The Science, Myths and Truths behind Hangovers

   Let's face it, we all had our big nights out and huge headaches caused by hangovers afterwards. In this post I will try to explain the main concept of a hangover and debunk some myths behind it.
   Hangover is the sum of unpleasant physiological effects following heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages. The most commonly reported characteristics of a hangover include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, lethargy, depressed mood, diarrhea and thirst, typically after the intoxicating effect of the alcohol begins to wear off. Alcohol, i.e. Ethanol, has a diuretic effect on our bodies causing increased urine production, which in turn may cause headaches, dry mouth, and lethargy.
   While a hangover can be experienced at any time, generally it is experienced in the morning after a night of heavy drinking. In addition to the physical symptoms, a hangover may also produce psychological signs including heightened feelings of depression, anxiety and other mood swings. Many people will also be repulsed by the thought, taste or smell of alcohol during a hangover. The symptoms vary from person to person, and occasion to occasion, usually beginning several hours after drinking. It is not clear whether hangovers directly affect cognitive abilities.

Check out some of the Myths and Facts about hangover, after the break,

  • Myth:  Hangovers Are No Big Deal
  • Fact:  A hangover is the body’s reaction to being poisoned with too much alcohol. Heavy drinking rocks the central nervous system. It tinkers with brain chemicals – leading to headache, dizziness, and nausea – and sends you running to the bathroom so often you become dehydrated. The morning-after price of this imbalance can include a pounding headache, fatigue, cotton mouth, queasy stomach – and a weakened immune system.
  • Myth:  Hangovers Are Gender-Blind
  • Fact:  Ladies, use caution when enjoying those free drinks on “Ladies’ Night”. Given the same drinks, women are more likely to be slammed with the effects of alcohol than men. Scientists say that there is good reason for this. Men have a higher percentage of water in their bodies which helps dilute the alcohol they consume. When women drink the same amount, more alcohol builds up in the bloodstream causing them to feel the effects of the alcohol more intensely.
  • Myth:  Only Binge Drinkers Get Hangovers
  • Fact:  While it is true that binge drinking could speed your way to a hangover, you do not have to get wasted to pay a price the next morning. Depending on your body composition, just a couple of drinks can trigger a headache and other hangover symptoms. Having water or a non alcoholic drink between each beer or hard liquor drink can help keep you hydrated and reduce the overall amount of alcohol you consume.
  • Myth: Wine Is The Gentlest Choice
  • Fact::  Red wine contains tannins, compounds that are known to trigger headaches in some people. Malt liquors, like whiskey, also tend to produce more severe hangovers. If you are worried about how you’ll feel in the morning, the gentlest choices are beer and clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.
  • Myth:  Diet Cocktails Are A Safe Bet
  • Fact:  Diet drinks may help if you are counting calories, but not if you are trying to avoid a hangover. Research suggests that consumption of fruits, fruit juices, or other sugar containing liquids can decrease hangover intensity.
  • Myth:  Liquor Before Beer, Never Fear
  • Fact:  Regarding hangover, the amount of alcohol you consume – not the order of your drinks – is what matters. That said, the order of your drinks may affect how much you consume. If you have a cosmopolitan, and then switch to beer for the rest of the night, you slow down your intake of alcohol. If you switch from beer to shots, you accelerate your path to drunkenness. Of course, too much liquor can spell “sicker” regardless of whether you begin with beer or any other form of alcohol.
  • Myth:  Eat Pasta Before Bed
  • Fact:  This one is wrong on two counts. First, eating at bedtime (after you are already drunk) is no help. Food has to be in your stomach before Happy Hour to have any impact. Second, while any food can slow the body’s absorption of alcohol, fat does it best. So go for steak or pizza before your first martini, and you might escape a hangover. One bedtime tip that does help is to drink water before going to sleep to avoid dehydration.
  • Myth:  Pop Pain Pills Before Going To Bed
  • Fact:  Over the counter painkillers peak in about four hours, so the effect of a bedtime dose will be gone by morning. A better plan is to take the pills when you first wake up. Avoid taking acetaminophen after a night of drinking. Alcohol disrupts how the liver processes acetaminophen, possibly leading to liver inflammation and permanent damage.
  • Myth:  Alcohol Helps You Sleep Well
  • Fact::  Alcohol disrupts sleep. While a nightcap may help you doze off more quickly, it undermines the quality of your sleep. You do not spend as much time in all important REM cycles and you are more likely to wake up too soon. If you have been drinking heavily, a hangover might strike in the last part of the night, leaving you too uncomfortable to get back to sleep.
  • Myth::  A Wake Up Cocktail Is The Cure
  • Fact:  More alcohol in the morning does nothing but postpone a hangover. The worst symptoms hit when blood alcohol, levels drop to zero. If you have a screwdriver at breakfast, this moment will just come later in the day. And if you find you cannot function without a wake up cocktail, you should discuss the possibility of addiction with your doctor.
  • Myth:  Coffee Is A Cure
  • Fact:  Coffee leads to more dehydration and could make your hangover worse. After a night of drunkenness, it is best to avoid anything with caffeine. Instead, sip water and sports drinks to counter dehydration and replace lost electrolytes. This is especially important if you experienced any vomiting.
Fact::  Alcohol poisoning is a potentially fatal medical emergency. If you see someone vomit multiple times or pass out after drinking heavily, a visit to the nearest emergency room is in order. It is easy to blow off and or ignore these symptoms as the price one pays for partying too hard, but there is a danger of shock or, in the case of vomiting, becoming severely dehydrated.

