You might experience dangerous side effects, as previously discussed.
- The melatonin may be less effective if you add alcohol to your system.
- Drinking alcohol close to bedtime is only going to make sleep problems worse, with or without melatonin.
As you are supposed to take melatonin about half an hour before hitting the sack, drinking alcohol after taking the supplement means you are having alcohol way too late at night.
KEY POINT: In order to avoid mixing alcohol and melatonin, make sure that you wait at least several hours after drinking alcohol before taking a melatonin supplement.
After taking the supplement, avoid drinking alcohol, and go straight to bed.
Tips for Choosing the Best Melatonin Products
Now that you know all about alcohol and melatonin as well as possible side effects which can come from interactions, here are some tips to help you choose the highest-quality melatonin supplements.
Picking the right product can sometimes reduce common side effects.
Just keep in mind that no melatonin product should be used with alcohol, no matter how high in quality it is. Quality will not prevent interactions.
- Avoid natural melatonin, and stick with synthetic melatonin. Even though we usually think of “natural” as best, the American Academy of Family Physicians states that this form of melatonin is more likely to be subject to viral contamination (2).
- Choose a product which is fast-acting. The faster that melatonin dissolves and enters your bloodstream, the sooner you can feasibly get to sleep.
- Shop for a product with natural ingredients. Try and stay away from melatonin supplements which have unnecessary fillers and unnatural additives.
- Pick a product which is pure. Ideally, the melatonin supplement which you are purchasing will have been tested by a third party to verify its potency as well as its purity.
- Check the amount of melatonin in each capsule and how many capsules are in the bottle when evaluating the price. This will help you to determine whether you are getting a good value.
KEY POINT: Quality can vary significantly between melatonin supplements.
Because of the lack of strong regulation in the supplements market, you should do your own research when determining which supplements to try.
Tips for Using Melatonin Safely and Effectively
Following are some suggestions to help you get the most out of melatonin while avoiding interactions and side effects:
- Choose the right dosage. You may notice while you are shopping for melatonin that there is a significant range in dosages for sale. The dosage that you require will depend on the specific condition you are treating as well as other factors pertaining to your person.
- Do not drink alcohol for at least several hours before you take melatonin.
- Do not drink alcohol in the hours after taking melatonin.
- Do not take melatonin if it will interfere with other drugs or health conditions which you might have.
- In most cases, taking melatonin about half an hour before bedtime works out optimally. There may be some individual variations. Take notes and make adjustments as needed.
- Do not drive or operate machinery for 4-5 hours after taking melatonin.
- Select a form of melatonin which is convenient for you. If in doubt, just go with regular tablets. This is the best way to make sure that you are taking the proper dosage.
KEY POINT: With melatonin, as with any other drug or supplement that you use, it is up to you to make sure that you are following the best practices for safe and effective use.
Alternatives to Melatonin
What if you cannot take melatonin or simply do not want to? Here are a few other suggestions for improving your sleep quality:
- You can try using other sleep medications. Both prescription and over-the-counter sleep meds are available. Be cautious, however, as these medications are easily abused and may lead to long-term cognitive problems.
- If you prefer to use a natural alternative, there are a number of different herbs you can try using as sleep aids. Some examples are lavender, chamomile, valerian root, magnolia bark, lemon balm, and passionflower.
- If depression or anxiety are connected to your sleep disorder, treating these issues may help you to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.
- Try to stay away from blue light late at night. This type of light tricks your brain into thinking that it is daylight, which can disrupt melatonin production and sleep cycles.
- Evaluate your sleep hygiene. Is there anything you can do to make your room more comfortable and conducive to sleep?
- Do a relaxing activity before bedtime which helps to settle your mood and take your mind off of your everyday problems.
- Try to avoid drinking alcohol late at night, even if you will not be using melatonin or another sleep medication with which it might interact.
There are other options which you can investigate as well. Look into these, and consider seeing a sleep expert if you're still having trouble trying to solve the problem on your own.
Conclusion: Melatonin and Alcohol Don’t Mix
Even though drinking alcoholic beverages at night may be part of your routine now, you can see why it is a bad idea to continue if you are taking melatonin to treat a sleep disorder.
By mixing the two, you risk worse side effects as well as a reduction in the effectiveness of the melatonin.
At the same time, the alcohol will also interfere with your body's own melatonin production.
So make some changes to your routine if necessary, and avoid drinking alcoholic beverages in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
This should make it safer and more effective to take melatonin as a supplement, and it should also help your body to be more efficient with its own melatonin production.
The result should be better sleep.
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