It is estimated that close to 33% of Americans struggle, one way or another, with insomnia. And a good chunk of them will turn to sleeping aids such as melatonin and alcohol in a bid to get some shut-eye. This may sound like a paradox, but you'd be surprised to know the number of people who are deluded to think that taking melatonin with alcohol can help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. And this begs the age-old question, can I take melatonin with alcohol?
Here's the thing, given the immense risks that are normally associated with standard prescription pills, it is not a surprise that more and more insomniacs are turning to safer options such as dietary melatonin supplements. People with sleeping difficulties will at times turn to drinking alcohol nightly in a bid to get some rejuvenating and restful slumber. However, taking melatonin with alcohol is at times not the wisest of choices and for a good reason. Here's a detailed insight to that.
Does Melatonin Interact with Alcohol? How a Night Cup Can Create Unforeseeable Problems
Even before delving deeper into the subject of mixing alcohol and melatonin, it is imperative to first of all shed some light into this sleep booster. Melatonin, unlike regular sleeping pills, is a 100% natural sleep aid that increases the body's ability to respond to its set circadian rhythm. In other words, instead of directly causing drowsiness (as alcohol does), melatonin simply 'persuades' your mind to shut down and your body to go to sleep by ensuring an undisrupted sleep cycle. So, is it bad to take melatonin with alcohol?
Speaking of sleep cycles, there are many things that can throw your sleep cycle into disarray and ultimately cause insomnia. These include things like;
- Jet lag
- Staying up until ungodly hours partying or engaging in recreational activities
- Certain medications
- Excessive alcohol consumption i.e binge drinking
It is in cases such as these that the dilemma of, "Can you drink alcohol with melatonin?" starts to seem like a real consideration. Nevertheless, for reasons that we will extrapolate further, this is considered the wrong approach, and by a bad stretch.
All other factors held constant, our bodies tend to secrete melatonin naturally. This explains why most insomniacs consider it the most natural solution to their sleeping problems. Here’s where the comparison between melatonin and wine starts to get interesting. Unlike a depressant like alcohol, which is essentially a nerve poison, melatonin is naturally produced by the body. Nonetheless, just like any other dietary or medical supplement, it's critical to adhere closely to the instructions governing its safe and effective use. One of the keynote points surrounding this is the question of, “Does melatonin interact with alcohol?”
Is Melatonin Safe With Alcohol? An Unbiased Opinion
A lot of new users of this supplement will often ask, is melatonin safe with alcohol? The truth is that it is not a great idea to mix the two. For starters, alcohol is well known to interfere with the effectiveness and accuracy of a number of supplements and medications, let alone melatonin. It can either weaken or strengthen the potency of this supplement in ways that the drug manufacturer or developer had not intended or anticipated. This puts at a great risk of suffering accidental poisoning, not to mention predisposing you to a whole myriad of possible safety concerns.
Still on this, several studies have revealed how a certain demographic of people who consume heavy amounts of alcohol regularly have naturally lower levels of these sleep-inducing hormones. This collection of studies have also unearthed how people who abuse alcohol will start producing melatonin later at night compared to those who abstain from alcoholic beverages. This implies that the circadian rhythm of heavy drinkers is vastly disrupted, something that opens the door to sleep-related complications such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness.
What Happens if You Take Melatonin with Alcohol?
Out of curiosity or otherwise, it is possible that at this point in time you could be wondering, what happens if you take melatonin with alcohol? If taken alongside alcohol, melatonin-based supplements can open a can of worms that is rife with a number of possible side effects including;
- An elevated heart rate
- Redness and irritation on the face
- Vivid/lucid dreams
- Increased irritability and anxiety
- Poor sleep quality
- Inability to think clearly and confusion
- Swelling of feet and hands
- Trouble or difficulty breathing
- Risk of falling
- Extreme drowsiness
- Passing out
What’s more, a person who has taken alcohol and melatonin may experience trouble driving and walking. These side effects can have devastating consequences, especially taking into account that they will put you at a risk of losing consciousness or accidents especially when operating machinery.
Simply put, melatonin mixed with alcohol is a dangerous combination which ought not to be taken lightly especially if you are new to the supplement. To be safe, avoid taking it at least 10 hours before having a drink and 10 hours afterwards. Additionally, considering the extreme drowsiness that is usually associated with taking melatonin with alcohol, it is strongly advisable to avoid attempting or undertaking any tasks that require extreme alertness or concentration e.g driving or operating machinery.
People who are at an Elevated Risk When Combining Melatonin with Alcohol
As unusual as it sounds, there are certain people who are more vulnerable to the complications of taking melatonin with alcohol. This includes the following population subset.
1. People Who are Under Certain Medication
Persons who are taking the following OTC medications and prescription pills are naturally at a higher risk of complications and health problems when they combine melatonin and alcohol.
- Blood thinners: If you are on blood thinners such as warfarin or coumadin, drinking alcohol will stop your body from breaking down the medication efficiently and this could lead to serious bleeding such as brain bleed or stomach bleeding. A study has suggested that this impact is heightened when melatonin is in the picture.
- Anxiety pills: This includes the likes of alprazolam or xanax. If you are on such medication and also take melatonin supplements to help you fall asleep easier, adding alcohol to this combination can have potentially life-threatening impacts such as troubled breathing and extreme drowsiness.
- Other assorted sleeping aids: If you are regularly taking other OTC sleep helpers such as unisom, doxylamine, zzzquil, diphenhydramine or valerian root, then it is in your best interest to avoid taking melatonin with alcohol. This combination can result in severe drowsiness and an accelerated risk of suffering accidental injuries.
2. Older Adults
Adults above the age of 65 years old are usually more likely to feel the disastrous effects of combining melatonin and alcohol than their younger counterparts. As such, the intensity of interactions with either alcohol or sleeping medications is more intense in this population subset compared to other persons. That being said, it is usually considered safe for older adults to take melatonin supplements to treat or boost their ability to sleep uninterrupted faster. The problem only arises when you consume melatonin with alcohol in an attempt to make its effects more intense.
Can I Take Melatonin After Drinking? How Much is Too Much?
Let’s face it—most of us enjoy one or two drinks occasionally. There’s really no problem with that as long as you are enjoying responsibly and are obviously above the minimum legal drinking age. But this leads to the pertinent question, “Can I take melatonin after drinking?”
The reality is that the effects of alcohol often vary widely from one person to another, regardless of the amount taken. This is typically based on a collection of several factors including; age, prevailing health conditions, and genetics. In short, since the impact of taking melatonin with alcohol has not been comprehensively studied or peer reviewed, it is best to err on the positive side of caution. In other words, you are safer if you entirely avoid consuming alcohol completely while taking this supplement.
Having said that, considering how widespread, pervasive, and socially acceptable indulging in alcohol has become, it is not uncommon for one to find themselves in situations where they have to indulge in one or two drinks whilst on a melatonin supplementation program. This raises the dilemma of, how long after drinking can I take melatonin?
Depending on how much you have indulged or had to drink, you should wait at least 6 to 8 hours before taking melatonin as a sleep aid. Of course, the longer you wait, the safer it is in the long run.
It is generally not considered safe to take melatonin with alcohol. While it depends on the specific supplement and the person who is taking the melatonin, it may take between five to six hours before the chemical markers of the supplement have left your system. It is at this time that one should entirely abstain from indulging in an alcoholic drink of any shape or form.
(n.a.). 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html
Kuhlwein, E., et al., (2003). Abnormal nocturnal melatonin secretion and disordered sleep in abstinent alcoholics. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3sv9w71c