Head pounding, dry mouth, sensitivity to the light, or loud noises. The morning after the night before. We’ve all been there.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to reduce hangover symptoms. From the obvious (taking pain-relief) to the questionable (lemon fanta, anyone?) there are a number of tried and tested methods to recover as quickly as possible.
But, when you’re still suffering days after the event, is there cause for alarm?
We explore the reasons why you could be experiencing prolonged hangover symptoms – and what you can do about it for next time.
1. You didn’t hydrate yourself
Water plays a huge part in how we feel the morning after drinking. Alcohol is a diuretic, which essentially means that, as we drink it, it dehydrates us.
Whilst it can help to hydrate the day after, the damage in effect has already been done. It is much more effective to drink water every other drink, to help prevent you from becoming overly dehydrated in the first place.
2. You drank more than you thought
Can you accurately count up all the units you drank? Either, you don’t want to admit how many glasses of wine you got through, or you’ve forgotten – one glass can easily blend into another, after a few too many.
Sticking to one type of drink – whether that’s wine, beer, or spirits – can be helpful in limiting how much you drink. This is where drinking water throughout the night can help too, as it can also prevent you from drinking such high volumes of alcohol.
3. You have a sensitivity
Believe it or not, you may actually be allergic to alcohol – or, at least some types of alcohol. An allergy to gluten, wheat or histamine can lead to hangover-like symptoms, which can make you feel less than your best.
If you suspect you may have an allergy or intolerance, it’s important to seek professional diagnosis from your doctor. A qualified nutrition professional can then help you understand what is causing your symptoms. They can advise you on how to avoid the confirmed/suspected allergen and how you can prevent symptoms while maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that meets your nutritional requirements.
4. You didn’t get enough sleep
While lack of sleep won’t cause a hangover, it can make your hangover symptoms worse. It’s thought that after a heavy session of drinking, we fall immediately into deep sleep. While this sounds great, it means that we actually miss out on the initial phase of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is essential for helping us to wake up feeling refreshed.
So, while falling asleep isn’t necessarily the problem when we’re intoxicated, getting good-quality sleep is. Alcohol’s disruptive effect on your sleep patterns could be reducing the quality of your slumber – and this could be what is making your hangover symptoms hang around.
Try to avoid drinking alcohol too close to bedtime, to give your body time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk before you try to sleep. Drinkaware suggests that, on average, it takes an hour to process one unit, but this can vary widely from person to person.
5. You haven’t eaten enough
You should never drink on an empty stomach. Forget the notion ‘eating is cheating’ – and a handful of party nibbles doesn’t count as a meal either (not even close). Lining your stomach is about having a substantial, nutritious meal before you start drinking.
Foods that have a natural fat content are a good choice before a night out, as they can help slow down the rate at which food leaves the stomach. The longer that food stays in your stomach, the slower the alcohol gets absorbed into your bloodstream.
Next time, try a bowl of whole wheat spaghetti and avocado sauce or a salmon and roast vegetable tray bake before you go out. This could help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system and leave you less likely to crave fatty or sugary foods as the evening wears on.
The thing to remember: it’s not healthy to be feeling this way on the regular. Take care of your body and drink alcohol in moderation.