Alcohol & Caffeine Health Implications | AspenRidge

Short-Term Effects: Dehydration and Hangover Severity

Many young adults consume both alcohol and caffeine together, hoping to feel more alert and less tired. However, scientists are still investigating the negative effects of this combination on the body, such as dehydration and severe hangovers.

One notable study conducted by Rohsenow et al. (2014) explored the immediate effects of combining caffeinated versus non-caffeinated alcoholic beverages on hangover incidence and severity. The research aimed to debunk or confirm common beliefs regarding the mixture’s impact on sleep quality, hangover, and overall next-day functioning. The findings revealed that, contrary to popular opinion, mixing caffeine with alcohol did not significantly impair sleep quality, nor did it exacerbate hangover symptoms. This suggests that the common practice among party-goers of mixing these two substances might not have the detrimental effects on hangover severity that many assume.

Further investigation into the relationship between caffeine use and hangover severity by Penning et al. (2011) found no significant correlation. This research underscores the complexity of hangover symptoms, suggesting that factors beyond just caffeine and alcohol consumption contribute to the severity of a hangover. It implies that individual biological responses and possibly other environmental or dietary factors play a significant role in how one experiences a hangover.

These insights are crucial for health-conscious individuals and party-goers in Colorado and beyond. Understanding that the mixture of alcohol and caffeine may not inherently worsen hangover symptoms or dehydration levels could influence drinking behaviors. However, it’s essential to approach these findings with caution. The body’s response to alcohol and caffeine can vary widely among individuals, and factors like the amount consumed, hydration levels, and personal health should always be considered.


Short-Term Effects: Sleep disturbances

Exploring the effects of mixing alcohol and caffeine on sleep reveals a complex relationship between these commonly consumed substances and their impact on rest and recovery. Given the late-night culture in Colorado, it is essential to understand how these substances affect sleep for those who want to maintain a healthy balance between socializing and their wellbeing.

Alcohol is widely recognized for its sedative properties, which can initially facilitate falling asleep. However, its impact on sleep architecture is detrimental, often leading to fragmented sleep and reduced REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This disruption in sleep stages can significantly impair the restorative quality of sleep, leading to feelings of tiredness and decreased alertness the following day.

On the flip side, caffeine, a powerful stimulant found in coffee, tea, and many energy drinks, can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce total sleep time. Its ability to block adenosine receptors in the brain, which are responsible for promoting sleep, can lead to prolonged periods of wakefulness, making it harder for individuals to wind down after a night out.

Research, including studies by Rohsenow et al. (2010) and Ayre et al. (2021), sheds light on the combined effects of these substances. Findings suggest that while caffeine can mitigate some of the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol, it does not prevent the sleep disruption associated with alcohol consumption. This means that while individuals may feel more alert and find it easier to stay awake after consuming caffeinated alcoholic beverages, the quality of sleep they eventually get may still be compromised.

For residents and visitors in Colorado, where outdoor activities and early mornings are a common part of life, understanding these effects is vital. Combining alcohol and caffeine can make it challenging to achieve restful sleep, which is essential for energy, mood regulation, and overall health.

Practical advice for those looking to minimize sleep disturbances includes:

  • Timing Your Consumption: Try to limit alcohol and caffeine intake to earlier in the evening, allowing your body time to metabolize these substances before bedtime.
  • Hydration: Alcohol dehydrates the body, and dehydration can worsen sleep quality. Drinking water throughout the night can help mitigate this effect.
  • Moderation: Consuming both alcohol and caffeine in moderation can reduce their impact on sleep. Consider lower-caffeine beverages and limiting alcohol intake.
  • Creating a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Reducing exposure to bright lights and engaging in relaxing activities before bed can help counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine and promote better sleep.


Long-Term Effects: Dependency

Navigating the social scenes in Colorado, where craft breweries and coffee culture flourish, brings to light concerns regarding the long-term implications of regular alcohol and caffeine consumption. Among these, the potential for increased dependency stands out as a critical area for consideration, impacting not only individual health but also community well-being.

The intersection of alcohol and caffeine consumption poses a complex scenario. Each substance carries its own risk for dependency, with caffeine being a commonly overlooked contributor due to its widespread acceptance and use in daily life. Alcohol dependency is well-documented, characterized by an increasing tolerance to its effects and a physical or psychological compulsion to consume alcohol despite adverse consequences.

