Your Morning—With and Without Alcohol in Your Life

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We’ve all been there. After a few too many drinks with friends, you rise in the morning feeling hungover, achy, and exhausted. And for the rest of the day, you’re left fending off headaches, nausea, poor concentration—the list goes on and on.

Depending on who you are, even one or two drinks the night before can throw you off your game. Many people who adopt a “sober curious” lifestyle find they feel more refreshed in the morning when they cut out alcohol—less groggy, quicker on their feet, and better mentally prepared for the day ahead. 

Unsure whether you’d be better off without drinking? Let’s look at some typical morning scenarios, with and without the after-effects of alcohol.

Your Mornings After Drinking Alcohol

When you’ve been drinking before bed, your morning might go a little something like this:

hand clutching alarm clock
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels

Stage 1: Waking Up

Getting out of bed feels like an uphill battle. Your body is tired and begging for more rest—but your alarm clock is blaring, and you know it’s time to get up. 

After pulling yourself out of bed, you feel achiness and fatigue quickly starting to set in. But with the help of some caffeine, you’re ready to begin your morning. 

Stage 2: Getting Ready

As you brush your teeth, wash your face, and select your outfit, you start to realize just how heavy your body feels. Going through each step of your morning routine feels like you’re lifting a thousand pounds. But regardless of how groggy you are, you finish things up and prepare to tackle the day.

Stage 3: Throughout Your Day

Whether you’re at work, taking care of your family, or relaxing at home, the effects of last night’s drinking can take a toll on your day. 

As you work through your tasks, your thoughts may be jumbled and disorganized. In addition, you might feel a background buzz of anxiety for the first several hours after waking. And to top things off, these psychological effects may come along with the physical symptoms of a hangover—such as headaches, nausea, and weakness.

Of course, you’ll make it through your day like usual. But once the evening hits, you may not have much energy left for things like cooking, relaxing with loved ones, or other hobbies. Instead, you might head straight to bed for some much-needed sleep. 

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The Facts: Why Alcohol Leads to Groggy, Stressful Mornings

So, why can drinking have such a powerful negative impact on your morning, and the day that follows?

Despite alcohol helping you fall asleep faster, research shows that it may ultimately harm your sleep quality—especially in the second half of the night.1 Specifically, it shortens the time your body spends in its REM sleep stage, which is when your brain processes memories and new information.2 

Read more: Alcohol and Insomnia

Beyond that, the cognitive effects of alcohol can last well after the intoxication wears off. Research shows that hangovers may impact your decision-making, mental flexibility, and planning skills during the day.3

Finally, alcohol use can trigger hangxiety in the morning (the nervousness and agitation that often accompany a hangover). Because alcohol makes you feel more relaxed, your body tends to overcompensate, leading to greater anxiety and tension as the effects wear off. When this happens, even minor interactions or small tasks at work can feel much more stressful.

With all this in mind, it’s only natural to feel tired and tense the morning after drinking. But the good news is that by cutting back, you can wake up feeling more relaxed, well-rested, and refreshed each day.

Your Mornings Without Alcohol

Here’s how your mornings could shift for the better when you switch to a moderation-based or sober lifestyle: 

young man drinking coffee by couch with wife and child
Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels

Stage 1: Waking Up

Like every other day, your morning might start with you waking to the slightly-jarring sound of your alarm clock. But even though you aren’t exactly excited to jump out of bed, it doesn’t feel nearly as difficult as mornings after drinking.

Once you’re up, you stretch, shake off the sleepiness, and head to the kitchen to start your day. Since you have more energy, you might even feel good enough to whip up a small breakfast for yourself and/or your loved ones.

Stage 2: Getting Ready 

Throughout your morning, you might notice that you feel all-around healthier and more energized. As you run through your mental to-do list, you may also feel less on edge—and more positive—about the day ahead.

Stage 3: Throughout Your Day

While there are still challenges throughout your day, everything seems to flow more smoothly. With more focus and mental energy, your problem-solving abilities seem to improve. Tasks at work and home don’t feel as difficult as they did on the days after you drank. Instead, you feel more capable and excited about what you’re doing—whether that’s working, care-taking, or focusing on home projects.

Once the day wraps up, you may even have enough extra energy to exercise, cook a healthy dinner, or spend some quality time with your loved ones.

Change Your Drinking Habits, Improve Your Mornings

Having a better start to your day is just one of many benefits of drinking less alcohol. In fact, more and more people are becoming “sober curious” or pursuing mindful drinking to get these benefits. This includes many people who don’t consider themselves alcoholics—anyone can reassess their drinking habits.

However, if it’s difficult to simply cut back or stop, there’s no shame in that either. Ria Health’s online program can give you stigma-free support, on your terms and on your schedule. No matter your goals, we’re here to help you live your best life—from morning to night, every day of the week.

Learn more about how it works, or book a call with a team member today.

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Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Minnesota-based freelancer and health advocate who aims to empower others through her work.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
NYC-based content strategist with over 3 years editing and writing in the recovery space. Strong believer in accessible, empathic, and fact-based communication.
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