Since melatonin and alcohol are both sedatives, it is generally accepted practice that they should not be mixed. If you use both, the results can disrupt your healthy, normal sleep pattern. Drinking may also enhance melatonin’s effects, like headaches and drowsiness.
Despite these facts, some physicians and substance abuse professionals recommend taking a melatonin supplement to help patients sleep when they are in alcohol withdrawal. Both of these sedatives have their own side effects, so you should certainly consult with your physician before you take both of them at the same time.
How useful is Melatonin?
Melatonin is often prescribed to seniors over the age of 55 years who are having insomnia, or trouble sleeping. Poor sleep refers to any type of sleep disruption, whether it’s not feeling refreshed when you awaken, waking up too early, being unable to fall asleep at night or waking up for long periods at night. Insomnia is a fairly common problem, but usually it does not last for extended periods of time.
Melatonin is produced in your body. It’s a hormone that is linked to the control of your body’s sleep patterns. As you age, your body produces less of this hormone. When you supplement with melatonin, it can boost your body’s supply, promoting sleep and improving its quality.
Most people feel drowsy (or drowsier) if they use melatonin and alcohol at the same time. You may experience vivid nightmares and fitful sleep. Some people, however, may not even feel tired. Rather, they feel like they are taking a stimulant.
If you take both of these sedatives together and do happen to be able to sleep through a whole night, it’s common to wake up with the side effects normally associated with hangovers.
Even low-dose combinations of alcohol and melatonin may lead to symptoms that include headaches, dehydration and muscle pain. In addition, alcohol also reacts with other medications besides melatonin. It may make your prescription medications less effective, so they don’t have their normally positive effects on your body or demeanor.
In very unusual cases, your doctor may suggest that you take melatonin to help you sleep at night, even if you’re trying to recover from alcohol withdrawal. Don’t assume that this is “ok” because someone you know is having what, to your eyes, looks like the same situation.
If you are tempted to take melatonin on your own while going through alcohol withdrawal, instead speak with your physician first. He or she may suggest viable alternatives, including over-the-counter sleep aids. You should always drink in moderation only, since any excessive use of alcohol can be disruptive to your sleep.
Taking Melatonin for Optimum Effect
- Take Time to Carefully Read the Instructions
Before you take any supplement, read the information packet and packaging that your melatonin comes in. It will give you valuable information about the supplement, and any side effects you should look out for.
Only take the number of doses and milligrams that are recommended by your physician. He or she will likely have you take just one tablet, a couple hours before you go to bed.
- Follow the Recommended Duration
Be sure you don’t take a melatonin supplement for any longer a time period than that which is recommended by your physician. He or she may prescribe it for 12 weeks or perhaps less. As we have said, alcohol reduces melatonin effectiveness.
- Take Melatonin after you Eat
Melatonin should be taken after you eat, or at the same time as a snack, and close to your usual bedtime. Taking it with food helps it work better during the night. Don’t break the tablets; swallow them whole so that the supplement will be released gradually overnight. If you forget to take your melatonin, as long as you remember it before you go to bed, you may take it then. Don’t take multiple doses even if you miss one.
- Encourage Good Sleep
Besides taking melatonin, take other steps that will help you to sleep more soundly. Reduce your caffeine consumption, especially in the late afternoon and evening. Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink alcohol right before you go to bed. Keep in contact with your physician, so that your progress can be monitored.
Can you take Melatonin as a Daily Supplement?
If you’re not an avid drinker of alcohol, it’s usually safe to use melatonin on a daily basis, as long as you don’t take large doses. Speak with your physician before adding any supplement to your diet.
Women who are nursing or pregnant, and children, should not take melatonin unless it’s on the advice of a physician. Melatonin sometimes causes side effects. They will stop when you discontinue the supplement. Possible side effects include:
- Morning grogginess
- Small changes in blood pressure
- Body temperature lowering
- Vivid and bright dreams
If you become drowsy when you take melatonin, do not drive your vehicle or operate heavy machinery. If you’re in for a routine check-up or lab work, be sure to let your physician know that you are taking melatonin. Tell your health care provider if you have sleep issues, since they could indicate health problems. Don’t mix melatonin and alcohol unless you’re under the close supervision of your physician.