What is a Hangover?

A hangover is a term that describes the symptoms you have after drinking too much alcohol. How much is too much varies from person to person. These symptoms hit a few hours after you’ve finished drinking, usually when you wake up the next morning.

Alcohol can be dehydrating, and it may irritate the lining of your stomach and other areas of your gastrointestinal system. As well, if you’ve not eaten well before or during you have ingested alcohol, you may be more likely to suffer discomfort, possibly from low blood sugar.

Researchers also believe that acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol, builds up in the body when you drink and causes some of the problems associated with hangovers. In some studies, acetaldehyde caused nausea and vomiting, sweating and general discomfort.

What are the Symptoms of a Hangover?

Not everyone suffers all the symptoms associated with hangovers, but you may have some of the following: stomach problems, nausea, headache, dizziness, thirst and the inability to think or function normally. You may also respond poorly to light and noise or have irritability or anxiety. People with hangovers typically do not get quality sleep, so the lack of rest can contribute to symptoms.

If someone who has been drinking alcohol is not conscious, call for emergency medical help immediately. Too much alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.

Hangover Causes

Hangover is caused by drinking too much alcohol. What constitutes too much varies from person to person; for some, just one alcoholic drink is enough to cause a hangover, while others may find they can consume large amounts of alcohol without getting a hangover.

One of the main reasons alcohol causes a hangover is that it leads to dehydration. This is because alcohol irritates the bladder and causes us to urinate far more than usual. Alcohol also tends to trigger inflammation throughout the body, which can cause a wide range of physical symptoms such as decreased appetite and reduced ability to concentrate.

The fatigue, weakness and shakiness often associated with hangover is due to a fall in blood sugar caused by alcohol. When alcohol causes a headache, this is usually down to the way that it forces blood vessels to expand.

Alcohol can also irritate the lining of the stomach, which can lead to an increased amount of stomach acid and slower emptying of the stomach. This, in turn, causes nausea, vomiting and sometimes abdominal pain.

Finally, the grogginess and sleepiness associated with a hangover is usually due to the way that alcohol affects sleep. Although alcohol can induce sleep, it tends to inhibit deep sleep which can leave the body feeling lethargic, even if you have slept for hours.

How is a Hangover Treated?

Most hangovers go away within a few hours and few last more than 24 hours. Over-the-counter pain medication can help with headaches and other related pain. Since hangover symptoms may occur due to dehydration, be sure to drink plenty of water and other hydrating drinks. A healthy snack to boost your blood sugar may also help.

Some people recommend drinking more alcohol to reduce symptoms, but this will just lengthen the time you experience symptoms. Other home remedies and alternative treatments are not proven to help reduce the severity or length of hangover symptoms.

If you can rest or sleep, staying in bed may be the best way to recuperate from a hangover.

Hangover Prevention

The best way to prevent a hangover is to avoid alcohol altogether. However, if you do plan to drink alcohol you may be able to reduce the risk of hangover with the following habits.

Firstly, eat before you drink alcohol. Having food in the stomach prevents alcohol from being absorbed into the bloodstream too quickly, and could help to prevent a hangover. Secondly, drink alcohol slowly; avoid having more than one drink every hour.

Finally, drink water in between alcoholic drinks. Not only will this help to replenish the hydration lost through frequent urination, but it will also help you to drink less alcohol overall.