Melatonin is a natural hormone and popular sleep aid that is extensively consumed worldwide. It can be purchased as a standalone single ingredient supplement, and be found in many sleep ‘stack’ supplements alongside other ingredients.

You’ll have heard of the term ‘nightcap?’, right?

A small alcoholic tot taken before bed to help you drift off quicker. Or maybe more than a tot.

The question is : can you do both? Does melatonin and alcohol mix well?

Can you take a melatonin supplement and consume alcohol together safely and without unwanted side effects? We find out …

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the human brain. Its primary function is to regulate the day and night changes of your body to what we call the ‘Circadian rhythm.’

The human eyes detect light and emit impulses to the suprachiasmatic nucleus(SCN) of the hypothalamus. In return, SCN sends signals to multiple centers of the brain, including the pineal gland.

As long as the pineal gland receives inputs from SCN, melatonin secretion is inhibited. (1)

When the environment gets dark, the pineal gland becomes independent and begins to secrete melatonin at high concentrations. Melatonin initiates a cascade of downstream changes that makes you feel sleepy and, most importantly, regulate the circadian rhythm.

The blood level of melatonin is an index of your day-night rhythm. During a sleep cycle, it reaches a peak and subsides as you are getting close to wake-up. (1)

In addition to the apparent effect of melatonin as a sleep aid, it has a number of other benefits, including, but not limited to,

1. Enhancing the immune system,
2. A remarkable antioxidant,
3. Suppressing inflammation,
4. Maintaining hemostasis and
5. Blood glucose regulation. (2,3)

Can I take a sleeping pill with a glass of wine?

Let’s get down to the subject of the article.

Any sleeping pill and alcohol, in this case melatonin and wine, are not the ideal bed companions.

Both melatonin and alcohol are considered sedatives in everyday practice. In spite of that, their mechanisms of action are different. The effects of melatonin are physiological in nature, whereas alcohol exerts its effects by altering the brain neurotransmitters.

Alcohol has sedative as well as stimulatory influences on your brain. (7)

The combined effect of melatonin and alcohol can be unpredictable. On one hand, it may produce an additive effect and make you feel drowsy to an extent that you can’t focus proplerly.

On the other alcohol may mitigate the effects of melatonin, and you may encounter a real difficulty in falling asleep. It’s difficult to tell, it can differ from person to person.

It also depends on the type of ‘alcohol’ we are talking about. Studies have noted that wine itself contains melatonin (8), which comes from the grapes. Therefore you need to consider the fact that the melatonin dosage you are consuming may be too high if taken in conjunction with certain wines.

How long does it take for melatonin to kick in?

It has a relatively rapid onset of action. Studies report that after oral ingestion, melatonin levels reach a peak blood concentration within an hour. Then, it gradually returns to a low level over 6-8 hours. (4)

Generally, it’s recommended to take Melatonin supplements 30-60 minutes before bedtime. An hour after consuming, the melatonin level in your blood will be at the highest.

Can you take melatonin every night?

Melatonin supplements are considered safe to use. Having said that, research has shown that melatonin is neither useful as a sleep aid nor at improving the quality of life when used over an extended period of several years. (5)

Long term ingestion of melatonin may interfere with your hormonal balance, particularly in adolescents where there are raising concerns that it may delay sexual maturation. (6)

Side effects of melatonin

Melatonin seldom causes adverse effects during day-to-day use. Nonetheless, overdosing is pretty dangerous. Although rare, people who overdose are likely to experience high blood pressure, nightmares, hepatitis, fits, and psychosis.

The side effects of melatonin occurring within therapeutic doses include day time sleepiness, weakened mental performance, drowsiness, fatigue, and headache. Incidents of vivid dreams and hypothermia (low body temperature) also have been reported.

Can you take melatonin after drinking an energy drink?

From a biochemical point of view, energy drinks are just caffeinated soft drinks with added sugar. Caffeine is a psychostimulant. It increases your blood pressure, attenuates fatigue, and reduces sleepiness.

On the other hand, melatonin is a sleep aid. Therefore, if you take melatonin soon after drinking an energy drink, you are likely to experience difficulty in falling asleep. In the worst-case scenario, you might end up experiencing the side effects of both, drowsiness produced by melatonin and restlessness, and tremors created by the energy drink.

Avoid taking melatonin at least 2-3 hours after having an energy drink.

Conclusion

Melatonin supplements are widely accepted as safe, healthy, and efficient sleep aids. Side effects of Melatonin at standard doses are rare and not significant to be worried about.

However, consuming melatonin and alcohol together or alcohol with another pharmaceutical product can be unpredictable and is therefore not to be recommended.

References

1. Claustrat B, Brun J, Chazot G. The basic physiology and pathophysiology of melatonin. Sleep Med Rev [Internet]. 2005 [cited 2020 Aug 1];9(1):11–24. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15649735/
2. Reiter RJ, Mayo JC, Tan DX, Sainz RM, Alatorre-Jimenez M, Qin L. Melatonin as an antioxidant: under promises but over delivers [Internet]. Vol. 61, Journal of Pineal Research. Blackwell Publishing Ltd; 2016 [cited 2020 Jul 30]. p. 253–78. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27500468/
3. Claustrat B, Leston J. Melatonin: Physiological effects in humans. Vol. 61, Neurochirurgie. Elsevier Masson SAS; 2015. p. 77–84.
4. Tordjman S, Chokron S, Delorme R, Charrier A, Bellissant E, Jaafari N, et al. Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits. Curr Neuropharmacol [Internet]. 2017 Mar 9 [cited 2020 Jul 30];15(3):434–43. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5405617/?report=abstract
5. Russcher M, Koch BCP, Nagtegaal JE, van Ittersum FJ, Pasker-de Jong PCM, Hagen EC, et al. Long-term effects of melatonin on quality of life and sleep in haemodialysis patients (Melody study): A randomized controlled trial. Br J Clin Pharmacol [Internet]. 2013 Nov [cited 2020 Jul 30];76(5):668–79. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3853526/?report=abstract
6. Boafo A, Greenham S, Alenezi S, Robillard R, Pajer K, Tavakoli P, et al.

Could long-term administration of melatonin to prepubertal children affect timing of puberty? A clinician’s perspective

. Nat Sci Sleep [Internet]. 2019 Jan [cited 2020 Jul 30];Volume 11:1–10. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6362935/?report=abstract
7. Hendler RA, Ramchandani VA, Gilman J, Hommer DW. Stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol. Curr Top Behav Neurosci [Internet]. 2011 May 11 [cited 2020 Jul 30];13:489–509. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21560041/
8. Iriti M, Vigentini I. Tryptophan-ethylester, the false (unveiled) melatonin isomer in red wine. Int J Tryptophan Res [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2020 Jul 30];8(1):27–9. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4381840/?report=abstract
9. Excessive Alcohol Use [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jul 31]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/alcohol.htm

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