If you’ve ever struggled to sleep or spent long nights tossing and turning, you might have already tried melatonin. If not, it might have been suggested to you at some point by a friend or family member. “Have you tried melatonin? It makes you super sleepy, and it’s not even a drug!”
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormonal sleep aid that has been steadily rising in popularity over the last thirty years. While it doesn’t directly cause sleep, per se, our body’s melatonin levels naturally increase in the evenings, triggering your circadian response and encouraging your mind and body to sleep.
Sometimes, we experience disruptions in our sleep cycles. This can be caused by things like jet lag, insomnia, or forcing ourselves to be awake for school or work. In these cases, we can supplement with melatonin to balance out our levels in the short-term, but it’s not for everyday long-term use.
Melatonin supplements help to regulate sleep cycles, increasing our melatonin artificially to encourage rest. They can be used until the body readjusts to the new sleep schedule or when it resumes producing enough melatonin on its own.
Mixing Melatonin with Alcohol
Our bodies produce melatonin naturally, which may explain why so many people feel comfortable using it. Unlike sleeping pills, melatonin is deemed to be ‘safe’ and ‘natural.’ If our body already produces it, how could it be bad?
However, like any substance taken for medical reasons, it’s important to understand how to use melatonin safely and effectively.
Simply put, it is unsafe to mix melatonin supplements with alcohol. Even though melatonin is naturally produced in your body, alcohol can either weaken or strengthen the potency of melatonin supplements, causing further impairment.
When taken with alcohol, melatonin supplements can cause side effects that include:
- Increased heart rate
- Redness in the face
- Swelling of hands or feet
- Increased anxiety and/or irritability
- Vivid dreams
- Poor sleep quality
- Confusion or inability to think properly
Potential Dangers of Mixing Melatonin with Alcohol
Beyond the possibility of uncomfortable or disorienting side effects, mixing alcohol and melatonin can have more serious consequences. Some of these dangers include:
- Risk of falling
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden unconsciousness
If you pass out suddenly, you can be in extreme danger, especially if you are walking somewhere potentially hazardous, like on a sidewalk close to traffic or operating a motor vehicle. Accidents, falls, and collisions can lead to severe injury or even death, depending on the circumstance.
How Much Melatonin Is Too Much?
Melatonin, when used appropriately, is best taken in small doses. The suggested dose is approximately one to three milligrams an hour or two before you go to bed. However, many factors might make it ineffective. For example, if you are taking other types of drugs, drinking, or under a great deal of stress, the melatonin might not work. If that is the case, do not double the dose! If it doesn’t work at the recommended dose, taking more isn’t going to help. Doctors recommend that you not use it for extended periods. Even if the supplement is effective, your course of treatment should not continue past one or two months.
If you must take melatonin after consuming alcohol, wait for at least two to three hours before taking it. Know the potential risks, and don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor or pharmacist to understand it better. If you or a loved one struggles with substance use or alcohol disorder, we can help. Reach out today to learn how to get started.