If you’re used to having sleep problems, the term ‘melatonin’ is most likely familiar to you. Alcohol is also considered by many to be a sleep aid. Then, logically, one might assume that melatonin and alcohol mixed together should increase the odds of falling asleep.
Spoiler alert - it doesn't.
While many would consider melatonin to be a wonderful sleeping drug, there is a significant amount of studies made showing the lack of proof for its potency. Also, it is relatively easy to overdose on melatonin. And while it's not lethal, it surely brings some unwanted results.
Alcohol is another case - many studies show that despite its sedative abilities, it actually disturbs sleep cycles and consequently worsens the quality of sleep. It is true that alcohol often brings a lot of social interactions and fun, but nowadays hardly anyone’s arguing about its negative side effects and health hazards.
Unless we’d ask Nikola Tesla back in the 1900’s. This brilliant mind was an avid whiskey lover and was found saying: “I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.”
Whether it’s an elixir of life or not can still be discussed. But in this article, we will look closely at both, melatonin and alcohol, their side effects, relation to sleep and answer the question "can you take melatonin with alcohol?".
Table of Contents
- 1. What Is Melatonin?
- 2. A Brief History of Alcohol
- 3. What are Melatonin and Alcohol Side Effects?
- 3.1. Side Effects of Melatonin
- 3.2. Risks of Alcohol
- 4. Can You Take Melatonin With Alcohol?
- 4.1. Side Effects of Mixing Melatonin and Alcohol
- 5. Alcohol and Melatonin When Pregnant
- 6. Alternatives to Alcohol and Melatonin
- 6.1. Natural Sleep Remedies
- 6.2. Bedtime Routine
- 7. Conclusions
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone, naturally produced in a healthy human organism. One particular part of our brain, called Pineal Gland, secretes it when it is time to sleep.
How does it know when it’s time to sleep, you might ask?
Well, simply put, our body has an internal bio-clock, scientifically called Circadian Rhythm, that automatically reacts to the time of the day and regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
Therefore, melatonin can casually be called a “sleeping hormone”. It makes us sleepy and prepares for the good night’s sleep.
Many sleep-related disorders come from Pineal Gland dysfunction. That’s why, in these circumstances, many seek relief in synthetically-produced melatonin.
A sneak peek - melatonin and alcohol do not go well together because the latter disturbs the production and effect of the “sleeping hormone”.
A Brief History of Alcohol
As of today, archeological findings suggest that fermented drinks were already used some 10,000 years BCE. Throughout history, many civilizations used alcohol for various reasons: rituals, celebrations, medicine, etc.
In Europe, during the Middle Ages, beer was an everyday drink. Since the making of alcohol includes boiling, this made it safer to drink than normal water. Even the monks and nuns, who were oftentimes the brewers, were also drunks too, so to say.
In today’s world, there is such a huge variety of alcohol types. Every region produces its alcohol from the local materials. That’s why now we have tequila made from agave plant in Mexico, vodka made from grains in Russia, rice wine in China and so on.
Centuries ago there weren’t any synthetic drugs and the question of whether it is okay mixing melatonin and alcohol, or, in fact, any kind of drug, has just started to occur in recent decades.
What are Melatonin and Alcohol Side Effects?
Melatonin and alcohol have their benefits and side effects. If they were used moderately, side effects are not so prevalent. Overdosing, on the other hand, can cause a whole bunch of them.
Side Effects of Melatonin
Melatonin is widely used in the U.S. as a sedative to help people fall asleep faster and sleep better. But since it does not require a prescription, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate it. This means you can buy it practically anywhere and easily overdose on it.
But fear not, melatonin overdose is by far not lethal. The side effects, though, can cause quite some trouble and unpleasantness. These are the most common side effects of melatonin overdose:
- Stomach Issues
- Daytime Sleepiness
Since melatonin is a hormone, regular overusing could lead to your body’s hormonal dysfunction and disrupt the natural melatonin production in your system. Therefore, it is always recommended to consult with your doctor before using melatonin supplements.
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Risks of Alcohol
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According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 86.3% of people aged 18 or older reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime.
As you can see, it is a prevalent substance in people’s life. And it has reasons to be like this. But overuse can lead to some serious damage not only to the subject’s health but also to other people.
As it is reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016, the use of alcohol resulted in some 3 million deaths worldwide. Almost a third of those were due to injuries caused by accidents, about 21% due to digestive and 19% due to cardiovascular diseases.
There are two types of side effects caused by alcohol: short-term and long-term.
The most common short-term side effects are:
- Injuries. Whether in motor vehicle accidents or loss of balance.
- Violence. Whether it’s a sexual assault, lack of anger control or homicide.
- Poisoning. Too much alcohol can severely poison your body.
If drinking alcohol becomes an abused habit, in the long run, it could develop these long-term side effects:
- High blood pressure and heightened risk of having a heart attack.
