Last updated on February 7th, 2020
Do melatonin and alcohol mix? It’s an important question with a complicated answer.
You may already know that melatonin is a vital hormone that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles each day. You may also know that your body makes melatonin on its own, but you can supplement your natural melatonin with over-the-counter pills.
But, as your melatonin levels are rising in the evening, you may be having a glass of wine or a couple of beers. What happens when the alcohol and melatonin meet? Is it safe to take an over-the-counter supplement after imbibing in the evening?
Those questions (and others) about mixing melatonin and alcohol are answered below.
The Effects of Alcohol On Sleep
Before we dive into how melatonin and alcohol interact, it’s important to understand how alcohol affects sleep in general.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there’s a certain irony in how alcohol affects sleep.It makes you drowsy, but it also leads to poor-quality sleep. There are several reasons for this:
- Alcohol creates both delta activity (slow-wave patterns associated with deep sleep) and alpha activity (a brain pattern that occurs when we’re awake but quietly resting). These two patterns compete with one another and may even prevent you from enjoying restorative sleep.
- Alcohol interrupts your circadian rhythms, which means that you may fall asleep quickly,but you’re likely to wake up once or more in the middle of the night
- Alcohol blocks REM sleep, which means that you’re less likely to sleep deeply and more likely to wake up feeling groggy
- Alcohol prevents full relaxation, which includes your throat muscles,leading to difficulty breathing during sleep. This is why people who’ve been drinking are more likely to snore
- Alcohol activates your bladder, which means that you will wake up even during deeper sleep with an urgent need to use the restroom.
Is it Safe to Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?
It’s clear that both melatonin and alcohol influence the body in their own unique ways. But, is mixing melatonin and alcohol a bad idea? While you’re unlikely to experience anything acute by mixing the two, the answer to this question is “yes”, it’s best to avoid mixing melatonin and alcohol. Here are 4 reasons why:
- Side Effects: When you use melatonin and alcohol, you may experience significant side effects like anxiety, dizziness and drowsiness. Mixing melatonin and alcohol may also increase blood pressure
- Enzymes: Mixing melatonin and alcohol may also affect how your liver creates enzymes, which can lead to breathing issues, racing of the heart, swelling of the feet and other issues
- Natural Production: Using alcohol and melatonin may also reduce your body’s ability to naturally produce melatonin
- Breathing: Alcohol can make it more difficult for you to breathe during sleep, and mixing alcohol and melatonin makes this issue worse
Is Melatonin a Hangover Remedy?
As noted above, it’s not a good idea to use both alcohol and melatonin at the same time. While you may enjoy a deeper sleep than you would when using alcohol alone, the side effects can be dangerous and have long-term effects — and there’s an additional reason to avoid using melatonin and alcohol simultaneously.
Using melatonin and alcohol creates an unusual hangover effect. It’s not a typical alcohol-only hangover — it’s more of a grogginess hangover.
Here’s how it works: A single dose of melatonin (often 5 mg) mixed with alcohol raises the body’s plasma melatonin levels, which means you’ll have a hard time waking up your mind the next day — even after you’ve physically woken up.
Melatonin for Alcohol Withdrawal
You should always seek guidance from a doctor or addiction specialist when having trouble sleeping during alcohol withdrawals. But there are several facts about melatonin as it relates to alcohol withdrawal that might be helpful to know:
- Addiction: The most important thing to know about melatonin and alcohol withdrawal is that melatonin is not clinically addictive. That is, you won’t be replacing an addiction to alcohol with an addiction to a sleeping aid.
- Bodily Response: While melatonin is not clinically addictive, your body may develop a tolerance or even a dependency on any type of sleep aid you choose to use — melatonin included.
- Long-Term Effects: The long-term use of melatonin can lead to depression or an increase in the severity of depression, which naturally has unique implications for those suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
There are alternatives to melatonin for those suffering from alcohol withdrawal. For example, L-Tryptophan is an amino acid found in the body (famously increased by eating turkey). But what many don’t know about L-Tryptophan is that it helps your body create more melatonin naturally.
Because L-Tryptophan poses fewer risks for depression and dependency, it can serve as a better alternative to more commonly known and used sleep aids like melatonin.
There are few things in life more important than getting a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep helps both our brains and our bodies recover from long days.Going any extended period of time without good sleep is likely to tax both the brain and the body.
We’re also fortunate to have access to over-the-counter supplements like melatonin. Just remember that melatonin is best used to reset your sleep clock when you’re traveling around the world and experiencing jet lag, or when you’ve stayed up too late and want to get back on track the next night.
Melatonin is not meant to be used as a daily sleep aid, and it’s certainly not designed for mixing with alcohol. While the effects of mixing melatonin and alcohol are unlikely to lead to an emergency room visit, they do pose enough long-term risk that blending the two should be avoided.
As always, if you have questions about melatonin or other sleep aids, you should consult your primary care physician and get his or her advice on how to approach getting better sleep, whether you use alcohol or not.