Veisalgia, the medical term for a hangover, comes from the Norwegian word kveis (uneasiness following debauchery) and the Greek word algia (pain). It’s a pretty accurate description for the agony that follows drinking too much. No matter how good your buzz might feel in the moment, having a few too many is often a recipe for disaster.
While there’s no cure for a hangover (believe us — we’ve tried them all), there are a few ways to prevent the inevitable splitting headache and explosive diarrhea that follow an all-night bender. Everything from the kind of liquor you imbibe to the time of day you drank can contribute to how miserable you feel the next day. These are some of the mistakes you’re making that have you feeling so crummy.
YOU’RE TAKING SHOTS.
On top of how much you drank, the most reliable predictor of a hangover is how fast you drank.
“Alcohol is alcohol, but if you drink a beer in 40 minutes and a shot of whiskey in four seconds, the whiskey is getting into your system much more quickly,” says Bill Krauss, L.C.S.W., program director of McLean Hospital’s Ambulatory Treatment Center at Naukeag, a residential alcohol and drug treatment program.
Your body can only process about one drink per hour. If you drink more than that, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated, which will inevitably lead to morning misery.
Slow your roll by drinking a glass of water with every alcoholic drink you have. Also, keep in mind that the definition of a standard “drink” (in the US) changes depending on if you’re having shots or wine. (A regular beer, for example is 330ml to 350ml, while a serving of a spirit is 45ml. If you’re drinking wine, one drink is 150ml.)
YOU’RE DRINKING THE WRONG KIND OF BOOZE.
A landmark study in 1970 linked congeners (basically, anything other than water or alcohol in boozy beverages) to killer hangovers. While that’s only true to a degree, ever since, researchers have been attributing hangovers to darker drinks like red wine, bourbon, whiskey, which tend to be high in congeners.
It’s possible that congeners play a role in spurring inflammation in your body, which can make you feel uneasy, explains George Koob, Ph.D., the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And because congeners stay in your system longer than the actual alcohol, they’ll actually prolong those unpleasant symptoms, says David Aizenberg, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine at Penn Medicine.
While liquors like white wine, rum, gin, and vodka have fewer congeners, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be in the clear. One study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that the CO2 in champagne might speed up the absorption of booze, which means you’ll get drunker faster, and might feel it more in the morning.
YOU MIXED YOUR DRINKS.
If you stick with one kind of booze all night long, you’ll minimize your chances of feeling like death the morning after, says Krauss. “Any time you put more and different impurities into your body, you can end up with a particularly worse hangover,” he says.
If you start with a beer that has certain flavorings and congeners and follow it with a shot of whiskey that has methanol (a congener that’s toxic in high levels), your body could have different reactions to each—leading to worse and varying symptoms, depending on what you drank and how your body reacts to it.
YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING BUT BOOZE.
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it’s crucial to keep fully hydrated. When you’re sober, the antidiuretic hormone (ADH) works to prevent the production of urine by telling your kidneys to conserve water, so you are not peeing out all of your body’s stash, James Ulchaker, M.D., a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, previously told Men’s Health.
But when you drink alcohol, the booze actually suppresses the release of ADH so you have to pee more often, which can lead to dehydration.
Filling up on electrolytes while you drink (think: mixing drinks with water and electrolyte tablets will keep you hydrated and reduce the likelihood of a hangover.
Erin Passe, D.N.P., a nurse practitioner at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Holmen, WI also notes that some herbal remedies such as Korean pear juice may reduce the severity of hangover symptoms, but this hasn’t been definitively proven.
YOU DIDN’T EAT ANYTHING ALL NIGHT.
It’s a simple but effective rule: Eat while you drink. “A full stomach blunts the absorption of alcohol,” explains Koob.
Eating also slows down the digestion of booze. That means if you have a glass of wine with dinner, you’re far less likely to wind up with a headache than if you have the wine with no dinner.
YOU DRANK LITERALLY ALL NIGHT.
Boozing late into the night suppresses production of the sleep hormone melatonin, says Passe, meaning you’ll have a harder time not only falling asleep, but also staying asleep.
The result? Those exhausted, irritable feelings the next day, says Aizenberg.
To lessen the blow, drink with enough time to completely digest alcohol and all of its byproducts before going to bed. If you’ve had one drink, for instance, make sure to give yourself at least an hour before bed.
By Cassie Shortsleeve; Additional research by Kasandra Brabaw.