Why You Should Think Twice Before Mixing Melatonin With Alcohol

Having a drink at night to wind down and help bring on sleep is common. But if you still find yourself lying awake in bed, you might also be tempted to take melatonin. However, that may hurt more than it helps.

Your body makes its own melatonin. It's a hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle and it is primarily made in the dark hours of night, according to Healthline. Some people who have trouble sleeping also take melatonin supplements to bring on drowsiness. It's available at most pharmacies.

Normally, taking a melatonin supplement is a benign choice. It's not recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have autoimmune or seizure disorders, or depression, according to Health. But for everyone else, it's known to relax the body and help you prepare for sleep.

Alcohol also has some sedating effects, but they are short-lived, according to the Sleep Foundation. Though a drink or two may bring sleep on more quickly, there are often disruptions to the important cycles of REM sleep that occur throughout the night. Alcohol also affects breathing, according to Healthline, by constricting muscles around the airway. This can throw off your breathing pattern during the night, leading to wakefulness and disrupted sleep.

You could face dangerous side effects if you mix melatonin and alcohol

Combining melatonin and alcohol reduces the effectiveness of melatonin overall and negates the point of taking it. And since melatonin is a time-release supplement — meaning it takes a while to kick in — you're vulnerable to some potentially dangerous side effects while you wait for sleep. Drowsiness can make driving or focusing on some tasks more dangerous. Dizziness can lead to the potential for a fall, and heightened anxiety can make you uncomfortable and even raise your blood pressure, according to Healthline.

Additionally, the interaction of alcohol and melatonin may disrupt the way the liver produces enzymes necessary to break down alcohol. You may find yourself with a flushed feeling, swelling in your lower extremities, a fast heartbeat, thinking trouble, a chill, breathing problems, or fainting. These are serious side effects for which you should talk to your doctor.

If you're having problems sleeping, the best choice is to skip the drinks and speak with your medical professional about the best option for you.