Can You Take Melatonin and Alcohol Together? Everything You Need to Know

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    Sleep deprivation is a serious problem, but is melatonin the answer? It may be a helpful part of the solution, but not if alcohol is involved.

    Is it safe to mix melatonin and alcohol?

    Alcohol often interacts with supplements and medications, so generally, it’s not advised to pair them with alcohol, including melatonin, unless your doctor says otherwise. The human body produces melatonin on its own — about 10–80 mcg during the night hours, with significant variations among individuals as well as a natural decline with aging. Because it is commonly used as a natural sleep supplement, many people assume that it is safe. However, any supplements that have a sleep-inducing effect should be discussed with your healthcare provider before taking.

    How melatonin affects your sleep

    Melatonin, a hormone that is made in the pineal gland, induces drowsiness and sleep in response to darkness. In a normal circadian rhythm, the body continues to release melatonin for several hours into the night, peaking around 2-4 AM. The hormone has also been shown to lower core body temperature, which also plays a role in sleep.

    Its primary use as a supplement is to support sleep and promote sleep regulation. Supplementing with melatonin near bedtime can promote the body’s ability to fall asleep. So while that one-time supplementation supports you in hitting the hay, it doesn’t aid in making you sleep through the night. Light disrupts melatonin production, so it is often used by people doing shift work or those experiencing jet lag.

    In terms of how much melatonin you should take for sleep, many supplements for adults have suggested servings sizes between 1 and 5 mg, though intakes lower than 1 mg can still be effective. Care/of offers a Sleep Blend formula that contains 2.5mg of melatonin combined with ashwagandha, which have both been clinically studied for their positive impact on sleep. It is not recommended for long-term daily use as chronic sleep aid. For persistent long term challenges in either falling or staying asleep, seek help from a qualified healthcare practitioner. Children should not take melatonin unless recommended by a physician. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking melatonin.

    How alcohol affects your sleep

    Falling asleep under the influence isn’t the best path to a good night's sleep. It turns out that alcohol causes a reduction in sleep as the night (or early morning) passes. This is because it can affect your body’s natural melatonin production. Long term alcohol consumption can contribute to increased cortisol (the stress hormone), by disrupting the HPA axis.

    In the short-term, alcohol can also impact your body temperature and since it’s a diuretic, it can trigger extra trips to the bathroom which can be disruptive to sleep and lead to dehydration. This study concludes that alcohol results in an increase of sleep disruptions in the second half of the night. And if you’re thinking about a nightcap to help you sleep, another study found that even a moderate amount of alcohol in the evening can suppress melatonin levels by 15% to 19%. Despite all the rumors to the contrary, alcohol does not help one sleep. Alcohol can reduce the amount of melatonin that your body makes. Although its sedative effects can make people fall asleep faster, the overall decrease in sleep quality is problematic and can worsen sleep, especially in the long run.

    This study concludes that alcohol results in an increase of sleep disruptions in the second half of the night.

    Potential side effects of the combination

    The combination of melatonin and alcohol can have adverse effects on both sleep and overall health and should be avoided. Drinking alcohol before taking melatonin can also reduce the effectiveness of melatonin.

    Side effects of melatonin supplementation are not well-established and have not been studied in clinical trials alongside alcohol. Melatonin is more likely to cause side effects when taking higher doses or extended-release formulations. Alcohol could theoretically exacerbate any or all of these. Side effects can include:

    • Drowsy feelings
    • Daytime sleepiness
    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Stomach cramps
    • Vivid dreams or nightmares
    • Dizziness
    • Mood changes
    • Irritability

    People who have certain conditions, particularly those that involve the immune system or kidneys, should not take melatonin without consulting with their doctor. But, it’s always important to discuss supplements with your medical provider to make sure that your individual wellness needs are considered.

    How does melatonin interact with alcohol?

    There is limited research on the interaction of melatonin and alcohol, but, since they are both sedating, their combination can increase the potential risk of complications. For some, it can increase the sedative effects, while in others the sedative effects can be negated.

