Melatonin and Alcohol: Does Alcohol Affect Melatonin?

Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland; however, as we grow old and because of an unhealthy lifestyle, melatonin production decreases. It’s a hormone responsible for maintaining the proper function of the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.

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Because alcohol induces sleepiness, some use it as an alternative to melatonin supplements or pair it with it—may be thinking it would improve its effectiveness. Though it may help you sleep in the short-term, alcohol disrupts the circadian rhythm and would make it difficult for you to fall asleep the following nights. Taking a melatonin supplement is relatively safe. However, pairing it with alcohol lessens its efficacy and can cause adverse health problems. It doesn’t only interact with melatonin but it also reduces the effectiveness of other supplements and medications.

Some of the common safety concerns regarding pairing melatonin with alcohol include:

  1. Unconsciousness
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Headaches

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland; however, as we grow old and because of an unhealthy lifestyle, melatonin production decreases. It’s a hormone responsible for maintaining the proper function of the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. According to research, melatonin released to the bloodstream increases when exposed to dark or even dimly lighted environments. This is because the nervous system associates a dark environment to rest while lighted environment to wakefulness. Melatonin is present in most living creatures. In plants, its primary purpose is to prevent oxidative stress.

Melatonin was discovered in the 1900s by two American physiologists Carey Pratt McCord and Floyd Allen. The study showed that the skin of the tadpole changes color when injected extracts from the pineal gland. Thus, it indicates the presence of melatonin. A study in 1993 suggests that melatonin supplements contain strong antioxidant levels that fight off free radicals and harmful toxins. It also showed that it may act as a lipophilic antioxidant and as effective as vitamin e.

Potential Health Risk When Pairing Alcohol and Melatonin

If you’re taking daily supplements of melatonin, it’s advisable not to drink alcohol. If you had an alcoholic beverage before melatonin then you have to wait two to three hours before ingestion. Though alcohol is a sedative, it causes harmful effects on your body especially the circadian rhythm. When alcohol is taken in excess it causes the pineal gland to produce less melatonin. Thus, it disrupts the sleep-wake cycle. In addition, it renders melatonin supplements as less effective or even ineffective.  Alcohol also causes muscles in the chest to function improperly which leads to difficulty in breathing.

Alcoholic drinks can affect your normal sleeping patterns by:

  1. Triggering the nervous system to experience wakefulness and sleep patterns simultaneously.
  2. It hinders REM to achieve deep sleep.
  3. It stimulates your bladder that leads you going to the bathroom often.
  4. It tenses primarily the muscles in your throat that makes you hard to breathe at night.

The person may initially experience the following health issues after ingesting alcohol and melatonin supplements simultaneously:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Irritability
  3. Trouble falling asleep
  4. Mild to severe headaches

If such action is consistently made, the person may face serious health problems especially in how the liver produces enzymes. This might lead to potential complications such as:

  1. Skin redness in the upper body and face.
  2. Difficulty in breathing.
  3. Shivering or abnormal feeling of coldness.
  4. Abnormal heartbeat or palpitations.
  5. Swelling of the feet or legs.
  6. Cognitive problems like forgetfulness or difficulty focusing.
  7. Feelings of fainting.

If any of the mentioned symptoms occur, contact your doctor or any health care professional immediately.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, it’s best to talk to your doctor or any health professional before you incorporate melatonin into your daily supplements. The health professional will evaluate your condition and decide whether you need melatonin supplements or not. He may also offer other alternatives to better manage your sleep problems.

When to Take Melatonin Supplements?

Melatonin supplements or medication is usually taken by people with a sleep disorder. However, it may also be taken for the following instances:

  • Jet lag: mental and physical exhaustion after a long flight.
  • Shift work sleep disorder: a common problem for people with irregular work shifts.

Melatonin is usually available as food supplements and in most drugstores globally. It’s labeled as generally safe by health care professionals.

There are no available regulations on the recommended dosage for melatonin. It may also depend on the brand. In general, the suggested dosage is about at least 3mg but should not exceed 10 mg. It’s also advisable to consult your doctor regarding the right amount of dosage that would work for you. The amount of dosage may change relative to reasons for taking it, age, health condition, and period of time taking it.

Listed below are some recommendations for taking melatonin supplements:

1.Take melatonin supplements twenty to thirty minutes before you go to bed. 
2. After taking the sleeping aids try to relax and avoid any physical activities. Also, as much as possible, try to refrain from using your mobile devices or gadgets and watching the television. The types of light coming from these devices decrease melatonin production and render it less effective. 
3. Avoid any alcoholic beverages if you’re taking melatonin supplements. Most melatonin sleep aids usually take up to twenty to thirty minutes to take effect after ingesting them. Consuming an alcoholic beverage after you take in sleeping aids reduces its efficacy or makes it ineffective. The same effect also occurs when you’ve had alcohol before ingesting supplements. In case you’ve had alcoholic drinks before ingesting your supplements, be sure to take it two to three hours after you’ve finished your drink. 
4.Melatonin supplements are normally taken orally and mostly available in tablet form. It’s available in most drug stores worldwide. Melatonin compounds are also added to some foods and drinks products. According to health care professionals, however, melatonin in tablet form is the safest and effective among melatonin products. 

Side Effects of Melatonin Supplements

Generally, melatonin sleep aids don’t possess a lot of health risks or negative side effects. Because of this, it’s not normally regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, possible side effects may occur that includes:

  1. Frequent headaches
  2. Disorientation
  3. Short episodes of depressive feelings
  4. Abnormal feelings of sleepiness
  5. Sleep cycle disruption

Melatonin may have some adverse side effects when interacted with other prescription medications like:

  1. Birth control
  2. Immunosuppressant medications
  3. Diabetes medications and insulin therapy
  4. Anticoagulants or blood thinners

Contact your doctor if any of these symptoms occur and if the supplement doesn’t seem to improve after two weeks of use.

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