We’ve all been there. You wake up in the morning with a raspy throat, unquenchable thirst, and a raging headache.
The sun creeping through the blinds makes your eyes sting, and your stomach lurches as you climb out of bed. Even a whisper seems like a yell.
It doesn’t take a doctor to diagnose the problem—you have a hangover.
Coffee Won’t Sober You Up
Coffee will not sober you up. Whether you’re downing shots of espresso right after bottles of beer or having a cold-brew the next morning, the compounds in coffee won’t prevent or slow down the effects of alcohol.
The molecules in coffee, adenosine, adrenaline, and caffeine may increase your alertness, but they don’t interact with the same receptors that alcohol affects. After enough coffee, you’ll be more awake, but you won’t be any more ready to drive.
Myths About Coffee and Hangovers
Anecdotes suggest that coffee will alleviate many common symptoms of a hangover. But reality paints a different picture. For one, it’s not going to sober you up any quicker. The only way to do that is with time so that your body can metabolize it and rid it from your system.
The rate at which that occurs is the same no matter how big or small of a person. And the type of alcohol doesn’t affect that rate at which that happens either whether it’s a fine pinot noir or tequila shots. It’s all about the liver and how quickly the alcohol can get to it.
Ditto as far as that headache is concerned. Remember, caffeine increases your heart rate. What you might experience instead is a greater pounding sensation in your head. And it’s not going to go away anytime soon. The effects of that cup of coffee are going to last a few hours.
What Affects Your Hangover?
There are several factors that you can control which will affect your hangover. You can prevent some of the aftereffects by having a full meal before drinking. That will slow the speed at which alcohol gets to your liver and begins the string of chemical reactions that cause a hangover.
You can also avoid some symptoms by sticking with beverages low in congeners. These are by-products of fermentation. Clear alcohols like vodka have far less than other liquors like whiskey. Congeners can amplify your symptoms and make you feel worse.
And it’s not as much about not mixing your drinks but about avoiding the ones more likely to make you feel lousy the next day. The same consideration applies to coffee.
Caffeine May Avoid a Withdrawal Headache
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you may have a mild caffeine addiction. Should you skip your morning coffee, withdrawal symptoms may make your hangover worse.
The headache you already have from drinking could become more severe if you don’t have at least a little caffeine.
The only way coffee helps a hangover is by preventing caffeine withdrawal from making it worse. In this situation, though, coffee’s not alleviating the hangover symptoms.
It’s merely preventing other symptoms from developing that would compound the present ones.
Coffee Could Make Your Headache Worse
Drinking coffee could make your headache worse. The caffeine that you might need to prevent a withdrawal headache would also intensify your hangover headache.
Caffeine narrows blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. If your head is already pounding, this will make the pounding worse.
Additionally, coffee is a diuretic, so it’s easy to become dehydrated. This further narrows your blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure even more.
The consequence of these two factors could turn a mild hangover headache that’s like the tap-tap of a snare drum into deep booms from a bass drum.
The Best Solution For Coffee Drinkers
You likely need at least some coffee to prevent a withdrawal headache from setting in, but drinking coffee will increase your blood pressure and make the headache from drinking last night worse. What should you do?
Instant Hangover Cure
The best solution is often to go back to sleep if you’re able to. If you can’t just sleep the morning away, try drinking a little coffee with plenty of water. You might:
- Drink a full glass of water immediately after waking up
- Have a little coffee, perhaps half a cup
- Drink another glass of water
- Wait for 30 to 60 minutes before having more coffee.
- If you’re feeling a little better, have another half-cup of coffee.
- Continue drinking copious amounts of water.
These steps seek to prevent a caffeine-withdrawal headache while also keeping your blood pressure from rising.
By drinking plenty of water and minimizing your coffee intake, you’ll keep your blood vessels dilated and blood pressure low. After a little while, you should start to feel normal again and be able to catch up on your daily coffee habit.
Look Forward to Coffee on Another Morning
No one plans for a hangover when going out on the town.
But if you find yourself the worse for wear the next day, your plan of action should include lots of downtimes so that your body can get rid of the alcohol along with the symptoms it causes. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to relief.
Be patient because you will feel better with time. Concentrate on getting yourself hydrated to avoid additional complications. Perhaps learn from the situation so that you can avoid a hangover the next time.
Although you shouldn’t have too much coffee after a night of drinking, there’s no reason why you can’t look forward to a morning when you can have all the coffee you want.