via: WikiPedia & WebMD


  1. I've always heard that drinking plenty of water along with the alcohol prevents hangovers by preventing dehydration. (And by making you take a pee break more often)

  2. Wow I actually thought that coffee helps you. No more mistakes.
    As for malt liquors - I don't really experience any other symptoms of hangover except headaches. And those are the most painful and unbearable headaches ever.
    But whisky is soooo good :)

  3. very enlightening, thank you. i had an inkling to some of these facts, but now i am assured. good thing i dont drink.

  4. @Ed, it seems that loss of water is THE major cause of hangover headaches, so drinking plenty of water is the best remedy, helped me countless number of times.
    @lets go get lost, caffeine would negate some of the sedative effects of alcohol, but it has same (diuretic) effects as alcohol so you will still be losing a lot of fluids from your system, in turn causing headaches the next morning.
    @fit4life, very wise choice of not drinking, I'm trying to cut back on alcoholic beverages myself and become more physically active also.

  5. Nice info ^_^ I think I'm lucky I've never had a bad hangover, just a little thirsty sometimes. Probably because I'm always drinking water.

  6. Very insightful blog, followed.

  7. don't drink ever, but i'll keep this in mind

  8. whoa lots of great info here, thank!

  9. Damn do I hate hangovers! It feels like you've been on a really horrible dizzy carnival ride.

  10. "Myth: Pop Pain Pills Before Going To Bed
    Fact: Over the counter painkillers peak in about four hours, so the effect of a bedtime dose will be gone by morning. A better plan is to take the pills when you first wake up. Avoid taking acetaminophen after a night of drinking. Alcohol disrupts how the liver processes acetaminophen, possibly leading to liver inflammation and permanent damage."

    You may want to revise this one. Taking pain killers before bed does work. This is based on the idea of preventing the inflammation. Hangover is coming from when you first start drinking. Pain killers before bed help prevent the inflammation and lessen the amount that will occur by morning time.

  11. stay hydrated during/after your drinking sessions is an easy way to reduce and prevent hangovers!

  12. Sad but true, my friend alcohol has caused me some issues. Luckily, I'm not much of a drinker, and I'm glad for that.

  13. At the end of the night I just drink a lot of water then have some on hand when I wake up

  14. Never had a hangover...

  15. My hangover cure is greasy food. Mcdonalds is a life saver. I so gonna post this onto Facebook. BTW.

  16. I've always heard that a glass of water for every drink keeps a hangover away. That true?

  17. Cool info bud. I usually just chug water in the morning and I steer clear of mixing beer with liquer

  18. Very informative! I don't think I will ever drink alcohol!

  19. This actually helped me. Alot! lol

  20. helpful, i didnt know eating after doesnt help :/

  21. I don't really remember or think about this during hangovers... It's hard to think about anything other than the fact that you're in a hangover

  22. I know that feeling bro

  23. the most important thing for me is water ! It's funny how hard it is to remember to drink water, but its the biggest saver

  24. nothing like waking up and not remembering the night before, intersing blog followed

  25. Hangovers are my kryptonite. I can drink all night long and feel great, but if I'm not pounding water with my drinks the morning is like purgatory.

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