Emerging research, including a pivotal study by Arria et al. (2011), indicates that the concurrent use of energy drinks (high in caffeine) and alcohol may exacerbate the risk of developing alcohol dependence. This research suggests that the stimulant effects of caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, potentially leading individuals to consume greater amounts of alcohol than they might otherwise, without the immediate realization of intoxication levels. This masking effect can lead to higher overall alcohol consumption, contributing to a faster development of tolerance and, ultimately, dependence.

Strategies to reduce the potential for increased dependency include:

  • Awareness and Education: Increasing awareness about the risks of mixing alcohol and caffeine and the signs of dependence can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their consumption habits.
  • Monitoring Consumption: Keeping track of both alcohol and caffeine intake can help individuals recognize patterns that may lead to increased tolerance and dependency.
  • Seeking Alternatives: Exploring non-alcoholic or decaffeinated alternatives can provide social and recreational enjoyment without the same level of risk for dependency.
  • Community Support: Access to resources and support for those struggling with dependency is vital. Encouraging open conversations and reducing the stigma around seeking help can foster a supportive environment.


Long-Term Effects: Anxiety and Depression

The relationship between caffeine consumption and mental health is complex. Caffeine’s stimulant properties can temporarily boost mood and alertness, yet for some individuals, especially those with anxiety disorders, it can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and even trigger panic attacks. Conversely, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to reduced rates of depression and even suicide, suggesting a protective effect in certain contexts (Kawachi et al., 1996). This dichotomy underscores the importance of personal sensitivity and moderation in caffeine intake.

Alcohol, a depressant, presents a more direct link to mental health challenges. While it may initially seem to reduce stress and anxiety, chronic alcohol use can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression symptoms over time. The study by Worthington et al. (1996) highlights how even moderate alcohol consumption can negatively impact the effectiveness of antidepressant treatments, underscoring the intricate relationship between alcohol use and mental health management.

To mitigate the potential negative impacts on mental health, consider the following strategies:

  • Personal Awareness: Recognizing how your body and mind respond to caffeine and alcohol can help you make informed decisions about consumption.
  • Moderation: Limiting intake of both substances can reduce the risk of exacerbating anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Seeking Alternatives: Exploring non-alcoholic beverages and decaffeinated options can provide social enjoyment without the mental health risks.
  • Support and Resources: For those experiencing mental health challenges related to substance use, seeking professional help and community support can offer pathways to recovery and well-being.


Long-Term Effects: Cardiovascular Risks

Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found in coffee, tea, and many energy drinks. Even habitual drinkers have been shown to experience a temporary increase in blood pressure and sympathetic nervous activity after consuming caffeine. This effect suggests that long-term consumption may have implications for cardiovascular health, especially for individuals with existing heart conditions or those at risk of developing them. A study by Corti et al. (2002) indicates that these effects are not solely due to caffeine, but also to other components in caffeinated beverages, highlighting the complexity of their impact on heart health.

The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular health is complicated. While moderate alcohol consumption may have a protective effect against coronary heart disease, heavy drinking can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, the potential benefits of alcohol must be weighed against its risks. It’s essential to maintain a delicate balance between the two effects, and we cannot ignore the possibility that alcohol may contribute to long-term cardiovascular risk.

The following strategies can help manage the potential cardiovascular effects of alcohol and caffeine:

  • Moderation: Limiting consumption of both alcohol and caffeine can help reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular effects. For alcohol, adhering to recommended guidelines is key. For caffeine, being mindful of not only coffee but also energy drinks and other sources is important.
  • Monitoring: Regular check-ups can help monitor blood pressure and heart health, especially for those with a history of heart disease or risk factors for cardiovascular conditions.
  • Lifestyle Balance: Incorporating heart-healthy habits, such as regular physical activity, a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and stress management techniques, can help offset potential risks from alcohol and caffeine.
  • Education and Awareness: Staying informed about the latest research and guidelines regarding alcohol and caffeine consumption can empower individuals to make choices that align with their health goals.



