Red Wine Sleep

You’ve been at that party where someone says, “Oh, no red wine for me. It makes me so sleepy.” OK, straight Scotch for you then…

Seriously, though, is there any truth to that? Does red wine—especially as opposed to white wine—make us sleepier? According to Macello Iriti, Ph.D. of Plant Science at Milan State University, and Vandana Sheth, dietician and nutritionist for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, sort of yes, and sort of no.

As they told, the seeds and skin and flesh of grapes actually do contain melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland (in the brain, and yes, it looks like a tiny pine cone, hence the name) that controls your sleep cycles. Fermentation, supposedly, increases the amount of melatonin. So it stands to reason that wine—white or red—would make us all sleepy. It also stands to reason that since red wines have more contact with the skin, the melatonin levels in red wine would ultimately be higher, and thus more soporific (that means sleep-inducing, like watching a TED Talk. Or are we supposed to be into those?)

Get the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.

But we have to consider scale. Just like the studies that show rats can die from Sweet n’ Low, the amount of melatonin you’ll get from a glass of wine might not add up to Ambien or chloroform standards. Per Iriti and Sheth, a glass of red wine might contain anywhere between 60 and 120 nanograms (nano meaning one billionth) of melatonin. The melatonin pills we take to sleep (we all take those, right?) contain about 10,000 times as much. Granted, we all might drink a few more glasses of red wine than we care to admit. But we likely don’t drink enough to incur the kind of sleepiness that a melatonin pill induces.

So what are the likely culprits? The fact that you’re out, drinking, and drinking wine. (Or any alcohol.) At the end of the day, the melatonin is a bit of a shove into sleepiness. (But not necessarily good sleep.)