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Alcohol and Medications

Is It Safe To Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?

August 6, 2023
8 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.
August 6, 2023
8 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.
August 6, 2023
8 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.
August 6, 2023
8 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 6, 2023
8 min read

You’ve been in bed for over an hour, tossing and turning, yet sleep remains elusive. Perhaps you poured yourself a nightcap earlier in the evening, thinking that would do the trick, but you’re still wide awake. In an act of desperation, you head over to your medicine cabinet and dig out a bottle of melatonin. You’re about to take a supplement and head back to bed. However, the alarm bells ring in your mind and you pause for a second to wonder: “Since I’ve already had a drink, is this melatonin still safe to use?”

Understanding Melatonin

Melatonin (chemically known as N-acetyl-5-methoxy tryptamine) is a hormone synthesized in response to darkness by the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland in the brain. It plays a critical role in the body's circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells our body when it's time to sleep or wake up.

Under normal conditions, melatonin levels in the body start rising in the evening, peak around midnight, and decrease by morning. This cycle is in tune with the natural day-night cycle, or the 24-hour light-dark cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. The increase in melatonin levels in the evening induces feelings of sleepiness and lowers body temperature, thereby preparing the body for sleep.

However, various factors can disrupt melatonin’s production and release:

  • Light Exposure: The pineal gland produces melatonin when it is dark. Exposure to light in the evening, particularly the blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, computers, and televisions, can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daylight, inhibiting melatonin production and disrupting sleep.
  • Age: Melatonin production decreases with age. This is one reason elderly people often experience sleep disruptions and why children, who produce higher amounts of melatonin, can sleep longer and deeper.
  • Stress and Lifestyle: Chronic stress can alter the body's circadian rhythm and disrupt melatonin production. Similarly, irregular work schedules, travel across different time zones, or lifestyle habits (such as late-night eating or exercise) can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle.

Given the vital role of melatonin in promoting sleep, melatonin supplements have gained popularity as a sleep aid. However, the efficacy and safety of melatonin supplements are still being studied. Some research suggests that while melatonin supplements can help induce sleep, they may not improve sleep quality or duration. Additionally, we have limited knowledge on the long-term effects of melatonin supplementation. (Please consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.)

Think Twice Before Mixing Alcohol and Melatonin

We might think that alcohol and melatonin could form an effective duo for a good night's rest. However, a deeper understanding of the science paints a more complex picture. Alcohol, while initially inducing sleep, can interfere with our sleep stages, particularly the restorative REM (rapid eye movement) stage. Combined with melatonin, alcohol’s sedative effects may be further amplified, potentially leading to an overwhelming sensation of grogginess upon waking.

The risks of mixing alcohol and melatonin extend beyond a disrupted sleep cycle. The combined sedative effects of both substances can lead to decreased motor control, impaired cognitive function, and potentially increase the risk of injuries from falls, especially in older adults. Such effects not only hamper our daily functioning but may also pose more significant threats to our overall well-being.

Building Safer Sleep Practices

Though a good night’s sleep can feel out of reach, it’s important not to mix harmful substances in our quest to get some rest. Here are practical steps to create healthier sleep habits:

  • Educate yourself. Understand the potential risks and side effects of substances you plan on taking, even if they are seemingly harmless or available over-the-counter, such as melatonin.
  • Consult with your healthcare team. Before starting any supplement or medication regimen, consult with healthcare professionals. It's important to discuss your alcohol consumption as it can impact the effectiveness and safety of other substances.
  • Prioritize sleep hygiene. Create an environment conducive to sleep. Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Maintain consistent sleep and wake times, and limit daytime naps.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. As much as possible, avoid consuming alcohol within three hours of bedtime to allow your body to metabolize it before you sleep.
  • Explore non-medical sleep aids. Experiment with relaxation techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to naturally promote sleep without relying on substances.
  • Seek professional help for chronic sleep issues. If you often struggle with falling or staying asleep, consider reaching out to a healthcare provider or a sleep specialist. It's always better to address the problem sooner than later.

Our pursuit of a good night's sleep should not compromise our safety or our health. After all, a quality night's sleep involves not only the number of hours we sleep but also how restorative that sleep is. As we journey towards better sleep health, let's commit to making informed decisions and adopting healthier practices. The long-term benefits are well worth it!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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