  1.       Arab, L., Biggs, M. L., O’Meara, E. S., Longstreth, W. T., Crane, P. K., & Fitzpatrick, A. L. (2011). Gender differences in tea, coffee, and cognitive decline in the elderly: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: JAD, 27(3), 553-66.
  2.   Arria, A. M., Caldeira, K. M., Kasperski, S. J., Vincent, K. B., Griffiths, R. R., & O’Grady, K. E. (2011). Energy drink consumption and increased risk for alcohol dependence. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 35(2), 365-75.
  3.   Attwood, A. S., Rogers, P. J., Ataya, A. F., Adams, S., & Munafò, M. R. (2012). Effects of caffeine on alcohol-related changes in behavioural control and perceived intoxication in light caffeine consumers. Psychopharmacology, 221, 551-560.
  4.   Ayre, E., Scholey, A., White, D., Devilly, G., Kaufman, J., Verster, J. C., … Benson, S. (2021). The Relationship between Alcohol Hangover Severity, Sleep and Cognitive Performance; A Naturalistic Study. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 10.
  5.   Corti, R., Binggeli, C., Sudano, I., Spieker, L., Hänseler, E., Ruschitzka, F., … Noll, G. (2002). Coffee acutely increases sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure independently of caffeine content: Role of habitual versus nonhabitual drinking. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, 106, 2935-2940.
  6.   Denaro, C. P., Brown, C. R., Wilson, M., Jacob, P., & Benowitz, N. L. (1990). Dosedependency of caffeine metabolism with repeated dosing. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 48.
  7.   Eskelinen, M. H., Ngandu, T., Tuomilehto, J., Soininen, H., & Kivipelto, M. (2009). Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: JAD, 16(1), 85-91.
  8. Gray, B., Ingles, J., Medi, C., Driscoll, T., & Semsarian, C. (2017). Cardiovascular Effects of Energy Drinks in Familial Long QT Syndrome: A Randomized Cross-Over Study. International Journal of Cardiology, 231, 150-154.
  9.   Hamer, M., Williams, E., Vuononvirta, R., Gibson, E. L., & Steptoe, A. (2006). Association between coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and cardiovascular function during mental stress. Journal of Hypertension, 24, 2191–2197.
  10.   Haynes, J. C., Farrell, M., Singleton, N., Meltzer, H., Araya, R., Lewis, G., & Wiles, N. J. (2007). Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for non-recovery from common mental disorder: Results from the longitudinal follow-up of the National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. Psychological Medicine, 38, 451 – 455.
  11. Kawachi, I., Willett, W. C., Colditz, G. A., Stampfer, M. J., & Speizer, F. E. (1996). A prospective study of coffee drinking and suicide in women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 156(5), 521-525.
  12. Lane, J. D., & Manus, D. C. (1989). Persistent cardiovascular effects with repeated caffeine administration. Psychosomatic Medicine, 51, 373–380.
  13. Pritchard, W. S., Robinson, J. H., deBethizy, J. D., Davis, R. A., & Stiles, M. F. (1995). Effects of caffeine and smoking on mood and performance changes following consumption of lager. Psychophysiology, 32(1), 19-27.
  14. Quinlan, P. T., Lane, J., Aspinall, L. (1997). Effects of hot tea, coffee and water ingestion on physiological responses and mood: the role of caffeine, water and beverage type. Psychopharmacology, 134, 164-173.
  15. Rohsenow, D. J., Howland, J., Minsky, S. J., Greece, J. A., Almeida, A. B., & Roehrs, T. A. (2007). The Acute Hangover Scale: A new measure of immediate hangover symptoms. Addictive Behaviors, 32(6), 1314-1320.
  16. Rohsenow, D. J., Howland, J., Alvarez, L., Nelson, K., Langlois, B., Verster, J. C., … Arnedt, J. T. (2014). Effects of caffeinated vs. non-caffeinated alcoholic beverage on next-day hangover incidence and severity, perceived sleep quality, and alertness. Addictive Behaviors, 39(1), 329-332.
  17. Rush, C. R., Higgins, S. T., Hughes, J. R., Bickel, W. K., & Wiegner, M. S. (1993). Acute behavioral and cardiac effects of alcohol and caffeine, alone and in combination, in humans. Behavioural Pharmacology, 4, 562–572.
  18. Sudano, I., Spieker, L., Binggeli, C., Ruschitzka, F., Lüscher, T. F., Noll, G., & Corti, R. (2005). Coffee blunts mental stress-induced blood pressure increase in habitual but not in nonhabitual coffee drinkers. Hypertension, 46, 521-526.
  19. Worthington, J. J., Fava, M., Agustin, C., Alpert, J. E., Nierenberg, A. A., Pava, J. A., & Rosenbaum, J. F. (1996). Consumption of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine among depressed outpatients. Relationship with response to treatment. Psychosomatics, 37(6), 518-522.
  20.   Yano, K., Rhoads, G. G., & Kagan, A. (1977). Coffee, alcohol and risk of coronary heart disease among Japanese men living in Hawaii. The New England Journal of Medicine, 297(8), 405-409.