Image: Absolutely Fabulous
It’s that time of year when we raise a glass to celebrate Christmas, the beginning of holidays, the new year, or simply to join with our friends. Many of us will pay a price, even if it’s “just” in the form of a hangover.
Hangovers affect people in different ways, ranging from simple discomfort to such a debilitating experience you vow to “never drink again!” Symptoms, of course, include nausea, tiredness, dehydration and, very commonly, a pounding head.
Hangover headaches have multiple potential causes. These include electrolyte imbalances, vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) and effects on various hormones and neurotransmitters that have been linked to the experience of a headache.
Why does drinking too much leave you feeling so rotten?
Alcohol has a diuretic effect, which makes you need to urinate more frequently. If the only liquid you consume is alcoholic you’ll become dehydrated, especially in warmer climates.
Watch: Paper Tiger has the best morning after drink. (Post continues after video.)
So make sure you are hydrated before you start, don’t slake your thirst with alcohol, and alternate alcoholic drinks with water. But beware – water is not the cure for a hangover. It will help prevent dehydration, but there are other culprits for that morning-after feeling.
Drinking more, drinking quickly and drinking on an empty stomach will all ensure a higher blood alcohol level. That means more intoxication and a greater risk of hangover (and perhaps that dreadful question of “did I really call my ex at 4am?” or “did I really say that to my boss?”).
Going “drink for drink” with someone bigger than you will mean you will have a higher blood alcohol level than them.
Some researchers argue peak blood alcohol level is not the key contributor to hangovers. Alcohol is metabolised into acetaldehyde, which is toxic (it can cause flushing, nausea and significant discomfort) and then into less harmful products that are eliminated. They conclude that acetaldehyde is a key suspect in hangovers, even though it has largely been metabolised by the time a hangover really kicks in. (Post continues after gallery.)
Heavy drinking also results in poor sleep. Alcohol is a soporific and many of us fall asleep more quickly after drinking. But we are less likely to get the quality rapid eye movement sleep required to wake feeling refreshed.
Compounding this, alcohol can affect the respiratory system, potentially contributing to snoring; the diuretic effects may mean you need to make frequent visits to the toilet; and gastric irritation from drinking too much contributes to feeling sick.