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Alcohol and Medications

Alcohol and Melatonin: Is It Safe To Mix?

Published:
June 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 17, 2024
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14 min read

Mixing Melatonin and Alcohol

  • Due to the health risks involved, we don’t recommend mixing alcohol with melatonin.
  • Avoiding mixing alcohol with melatonin or other supplements is the safest call if you’re wondering if it’s safe.
  • Reframe can help you make healthier choices about your relationship with alcohol.

It’s already late, and you’ve been out drinking with friends. The night’s winding down, and you opt to crash at your friend’s place. After taking a last sip of red wine, she offers you a melatonin. She takes one, too, and you say goodnight. You don’t think much of it — it’s just a supplement, right? 

However, as you crawl into bed and lie down, you start to feel strange. The next morning you feel nauseous, too. Is it a hangover, or more? Is it safe to mix melatonin with alcohol? Find out the facts as we explore this common question together.

What Is Melatonin?

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First off, what exactly is melatonin? Most of us are familiar with melatonin supplements, but melatonin is actually a hormone our brain produces in response to darkness. Melatonin helps with the timing of our circadian rhythm (our body’s internal clock) and with our sleep pattern. Ever wondered why it can be so difficult to fall asleep when there’s a bright light shining through the curtains? Being exposed to light or brightness at night can block our natural melatonin production, which is why blackout curtains are so necessary for many of us. 

The Science Behind Melatonin

Melatonin is produced by our pineal gland, which is located in the middle of our brain. This gland is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is a group of neurons, or nerve cells, that control our body’s clock by sending signals to each other.

During the day, the retina in our eyes absorbs light and sends signals to the SCN. Then, the SCN tells our pineal gland to stop making melatonin. This helps us to stay awake and alert. The opposite happens at night. When we’re exposed to darkness, our SCN activates the pineal gland, which then releases melatonin. Because the hormone melatonin helps us fall asleep, melatonin supplements are commonly recommended for those of us who struggle to sleep for a variety of reasons:

  • Jet lag
  • Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety before and after surgery
  • Insomnia
  • Shift work disorder (for overnight shift workers, for example)

Basically, if our body struggles to produce enough melatonin to fall asleep, the supplements can help fill in the gap so we can get our much-needed Zs. 

What Are the Side Effects of Melatonin?

Melatonin is associated with many risks and potential side effects even without adding alcohol into the mix:

  • Nausea or upset stomach. Nausea, stomach irritation, or upset stomach are all commonly reported side effects of taking melatonin and can vary depending on how much we take.
  • Strange dreams or nightmares. Some experience vivid dreams or nightmares while taking melatonin, which can be disruptive and cause us to wake up still feeling tired.
  • Daytime sleepiness or grogginess. Melatonin can cause daytime sleepiness, grogginess, or drowsiness. If we take a melatonin supplement at 3 a.m., for example, we shouldn't be surprised if we still feel groggy or tired the following day. This is the most common side effect people experience when taking melatonin. 

To prevent daytime sleepiness, grogginess, or other potential side effects, be sure to take melatonin in the early evening or hours before bed, and only take the recommended dosage on the label. If you’re unsure, talk with your healthcare provider about the dosage. Melatonin can stay in our system for up to 4-5 hours, so we should plan ahead when taking it.

Can I Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant drug that reduces communication between our brain and body, leading to impaired coordination and slowed reaction time. Taken in excess, it can lead to numerous negative health effects, including depression, coma, and even death.

Considering the multitude of potential risks associated with taking melatonin and those associated with drinking alcohol, it should come as no surprise that mixing alcohol with melatonin is dangerous. 

Taking melatonin with alcohol presents many problems, both short term and long term:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Increased symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Increased dependence on the combination of substances to sleep

If the goal of taking melatonin is to get better sleep and feel more rested, it’s worth noting that many of these side effects would defeat the purpose of taking melatonin in the first place. 

But perhaps more worrisome are the effects on our liver. The combination of melatonin and alcohol is especially hard on our liver, which presents its own set of complications: 

  • Flushing in your face and upper body
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Trouble focusing or thinking clearly
  • Feeling abnormally cold or shivering with no clear cause
  • Trouble breathing
  • Passing out

The bottom line is that the effects of alcohol can be amplified by melatonin and vice versa. If you experience any of these more serious side effects, see your doctor or seek emergency help. 

But despite these potential side effects, some of us are still probably wondering: Can I take melatonin after having just one glass of wine or a beer?

Can I Take Melatonin After Having One Drink?

Can I Take Melatonin After Having One Drink?

The answer is you can, but we still don’t recommend it. If you do choose to have one drink before taking melatonin, use caution.

  • Only take the recommended dosage. Do not take more than the recommended dosage of melatonin, and if you’re unsure, don’t take it until you’ve talked to your doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 
  • Wait an hour (or more) if possible. Wait a while after having a drink before taking melatonin, if possible. This gives our body more time to process the alcohol and flush it out of our system so less alcohol is present.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water also helps our body flush out alcohol. After that glass of wine, drink a tall glass of water—or three!
  • Choose other alternatives to drinking. If you frequently struggle with sleep problems or take melatonin supplements, the easiest way to avoid negative effects is to abstain from drinking. Try out a sleepy-time tea or other herbal tea, a mocktail, or another non-alcoholic (and noncaffeinated) beverage. 

Keep in mind that many melatonin supplements are time-released. This means they can take some time to begin working. Many of them begin working about 30 minutes after you’ve taken them. Having an alcoholic drink interrupts this process and can make the supplement not work as well and lead to a host of potential negative side effects.

Other Health Risks Associated With Taking Melatonin

In addition to the side effects of melatonin listed above, there are other health risks to keep in mind:

  • Interactions with other medicines. As with all dietary supplements, those of us who are taking medications should talk to a healthcare provider when we take melatonin. In particular, people with epilepsy and those taking blood thinner medications, antidepressants, or even birth control may need to be extra cautious.
  • Safety concerns for pregnant/breastfeeding women, and older people. There’s not enough research to know if melatonin is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, older people, or those with dementia. 
  • Lack of regulation. Melatonin is regulated as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) FDA in the US. As a supplement, this means it's regulated less strictly than a prescription or over-the-counter drug would be. In several other countries, melatonin is available only with a prescription and is considered a drug.

Conclusion

In summary, it’s best to skip the booze when you know you’re going to be taking melatonin to sleep. We hope you feel extra informed and aware now when it comes to melatonin in general and the next time you’re thinking about taking it with a drink, we hope you grab a mocktail or other non-alcoholic drink instead. 

Summary FAQs

1. Can I drink alcohol and take melatonin?

It’s not recommended — combining alcohol with melatonin can exacerbate the effects of both and pose various health risks. 

2. Can I have one drink and take melatonin?

We don’t recommend mixing even one alcoholic drink with melatonin, but if you do choose to, drink plenty of water and try to wait it out as long as possible.

3. What are the side effects of taking melatonin?

There are many risks and side effects associated with melatonin, including nausea, dizziness, lack of coordination, excessive sleepiness, or the potential for an allergic reaction. 

4. What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in our bodies, but it can also be taken as a supplement to help us sleep.

5. Can I take melatonin at 3 a.m.?

Melatonin typically stays in our system for 4-5 hours, so if you take it at 3 a.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. (for example), you could experience some daytime sleepiness or grogginess. Alcohol would extend and worsen the grogginess.

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