    The potential mechanism behind the negative combination of melatonin and alcohol is that melatonin can decrease liver enzymes due to its antioxidant and other health-promoting properties. While those properties are generally favorable for the body, melatonin can be counterproductive when the liver is trying to detoxify alcohol.

    How long should you wait to take melatonin after drinking alcohol?

    If considering taking melatonin after drinking, most sources recommend waiting at least 2-3 hours after your last alcoholic beverage. Generally, the liver can metabolize alcohol at a rate of one drink per hour. However, this rate can vary between people and with the amount of alcohol consumed. So you may want to wait even longer to take melatonin, especially if you’ve had more than a few drinks.

    Long-term implications of regular combination

    Regularly combining melatonin and alcohol can have long-term implications for sleep patterns and health overall. Over time, these two substances together can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. This can lead to chronic sleep disturbances, potentially causing a vicious cycle of increased need for more sleep aids.

    Other ways to naturally improve sleep quality

    One in five people in the United States sleep fewer than six hours per night. Over time, this seeming annoyance can turn into a health problem. If you are experiencing sleep deprivation on a regular basis, here are some tips you can do to get more sleep:

    • Create a healthy sleep environment: Make sure your mattress is comfortable and the room is dark, cool, and quiet. In other words, get the TV, the tablet, and all related electronics out of the room and stop using them at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
    • Set a calming wind-down routine: Consider calming practices like breathwork, yoga, meditation, prayer or reading a book.
    • Exercise regularly: This can help with overall sleep quality. Exercise earlier in the day or finish up at least several hours before bedtime.
    • Manage stress throughout the day.
    • Watch your diet around bedtime: Avoid caffeine, chocolate, large amounts of sugar, anything that causes indigestion, and large meals before bedtime.
    • Eat an overall healthy daily diet: Consume mainly minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods
    • Magnesium supplementation: magnesium can help with sleep for those who may not be consuming enough magnesium from their diet.
    • Try herbal combinations: helpful options may include ashwagandha, valerian root, and passionflower, or foods high in melatonin like tart cherries, milk, nuts, and eggs.

    If you still find yourself not sleeping well, consult with a physician to further understand if anything else should be addressed. Additionally, it may be helpful to seek the support of a sleep specialist, which is a physician who specializes in sleep health.

    The Bottom Line

    Sleep deprivation is a serious issue in today’s world. If you’re not getting enough sleep and are considering using melatonin as a sleep supplement, there are a few things you should know. Melatonin supplementation is not intended to be a long-term solution, rather something to get you to return to a healthy sleep pattern. It helps by putting you in the quiet state of mind and body that would be your body’s normal response to darkness. Melatonin and alcohol should not be combined.

    If you do choose to supplement with melatonin, talk to your physician about it beforehand as there are things like interaction with other medications and possible side effects that need to be taken into consideration. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences over the long haul. When all else fails, do not hesitate to see a sleep specialist.

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    Laurel Ash, ND
    Laurel Ash, ND: Medical Content Reviewer
    Laurel Ash, ND is a board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She holds additional credentials with a master’s in integrative mental health. Dr. Ash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019. Dr. Ash practices in Oregon and Washington where ND’s scope of practice includes primary care. Using the best tools of allopathic/conventional medicine with the holistic tenants of naturopathic medicine has created a powerful force of healing for the patients in her practice. Dr. Ash focuses on combining integrative/functional health modalities with evidence-based medicine. She has experience as a medical reviewer in the holistic medicine field and partners with companies and practitioners to produce science-backed content for readers and consumers interested in holistic medicine. She is passionate about blending the strengths of allopathic and integrative medicine to transform the healthcare industry, empowering people with an understanding of all their options on their wellness journey.
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    Victoria is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist who helps people with resistant weight loss and PCOS transform their metabolic health and lose weight through a functional nutrition and lifestyle approach that addresses root causes. She is owner of her private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition and also leads her group metabolic coaching program for women called The 4 Method.