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What is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body that plays a role in circadian rhythms [1]. Melatonin or 5 methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine is used in dietary supplements. It is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally makes to help keep your sleep cycle consistent. This cycle is also known as your circadian rhythm. This is also sometimes called the “biological clock.” Melatonin may be an effective and safe treatment of chronic insomnia, sleep anxiety, and insomnia caused by jet lag or shift work. Individuals sometimes use alcohol to self-medicate from insomnia and sometimes combine melatonin and alcohol.

Melatonin plays a major role in maintaining your sleep cycle. Your body produces most of it in the hours after the sun goes down. Most of it is made, especially between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. Research suggests that melatonin plays other vital roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood. Melatonin dietary supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms, but most often they’re made synthetically.

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Melatonin and Alcohol
Let’s take a look at the way this interaction between melatonin and alcohol affects you negatively

What are the Health Benefits of Taking Melatonin?

Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, and anxiety before and after surgery.

Jet lag

  • Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems. Research suggests that melatonin supplements may help with jet lag. 

Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)

  • People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Melatonin supplements appear to help with sleep in people with DSWPD, but it’s uncertain whether the benefits outweigh the possible harms. 

Anxiety before and after surgery

  • Anxiety before and after surgery happens in up to 80 percent of patients. Melatonin supplements appear to be helpful in reducing anxiety before surgery, but it’s unclear if it helps to lower anxiety after surgery. 

What are the Side Effects of Melatonin?

A 2015 review on the safety of melatonin supplements indicated that only mild side effects were reported in various short-term studies that involved adults, surgical patients, and critically ill patients. Some of the mild side effects that were reported in the studies included:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness

The possible long-term side effects of melatonin use are unclear. There is no consensus about the optimal dosage of melatonin although most experts advise avoiding extremely high dosages. In studies, dosages range from .1 to 12 milligrams (mg). A typical dose in supplements is between one and three milligrams, but whether this is appropriate for any specific person depends on factors like their age and sleeping problems. You may find melatonin in dosages of micrograms (mcg), 1000 mcg is equivalent to 1 mg.

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Alcohol and Insomnia

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as many as 50 percent of adults in the U.S. experience insomnia symptoms (trouble sleeping). It was estimated that nearly 9 million U.S. adults took prescription medications to help them sleep every night. Poor sleep can raise the risk of developing other health conditions, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity.

People with sleep disorders sometimes use alcohol to self-medicate. Studies have found that approximately 30% of people with ongoing insomnia have used alcohol within the past year as a sleep aid. Insomnia and alcohol abuse are strongly connected; estimates of insomnia in people with alcohol dependency range from 36% to 67%. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals suffering from sleep disorders to combine melatonin and alcohol.

Because of its sedative effects, alcohol has been consumed by many individuals looking for something to help them get to sleep. However, alcohol has been shown to lower the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep — the deepest stage of sleep — you experience and can cause disturbances throughout the night. This means the quality of the sleep you get is poor, even if alcohol seems to make you fall asleep easier, and you are likely to feel sleepy the following day.

Consuming alcohol regularly to help with insomnia can lead to a self-medicating cycle: using a depressant like alcohol to fall asleep and stimulants like caffeine to stay awake during the day. This throws your body off balance and can lead you to grow reliant on these substances.

Is Melatonin and Alcohol Safe?

Melatonin and alcohol do not mix well. It would be best to take melatonin without any alcohol in your system or several hours after consuming alcoholic beverages. If you’ve had alcohol, you should wait at least 2-3 hours before taking melatonin as a sleep aid. Alcohol can prevents the body’s melatonin from being released normally. Your night could be ruined if this prevents your body from releasing the hormone that helps you fall asleep. However, there’s also some evidence that shows this goes the other way too. Alcohol either massive weakens or strengthens the effects of melatonin – and that is not safe.

Can You Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?

People frequently wonder if melatonin and alcohol affect each other. You shouldn’t take melatonin and alcohol together for a few reasons. First, negative side effects may happen in mixing alcohol and melatonin. These can include extreme dizziness, drowsiness, and increased anxiety. It may also make you more likely to experience raised blood pressure.

Can you mix alcohol and melatonin? The risks of melatonin and alcohol are even more significant with pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, which may affect the baby. Individuals with other health conditions such as bleeding disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure are at significant risk of melatonin alcohol interaction.

