Millions of American adults take sleeping medication as they experience insomnia, defined as difficulty falling or remaining asleep at night. However, while sleep-inducing medicines have a role in addressing sleep problems, they are not the only alternative.
Many people are looking at more natural sleep remedies instead of using chemical agents to induce sleep. They also understand that sleeplessness has many causes and is typically a symptom of an underlying problem. One of the supplements that have found favor with people struggling to sleep is melatonin. However, is it suitable for use if you consume alcohol?
Before you mix melatonin and alcohol, you should understand what this substance is and how it works. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep patterns. Your body produces melatonin in the pineal gland, situated deep inside your brain’s epithalamus. The pineal gland makes melatonin from serotonin, a neurotransmitter also known as the feel-good chemical. It ramps up production once the sun starts setting, preparing your body for a good night’s sleep. Melatonin levels peak between 2 am and 4 am, the time when people sleep at their deepest.
Sleep patterns are also known as the body’s circadian rhythm. This is what makes your brain and body associate nighttime with sleep and daytime with wakefulness. A lack of melatonin could cause sleep disruptions like insomnia. This can lead to sleep deprivation, causing memory and judgment lapses, an inability to concentrate, and irritation. The body cannot function correctly when it does not get sufficient sleep. Optimal melatonin levels can prevent this from happening.
What happens when you drink alcohol?
Your body does not digest alcohol. It distributes the substance into the blood. As soon as you take a sip of alcohol, it enters your bloodstream. From there, it travels around your body to areas like the brain, kidneys, and liver. The body takes time to process alcohol, and it remains in your system well after consuming it.
An excessive intake of alcohol impacts parts of the brain that control your actions. Therefore, you may start moving with less coordination, stumbling, bumping into things, and struggling to balance. Alcohol also impacts your brain’s speech, information processing, and reasoning capacity, leading to slurred speech and ill-judged decisions while under the influence.
How does alcohol affect sleep quality?
Most people agree that they feel tired after drinking alcohol and fall asleep easily. Alcohol is a depressant, the opposite of a stimulant like caffeine. However, this does not guarantee you a good night’s sleep. Indeed, it can result in restless, poor-quality sleep. After a few hours, when the sedative effect of alcohol wears off, you wake up and find it challenging to fall asleep again. Alcohol also negatively impacts REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the deepest part of a sleep pattern, when slumber is at its most restorative.
Studies indicate that alcohol intake can interfere with the release of melatonin. The result is broken sleep that leaves you feeling tired and irritable the following morning. Most people then resort to stimulants, such as caffeine, to keep them awake during the day. This starts an addictive pattern, where you need alcohol to fall asleep and caffeine to minimize any effects of the poor-quality sleep you get because you drank alcohol.
Mixing alcohol and melatonin
No studies exist indicating any severe adverse effects of mixing alcohol and melatonin. However, as alcohol is a sedative and melatonin promoting sleep, taking them together will increase feelings of grogginess and sleepiness. This makes activities like operating any other heavy machinery even riskier. Most experts agree that people should err on the side of caution and not consume alcohol and melatonin within a few hours of each other.
Taking a melatonin supplement will help your body to counteract the effects that alcohol has on sleep quality. However, they may cancel each other out in the process, making it harder for melatonin to do its job. Melatonin should not be used as a means of countering the harmful impact alcohol has on sleep. It will not guarantee that you wake up the following morning hangover-free and feeling fantastic.
Considering risk factors
Alcohol affects each person’s body differently. Some people can drink far more than others before the effects become evident. Factors contributing to how the body reacts include age, genetic predisposition, gender, and underlying health conditions. Older people and women’s bodies are more sensitive to alcohol and will quickly display its effects. Combining their alcohol intake with a melatonin supplement could cause them to fall asleep while driving or pass out in public.
Mixing alcohol and melatonin with other medications, such as anxiety meds, blood thinners, and other sleep aids, is never advisable. It is best to discuss your alcohol intake and plans to take a melatonin supplement with a medical professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist, and ask how either substance will interact with medicines you currently take.
M.E.L. is an attorney and small business entrepreneur whose mission is to help professionals conquer the workaday world with style and poise.
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