A good night of sleep is absolutely essential to your overall health, and many people have found melatonin to be a helpful sleep aid. However, it’s critical that you do not use alcohol and melatonin together. If you do drink before taking melatonin, it’s best to wait 2-3 hours before taking melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle, and keeps it consistent through managing your circadian rhythm. Some people refer to this colloquially as your biological clock, as it measures your sleep cycle and schedule. Over time, your body gets into a rhythm and melatonin is produced when it’s time to sleep. The human body’s pineal gland is what produces melatonin, and alerts your brain when it’s time to sleep. Because the body is sensitive to light, the pineal gland acts in darkness to help alert our bodies that we’re tired, and in the daytime, the pineal gland halts melatonin production.
People who have trouble sleeping, have sleep apnea, jet lag, or insomnia may find a melatonin supplement helpful in falling asleep.
Can You Drink Alcohol and Take Melatonin?
The bottom line is, it’s not safe to drink alcohol in conjunction with melatonin.
The effects alcohol has on your system go directly against the effectiveness of melatonin. In fact, alcohol should generally not be used alongside any medication at all, and melatonin is not an exception.
If you have taken melatonin and alcohol together, you may have trouble walking, and should definitely not even consider driving.
Some common side effects of melatonin and drinking alcohol could include:
- Excessive drowsiness
- Breathing trouble
- Fainting, passing out
- Shivering or feeling abnormally cold
- Risk of falling
- Poor night's sleep
- Foggy thoughts
- Vivid dreams
- Increased levels of anxiety
- Facial redness and swelling
- Feet and hand inflammation/swelling
- Increased heart-rate
So, now that you know not to do it, here’s some info on why.
Melatonin Supplement Basics
General guidelines for melatonin include:
- Take melatonin about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
- Tablets are the most common way of taking melatonin, but aren’t the only way. There are melatonin drinks, teas, dissolvable capsules, and more, but tablets are the most common method.
Those struggling with chronic insomnia and sleep disruption should consult their doctor to determine causes for these sleep problems versus just using melatonin as a band aid for symptoms.
Melatonin supplements don’t have many negative side effects aside from daytime drowsiness, but it’s important to buy from a reputable source and to not mix with other medications without first checking with your doctor.
The Basics of Alcohol
The effect of alcohol on your body is not something to take lightly. Alcohol has a powerful effect on your central nervous system and brain function from the first sip.
Alcohol affects both your body and your mind, and overdrinking has become increasingly common. An occasional glass of wine with your dinner isn’t where the concern lies, but rather the cumulative effect of habitual or excessive drinking.
There are both immediate short term effects, and long term effects. Consuming too much alcohol is linked to countless health concerns, including high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, circulation issues, blood clots, stroke, anemia, cardiomyopathy, or heart attack.
Alcohol itself has astronomically negative effects on your sleep — while some people think alcohol helps them get to bed, it can actually disrupt sleep by causing middle-of-the-night waking and interfering with hormones that are trying to help you sleep.
Cumulative Effects of Alcohol
- Digestive and endocrine glands. Drinking too much alcohol activates the digestive enzyme that the pancreas produces. When these enzymes build up, it leads to inflammation known as pancreatitis. This is a lifelong condition that could cause serious complications.
- Damage caused by inflammation. The liver filters toxins and removes harmful substances in your body. Excessive, long-term alcohol use gets in the way of this natural, necessary process. Your risk for liver inflammation and liver disease is raised when you drink alcohol. Liver cirrhosis is caused from scarring due to the inflammation, and the scar tissue destroys the liver, making toxins harder to remove from your body. If your liver can’t remove these harmful toxins, your body is in serious danger and liver disease is life threatening.
- Sugar levels. Your pancreas is responsible for regulating your body's insulin. When your pancreas can’t function properly, you can develop low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The opposite can also be caused. A damaged pancreas prevents the body from producing enough insulin to process sugar. You are at higher risk of experiencing these complications if you suffer from diabetes, which already impacts your blood sugar. It is particularly important for you to avoid excessive drinking when dealing with diabetes.
- Central nervous system (CNS) effects. It’s important to understand the impact of alcohol on your central nervous system, when understanding its effect on your overall health. If you notice your speech becoming slurred when drinking, that's your first sign to cut back. That means it’s reduced the communication lines between your brain and body, inhibiting your coordination and balance. This is also what makes it difficult to create long-term memories when drinking. It reduces your ability to think clearly, and causes you to make choices you wouldn’t otherwise. The central nervous system is responsible for emotions, short term memory, and judgements, so, when you drink, all of these areas may be changed negatively.
- Dependency. Some people who drink too much for too long will experience alcohol withdrawal. When you develop a dependency on alcohol, withdrawal can be dangerous and you may need professional intervention to quit for good.
- Digestive system. Maybe you’ve noticed after a night of drinking that you experience diarrhea or other digestive issues. There is still much research to be done on this link, but we do know that there is a link and alcohol can prevent your intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Gassiness, bloating, or painful stools may also be a side effect of drinking. Additionally, ulcers and hemorrhoids can show up as more severe side effects from drinking.
- Sexual and reproductive health. While drinking lowers your inhibitions, the reality is that drinking also prevents sex hormone production and can result in temporary or even permanent sexual dysfunction.
- Skeletal system. Alcohol consumption weakens your bones and prevents your body from strengthening them. This weakens your skeletal system and causes you to heal more slowly from falls or breaks.
- Immune system compromised. This might seem like a no-brainer, but alcohol negatively affects your immune system, as it makes it harder for your body to fight off germs.
- Liver failure. The liver is a large organ that filters out toxins and breaks down proteins, and helps the body absorb fats. When someone drinks heavily long term the body begins to replace the liver’s healthy tissue with scar tissue - this condition is known as liver cirrhosis. In fact, in 2015, it was researched that 5.8 alcohol related deaths per a population of every 100,000, a 34.9% increase from 2000.
While many have found melatonin to be helpful in aiding them in a good night's sleep, others might like to enjoy a drink to help them relax before bed (although we don’t recommend doing this on the regular).
However, melatonin and alcohol should definitely never go together, no questions asked.