What happens if you mix melatonin and alcohol? Please note that alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, no matter the amount consumed. This is based on a number of unique factors, such as genetics, age, and other health conditions you have. Individuals taking the following over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs are at higher risk for problems when combined with melatonin and alcohol.

Melatonin and Alcohol
Taking melatonin with alcohol is far from safe and responsible.

Alcohol is a blood thinner. If you take blood thinner medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin), alcohol stops your body from properly digesting the medication and could lead to serious bleeding, such as stomach bleeding or a brain bleed. Since both alcohol and anticoagulant drugs reduce the clotting ability of the blood, consuming them together can magnify their effects and increase your risk of stroke. A small study also suggested melatonin could have a similar effect on blood thinners.

If you have sleep anxiety and use melatonin to help you sleep, consuming alcohol and anxiety medications, such as alprazolam (Xanax), can be dangerous to mix with alcohol because the combination can cause life-threatening drowsiness or trouble breathing. If you take other OTC sleep aids, such as valerian root, diphenhydramine (Zzzquil), or doxylamine (Unisom), you should avoid both melatonin and alcohol. This combination can lead to more severe drowsiness and a higher risk for accidental injuries.

5mg Melatonin and Alcohol

A typical dose of melatonin is between 1 mg and 5 mg. An adult typically takes a lower dose at first, and if this is well-tolerated but ineffective, the person can slowly increase the dose until they get the desired results. Drinking alcohol while taking melatonin supplements can cause the muscles in the throat to lose their tightness and functionality. If you’re someone who already experiences breathing issues or you have obstructive sleep apnea, this can pose quite a health danger.

10 mg Melatonin and Alcohol

Research indicates that taking 10 milligrams or higher doses may cause side effects. The maximum recommended dose of melatonin is 10 milligrams. There’s some evidence of tolerance with melatonin use, so it’s not recommended to increase the dose over time after reaching the lowest effective dose.

Overdosing on melatonin can lead to side effects, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dizziness

As alcohol can heighten the effects of melatonin, mixing the two can make you feel extremely drowsy. This drowsiness can come on very suddenly. The obvious danger here is accidents; if you suddenly feel excessively drowsy, you are highly likely to have an accident.

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How Much Melatonin is Too Much?

A safe dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that’s effective in helping you fall asleep without causing side effects. In general, a dose between 0.2 and 5 mg is considered a safe starting dose. Can you overdose on melatonin? Yes, you can technically overdose on melatonin. However, a melatonin overdose can be hard to define since there isn’t an official standard safe dosage for everyone.

Can you take melatonin and alcohol? Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of melatonin. A dose that might trigger side effects in one person may have little effect on someone else. In adults, the standard dose used in studies ranges between 1 and 10 mg, although there isn’t currently a definitive “best” dosage. It’s believed doses in the 30-mg range may be harmful.

Melatonin and Alcohol Death 

Alcohol and melatonin death is quite rare, and even if it should occur, it would most likely be from underlying conditions or the sheer amount of ethanol taken. The pineal hormone reproduced in over-the-counter melatonin is relatively safe and is not lethal, even in extremely high doses. However, there will be negative health consequences.

Firstly and most importantly, one needs to understand that each melatonin brand has specific instructions for usage, and these instructions should be taken as the rule for the amounts of the drug that should be taken at any given time. At the same time, it is still important to consult a qualified healthcare professional before using the drug to make sure that one has no health issues that may interact with melatonin.

Melatonin and Alcohol Side Effects

  • Breathing Difficulties – drinking alcohol while taking melatonin supplements can cause the muscles in the throat to lose their tightness and functionality, making them work against you.
  • Heart Rate and Cardiac Function Issues – the combination of melatonin and alcohol can have significant effects when it comes to heart rate and cardiac function.
  • Sleeping Troubles – even though melatonin is supposed to help you fall and stay asleep, its interaction with alcohol can have the opposite effect. 
  • Other Symptoms – alongside the previous main symptoms, people who mix alcohol and melatonin can also experience drowsiness, dizziness, increased blood pressure, and increased anxiety.

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Alcohol and Melatonin Interactions

Beyond the main symptoms, melatonin and alcohol interactions can cause severe complications. One of the main reasons the complications occur is because both affect the liver’s ability to function and create essential enzymes. Here’s what else can happen;

  • Redness and rashing in the face
  • Swelling of hands, ankles, and feet
  • Increased irritability and anxiety levels
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Risk of falling
  • Sudden unconsciousness or passing out
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Feeling cold and experiencing shivers
  • Difficulty focusing, thinking, or concentrating
  • Nightmares and vivid dreams
  • Headache and nausea

Melatonin and Alcohol Dreams

Melatonin alone has been shown to increase REM sleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleep when you process new memories, make associations, and regulate your emotions. Dreaming occurs when you’re in REM sleep. So it only naturally makes sense that if you experience more REM sleep, you will also have more dreams.

