BY REEGAN VON WILDENRADT
If you think you’ve just been imagining that alcohol hits you a little differently depending on when you’re drinking—good news, you’re not crazy! Whether you sling back four Bloody Mary’s with your buddies over a massive brunch spread or hit the dance floor while sloshing your questionable fourth mixed drink over everyone in a 5-foot vicinity, your body feels different, even if the drink number is the same. Why, though? According to an article published in New York Magazine, experts suspect a number of reasons, none 100 percent conclusive.
Some of us swear that day-drinking doesn’t leave us with near the feeling of drunkenness that a night out does. (Some of us also swear that the “hair of the dog” is the key to a hangover cure, which, sorry, is scientifically false.) But, according to Nyree Dardarian, a professor of nutrition sciences at Drexel University, there is little science supporting that our bodies actually process alcohol faster in the daylight.
“Your metabolism is functioning 24 hours of the day,” she told NY Mag. She did, however, acknowledge that what we do during and after drinking counts for something. For example, most of us day-drinking usually are sitting and eating, and most night-drinkers are usually standing and might not eat for a few hours later.
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The research starts to get contradictory when talking about what time is actually better for our bodies. A 2001 study found that rats had an increased sensitivity to alcohol at nighttime, which would mean that, should these findings also apply to humans, alcohol hits us harder at night.
But another study tested male medical students’ cognitive abilities both in the afternoon and evening, with and without the influence of alcohol. Students took a cognitive test on two different occasions—one in the afternoon and one in the evening. They first took the test at the two different times with no alcohol. Then they took the test again, but were given alcohol before each test. The students did much worse on their afternoon test under alcohol compared to without. But the study found little cognitive difference between the two evening results.
Yet another study, however, showed that alcohol is absorbed more quickly under stressful situations, such as navigating a crowded room as opposed to relaxing with friends. In this study, students were given alcohol and then exposed to the stressful stimuli of either watching a graphic eye surgery or keeping their hands submerged in ice water. The blood alcohol content of students under duress rose more quickly than students who were not.
Seemingly appropriately so, the science of whether day or night drinking is better is hazy. Researchers can all agree on one thing, and that’s to just not drink to excess in the first place. In fact, binge drinking has been shown to wreak havoc on your heart, among other things. But the good news is, there isn’t any definitive research saying that one time of day is better than the other, so you don’t have to give up your sacred brunch tradition or your late-night karaoke.