Melatonin and Alcohol, Side Effects, Interaction, Complications, & Treatment
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body that plays a role in circadian rhythms . It 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. There are cases where individuals use alcohol to self-medicate from insomnia, and they 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 important 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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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, if you combine melatonin and alcohol, negative side effects may happen. These can include extreme dizziness, drowsiness, and increased anxiety. It may also make you more likely to experience raised blood pressure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Melatonin and alcohol 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 Interaction 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.
Melatonin and Alcohol Interaction Complications
Beyond the main symptoms, the combination of melatonin and alcohol can cause some 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
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.