But can melatonin also make your dreams more vivid? The study found that when you’re in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, melatonin releases a substance called vasotocin, which helps your brain erase memories while you’re dreaming.

During this time of your sleep cycle, you have the kinds of vivid dreams you remember most. Extra melatonin can boost the vasotocin that’s let loose in your brain, leading to longer periods of memory-erasing sleep that leave you with intense dreams.

How alcohol affects dreams? Many people use alcohol to help them sleep. During the first part of the night, it increases non-REM sleep (including deep sleep) and suppresses REM sleep (when most dreams occur).

But as the blood alcohol level drops, the reverse happens: sleep is shallower and waking more frequent, which means more dream recall, and more REM sleep, leading to vivid dreams and nightmares. This poor sleep can then make you tired and want to repeat the drinking the next night.

Melatonin and Alcohol High

Does alcohol get you high? Alcohol can cause many different things to happen in the brain and body. Some effects are euphoric and could be construed as a kind of “high”, while other effects are less than pleasant. After drinking alcohol, some people tend to feel calmer and more relaxed than usual.

Does melatonin get you high? The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM)in New Zealand has received three reports of hallucinations associated with melatonin use. Hallucinations generally occurred the same night melatonin was taken. In two of the three reports, no other medicines were reported, and in all three reports, an improvement in symptoms was reported once the medicine had been stopped.

Melatonin for Sleep and Alcohol

Does mixing melatonin and alcohol disrupt sleep? Alcohol disrupts our sleep-wake cycle, and natural melatonin promotes it. Drinking alcohol could also counteract a melatonin supplement’s effects, making it harder for it to do its job. In short, melatonin will work best when there is no alcohol in your system.  It is not safe to drink alcohol while taking melatonin. Alcohol interferes with the effectiveness of medications and supplements,

Is Melatonin and Alcohol Dangerous?

Can you drink alcohol and take melatonin? Drinking alcohol while taking melatonin can cause you to experience severe drowsiness. This could raise your risk of falling or accidentally injuring yourself. Because of this risk, you should not attempt to complete tasks requiring concentration or alertness, such as driving, if you drink or take melatonin supplements.

Even though alcohol is a sedative that can make you sleepy after a few drinks, it’s known to reduce the melatonin your body can create. This can interrupt your sleep cycle. Alcohol can also cause some of the muscles around your airways to work differently and affect your breathing. This can make sleeping hard if you have a breathing issue, such as sleep apnea.

Melatonin and Alcohol Withdrawal

Melatonin doesn’t cause withdrawal.  It also doesn’t cause a sleep “hangover,” and you don’t build up a tolerance to it. In other words, it doesn’t cause you to need more and more as time goes on, which is a hallmark of addiction.

A high percentage of subjects diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) suffer from sleeping difficulties. Lack of sleep could lead AUD patients to relapse or commit suicide. Most currently prescribed medications to treat this complex problem retain a high risk of side effects and dependence. 

Insomnia is a very common withdrawal symptom among individuals in detox for alcohol or other drug abuse, as their mind, body and spirit are slowly readjusting to not having mood-altering chemicals in their bodies. Sleep problems can persist for weeks, months, or even years, leading to increased anxiety, tiredness, poor concentration, low enthusiasm and irritability.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

The majority of common mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, are related to sleep disorders, including insomnia. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, which affects sleep in various ways. Higher doses of alcohol have been shown to disrupt sleep, particularly during the second half of the night. Alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid, and regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in alcohol dependence and addiction.

If you are having trouble with alcohol and insomnia, and self-medicating with melatonin and alcohol, talk to us and we will help you find an effective treatment for both.   We Level Up New Jersey addiction treatment center can provide proper evidence-based therapy. Above all, recovering from co-occurring disorders like Alcohol and Insomnia problems does not need to be overwhelming or burdensome.

melatonin and alcohol
If you or someone you know has been affected by melatonin and alcohol misuse, there are resources to help you recover.

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Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Melatonin

[2] NIH – https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know

[3] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534823/

[4] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5405617/

[5] Effective Treatment For Melatonin And Alcohol Problems (welevelup.com)

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