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What Is It Like to Experience a Hangover?

By Orgesta Tolaj


23 March 2024


© Adrian Swancar / Unsplash

We have all been there – waking up with a pounding headache, nausea, and a general feeling of regret after a night of overindulgence. Hangovers are a common occurrence after consuming too much alcohol, and they can vary in severity depending on a variety of factors. But what is it really like to experience a hangover?

What Is a Hangover?

A hangover is a common condition that arises after alcohol consumption, typically characterized by symptoms such as headache, nausea, and dizziness. It usually begins a few hours after drinking and can last into the morning or even for several days. Hangovers often follow heavy alcohol consumption but can also occur after just one or two drinks. The severity of a hangover varies among individuals and is not necessarily linked to alcohol tolerance. Though unpleasant, hangovers are generally not dangerous and tend to resolve on their own over time. However, there are strategies available for managing hangover symptoms.

Why Do We Experience Them?

A hangover results from various factors related to alcohol consumption, encompassing both temporary and long-term effects on the body. These effects include dehydration due to alcohol’s impact on kidney function, vascular changes like vasodilation, alterations in neurotransmitters such as increased GABA activity, modulation of hormones like ADH, potential toxicity from alcohol additives and metabolites, and even the onset of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol also affects the liver, leading to both immediate and long-term consequences such as impaired detoxification and nutrient metabolism. The combination of these effects contributes to hangover symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

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What Does a Hangover Feel Like?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, common hangover symptoms include fatigue, weakness, and thirst due to mild dehydration caused by alcohol consumption. Hangover headaches are often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light, and dizziness. Gastrointestinal issues like upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea are also common. Muscle aches, decreased sleep quality, vertigo, and sensitivity to light and sound can occur. Hangovers may also lead to decreased attention, concentration, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Physical symptoms such as tremors, sweating, increased pulse, and blood pressure can result from alcohol’s effects on dehydration and inflammation.

How to Treat It?

While there is no cure for a hangover, several treatment strategies can help alleviate its symptoms. Resting is common, but if you need to function during the day, there are other options. Hydration is key, so drink fluids like water or electrolyte drinks before and after drinking alcohol. Eating bland foods like crackers can ease gastrointestinal discomfort. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can help with headaches and body aches, while anti-nausea medications can alleviate stomach upset.

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Have you ever been hungover?

You might also want to read: Alcohol Addiction in Men Can Affect the Unborn Baby

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!