A hangover refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a consequence of drinking too much. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure. A hangover can vary from person to person.
A hangover refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a consequence of drinking too much alcohol. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure. A hangover can vary from person to person.
Alcohol is not the only substance that produce hangover
Alcohol is the main culprit in a hangover, but other components of alcoholic beverages might contribute to hangover symptoms or make a hangover worse.
- Congeners are compounds, other than ethyl alcohol, that are produced during fermentation. These substances contribute to the taste and smell of alcoholic beverages. Darker spirits, such as bourbon, which tend to have higher levels of congeners than clear spirits, could worsen hangover symptoms for some people.
- Sulfites are compounds that are added to wine as preservatives. People who have a sensitivity to sulfites may experience a headache after drinking wine.
What Causes Hangover Symptoms?
A number of factors can contribute to hangovers:
- Mild dehydration: Alcohol suppresses the release of vasopressin, a hormone produced by the brain that sends signals to the kidneys causing them to retain fluid. As a result, alcohol increases urination and excess loss of fluids. The mild dehydration that results likely contributes to hangover symptoms such as thirst, fatigue, and a headache.
- Disrupted sleep: People may fall asleep faster after drinking alcohol, but their sleep is fragmented, and they tend to wake up earlier. This contributes to fatigue, as well as lost productivity.
- Gastrointestinal irritation: Alcohol directly irritates the lining of the stomach and increases acid release. This can lead to nausea and stomach discomfort.
- Inflammation: Alcohol increases inflammation in the body. Inflammation contributes to the malaise that people feel when they are sick, so it may play a role in hangover symptoms as well.
- Acetaldehyde exposure: Alcohol metabolism, primarily by the liver, creates the compound acetaldehyde, a toxic, short-lived byproduct, which contributes to inflammation in the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.
- Mini-withdrawal: While drinking, individuals may feel calmer, more relaxed, and even euphoric, but the brain quickly adjusts to those positive effects as it tries to maintain balance. As a result, when the buzz wears off, people can feel more restless and anxious than before they drank.
Because individuals are so different, it is difficult to predict how many drinks will cause a hangover. Any time people drink to intoxication, there is a chance they could have a hangover the next day.
When Does a Hangover Peak and How Long Does It Last?
Hangover symptoms peak when the blood alcohol concentration in the body returns to about zero. The symptoms can last 24 hours or longer.
Are Hangovers Dangerous or Just Painful?
Hangovers can be both painful and dangerous. During a hangover, a person’s attention, decision-making, and muscle coordination can all be impaired. Also, the ability to perform important tasks, such as driving, operating machinery, or caring for others can be negatively affected.