How to recover from a hangover
Hungover? Read our simple guide to find out what works and what doesn’t when you’re trying to recover, and how you can look after your long-term health
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If you’ve woken up feeling tired and with a sore head after drinking alcohol, you probably have a hangover. The only thing that will get rid of your hangover is time, as your body recovers, but there are some things you can do to alleviate the symptoms.
Read on for our guide on safely recovering, as well as the things to avoid and the hangover myths to be aware of.
Sticking to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines - no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days, with several drink-free days and no bingeing - could help you avoid a hangover. It will also lower your risk of liver and heart disease, and help maintain healthy blood pressure.
Hangovers affect everyone differently, but there are things you can do to relieve symptoms if you’re already suffering.
Dehydration can make hangover symptoms worse.1 Drinking plenty of water will help – it’s a good idea to have a pint or so of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by your bed to sip if you wake up during the night. You could also add a rehydration treatment sachet or a pinch of salt and some sugar to water – they replace lost minerals and salt, but plain water or another soft drink will normally do.
Eating something can help boost your energy levels. If you have indigestion or an upset stomach, the NHS advises bouillon soup (a thin, vegetable-based broth) as a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can top-up depleted resources.2
If you feel trembly, something sugary could help, and you can also take an antacid first if you need to, to settle your stomach.
If you like coffee or tea, it’s absolutely fine to drink a cup the morning after. But if you drink a large amount of very strong coffee, you'll be getting a large dose of caffeine, which may cause symptoms such as a fast heart rate or palpitations.3 These aren’t to do with your hangover but will feel unpleasant and could even cause harm if you have a serious underlying heart condition.
You can take two paracetamol to treat a headache if you have a hangover.
You shouldn’t attempt to drive if you still have alcohol in your system, or after that if you are feeling unwell with a hangover – it’s dangerous.4 On average, alcohol is removed from the body at the rate of about one unit an hour, but this varies from person to person, and there’s nothing you can do to speed up the process.
If you really want to avoid a hangover, the best way is not to drink! If you do decide to drink, you’re more likely to get one if you drink more than you normally would.5 Drinking less will lower your risk of a hangover.
Given that a large (250ml) glass of wine can typically contain more than three units, it’s a good idea to drink smaller measures and alternate with water, to pace yourself. Switching to a alcohol-free or low alcohol option could help you reduce your overall consumption.
Drinking more alcohol will simply 'top up' your blood alcohol level, extending the amount of time you have alcohol in your system. You'll still get a bad hangover, if you are prone to them, once your body is able to get rid of the alcohol from your system.
Routine ‘hair of the dog’ drinking will increase your tolerance to alcohol, meaning you need to drink more to experience the same effect,6 and increasing your risk of becoming alcohol dependent.
If you decide you want to exercise to ‘sweat it out’, it’s important to drink plenty of water to replace what you sweat, as well as to compensate for the dehydrating effect of the alcohol. Drinking also increases the risk of abnormal, sometimes dangerous heart rhythms. Research has shown this risk can last for up to two days after a heavy drinking session.7
Don't forget that both your judgment and balance will very likely still be impaired the morning after a heavy evening's drinking, so think twice before doing any physical activity that could result in you having an accident.
Scientific research looking at a range of vitamins and minerals that sellers claim to ‘cure’ a hangover didn’t find any strong evidence that any of them work. You would be better saving your money.8
If you’ve drunk enough alcohol to have a hangover, you may be drinking in a pattern that’s harming your health.
To keep health risks from alcohol low, the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMOs) low risk drinking guidelines advise it is safest for men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Drinking alcohol is linked to a number of serious health conditions including heart problems, high blood pressure, poor mental health, and seven types of cancer.
The CMOs also advise to never binge (drink heavily over a short space of time in a single session, or drink to get drunk).9 If you binge drink, you are putting your health at risk even if you’re drinking less than 14 units per week.
Cutting back on alcohol could help you save money, improve your relationships and get positive effects for the way you look and feel too – often within a few days. The free MyDrinkaware app can help you stay motivated by setting realistic, achievable goals that fit your lifestyle, and help you make changes that stick - at your own pace. It could mean saying goodbye to hangovers for good.
 Palmer, E., Tyacke, R., Sastre, M., Lingford-Hughes, A., Nutt, D., & Ward, R. J. (2019). Alcohol Hangover: Underlying Biochemical, Inflammatory and Neurochemical Mechanisms. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 54(3), 196–203. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agz016
 Gunn, C., Mackus, M., Griffin, C., Munafò, M.R., Adams, S. (2018). A systematic review of the next-day effects of heavy alcohol consumption on cognitive performance. Addiction,113(12), 2182-2193.
 Verster, Joris C., et al. "Sensitivity to experiencing alcohol hangovers: Reconsideration of the 0.11% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for having a hangover." Journal of clinical medicine 9.1 (2020): 179 https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9010179
 National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). (2011). Alcohol-Use Disorders: Diagnosis, Assessment and Management of Harmful Drinking and Alcohol Dependence. British Psychological Society (UK). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65487/
 El-Sayed, M. S., Ali, N., & El-Sayed Ali, Z. (2005). Interaction between alcohol and exercise: physiological and haematological implications. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 35(3), 257–269. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200535030-00005
 Roberts, E., Smith, R., Hotopf, M., & Drummond, C. (2022). The efficacy and tolerability of pharmacologically active interventions for alcohol-induced hangover symptomatology: a systematic review of the evidence from randomised placebo-controlled trials. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 117(8), 2157–2167. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15786
Last Reviewed: 13th June 2023
Next Review due: 13th June 2026