- Damage to liver and digestive system.
- Mental health problems, like depression, anxiety, dementia.
- Social problems, such as poor performance and productivity, unemployment, family problems.
- Sleeping disorders. As pointed out by K.J. Brower, M.D., alcoholics regularly experience problems falling asleep and decreased overall sleeping time. They are also more likely to suffer from other sleep disorders.
That’s why the World Health Organisation strongly recommends limiting the use of alcohol if not completely abstaining from it.
Can You Take Melatonin With Alcohol?
We finally come to the question, is it okay mixing melatonin and alcohol?
Since both of them make you sleepy, maybe it could be a solution to your sleep problems?
Well, it’s not, really.
Mixing melatonin and alcohol is potentially harmful. It is commonly known that alcohol is not something that mixes well with any pharmaceuticals. It applies to drugs and it also applies to food supplements, such as melatonin.
Even though alcohol works as a sedative and makes you sleepy, it actually creates even more problems falling asleep and reduces the chance of getting that deep sleep from which we rest the most.
Therefore, melatonin and alcohol side effects are influencing your sleep quality quite heavily.
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Side Effects of Mixing Melatonin and Alcohol
Imagine that when mixing melatonin and alcohol together, you also get each of their side effects combined. Those include:
- Potential loss of consciousness
- Trouble breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble to think clearly or focus
As mentioned before, sleep has different stages to it - deep sleep stage being the one where we rest the most and dreaming stage being the most active one. Taking melatonin with alcohol might make your dreams prolonged and more intense, which is the opposite of rest.
It won’t be a deadly potion (all you Harry Potter fans) but it’s always better to avoid drinking alcohol when using any kind of medicine or, in this case - hormonal supplement.
Alcohol and Melatonin When Pregnant
It is common to use sleep drugs for pregnant women since they experience hormonal changes and oftentimes have problems falling asleep. But they must first consult with their doctors about the use of melatonin since it can potentially have an effect on the fetus.
A thorough article about the use of melatonin for pregnant women can be read here.
It would be naive to say that there’s no point in talking about the use of alcohol and melatonin for pregnant women because they shouldn’t use the alcohol in the first place!
Unfortunatelly, there are numerous reports about mothers-to-be being caught completely wasted, or children being born with ailments caused by alcohol…
While medical doctors do not recommend melatonin for pregnant women, they urge them to completely abstain from using alcohol.
Alternatives to Alcohol and Melatonin
Both melatonin and alcohol side effects can be very unpleasant. And it is understandable that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, you naturally want to seek help.
Worry not, for there are other methods and substances out there that could help you combat insomnia and make you sleep better.
Natural Sleep Remedies
Unlike alcohol and melatonin, there are natural sleep aids that can bring you nice results without having those unwanted side effects.
Certain herbs, like Chamomile, Valerian, Lemon balm, Levander have calming properties and improve your sleep quality over time. If you would make drinking them one of your bedtime habits, in the long run, it could greatly benefit your sleep.
Of course, they alone are not capable of completely fixing your sleeping habits. You also need to dedicate yourself to regular sleeping-waking times.
When you fix your sleep to certain times, the body slowly adjusts to them making it easier to fall asleep and wake up. But besides that, it is very helpful to create your own bedtime habit that includes relaxation and ‘slowing down’.
Find yourself an hour or two, just before sleep, to read a book, listen to relaxing music, do some yoga or meditation, write in a journal. Calming down prepares your body and mind for a better night’s sleep.
Avoid scrolling smartphone or working with a computer - the light from them fools your brains that it’s still daytime and consequently your natural melatonin production falls low.
All in all, it’s better to ‘overdose’ on Chamomile tea than overdosing on alcohol and melatonin when trying to get the same results.
So, all things considered, can you take melatonin with alcohol?
The answer is no, not recommended at all.
Both melatonin and alcohol are sedatives but when combined they can cause many unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, trouble breathing, thinking and focusing.
Instead of helping you to sleep better, melatonin and alcohol side effects badly influence your sleep quality.
Melatonin is our body’s natural sleeping hormone but sometimes, due to sleep disorders, its production is disrupted. Melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, therefore it is relatively easy to overdose it.
In these cases, there are many other ways to aid yourself: using natural sleep remedies, fixing your sleeping habits, creating bedtime routines or simply changing your mattress and improving the quality of your sleep.
1. R. B. Costello, C. V. Lentino, C. C. Boyd et al.:'The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature'
2. World Health Organization: 'Global status report on alcohol and health 2018'
3. K. J. Brower, M.D.:'Alcohol’s Effects on Sleep in Alcoholics'
4. N. Buscemi, B. Vandermeer, N. Hooton et al.:'Efficacy and safety of exogenous melatonin for secondary sleep disorders and sleep disorders accompanying sleep restriction: meta-analysis'