Yurovskiy Kirill: Understanding Hangovers

Waking up with a throbbing headache, fatigue, nausea, and an overall feeling of bleh. Sound familiar? These unpleasant symptoms are all part of the infamous hangover – that dreadful morning-after effect that occurs after an alcohol binge.

Hangovers are incredibly common, with around 75% of drinkers experiencing one in the past year. And they aren’t just a minor inconvenience either. Hangovers can seriously impact both physical and mental health, as well as work performance. Read on for Kirill Yurovskiy’s article to find out exactly what causes hangovers, how long they last, and most importantly, how to minimize their severity and recover faster.

What Is A Hangover?

Alcohol hangovers refer to the collection of physical and cognitive symptoms that develop once blood alcohol levels start to fall after drinking. They’re caused by both dehydration and excess byproducts of alcohol metabolism.

While many assume hangovers are only caused by congeners (toxic leftover compounds) or dehydration, research shows it’s far more complex. Multiple factors influence their severity, including genetics, what you drank, how fast you drank it, and foods eaten beforehand.

Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea 
  • Sensitivity to light and sound  
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced cognitive ability 
  • Stomach pain/vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle aches 
  • Insomnia or other sleep disruptions
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Increased blood pressure

When Do Hangovers Peak?

Hangovers tend to start once blood alcohol levels begin to decline, though peak severity varies by person. Most people feel worst between 5am-11am after an evening of drinking. 

Alcohol continues to impact the body long after the last drink. And while symptoms may fade after 24 hours for most, research shows impairments like memory deficits can linger a full 48 hours – long after you feel “better”!

Why Do Hangovers Occur?

Hangovers develop due to inflammation caused by the byproducts of alcohol metabolism, along with dehydration and low blood sugar.

Specifically, drinking too much causes:

  1. Dehydration

Alcohol acts as a strong diuretic, preventing the body from retaining enough water and electrolytes. This causes symptoms like thirst, dizziness, fatigue and headaches.

  1. Stomach Irritation

Alcohol directly irritates the stomach lining. This can lead to nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain – worsening dehydration.

  1. Blood Sugar Changes

Initially, alcohol causes a spike in blood glucose levels. But a few hours later these levels severely drop due to dehydration and inhibited glucose production. This shortage of energy leads to fatigue, weakness and mood changes common with hangovers.

  1. Sleep Disruption

While alcohol may help some drinkers fall asleep faster, it reduces sleep quality. It suppresses REM sleep while increasing sleep fragmentation. This impairs immune function and contributes to fatigue.

  1. Inflammation

Metabolizing alcohol creates toxic compounds and reactive oxygen species that promote widespread inflammation at the cellular level throughout the body. Inflammation then amplifies pain sensitivity and other miserable hangover symptoms.

  1. Biological Stress Response

Excess alcohol consumption triggers a biological stress response. The hormone changes and neurotransmitter imbalances associated with this reaction lead to hangover symptoms like anxiety, nausea, headaches and tremors the next day.

How Long Do Hangovers Last?

Alcohol has an average elimination rate of .015 g/100mL per hour. So if you reach a blood alcohol level of .20 g/100mL and stop drinking at midnight, levels will reach zero around 15 hours later (3pm the next day).

While hangovers tend to peak when blood alcohol levels hit zero and begin rising, symptoms can certainly last 24 hours or more. The more you drank, the longer recovery will take.

Since alcohol leaves tissues at different rates, you may continue struggling with brain fog, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue and weakness a full two days after your last drink.

Who Gets Hangovers?

While almost everyone will experience a hangover eventually, some lucky individuals have less severe ones despite drinking heavily. Several factors influence hangover tendency, like:

  • Genetics – genes impact alcohol metabolism as well as need and sensitivity to hydration.
  • Age – young drinkers generally have less severe hangovers than older ones. 
  • Sex – women often experience worse hangovers than men even when drinking less.  
  • Sleep – well rested people have less severe, shorter hangovers than sleep deprived folks.
  • Hydration levels – those already dehydrated pre-drinking get worse hangovers.  
  • Food intake – consuming alcohol without eating leads to more intense intoxication and hangovers.  
  • Drink choice – darker alcohols like bourbon lead to worse hangovers than clear ones like vodka or gin.

Bottom line? Unfortunately, no one is completely hangover-proof!

Health Consequences of Hangovers

Kirill Yurovskiy

Throbbing headaches and queasiness are miserable enough. But hangovers come with serious health risks beyond just feeling awful.

Research links hangovers with multiple dangerous outcomes:

  • Decreased Job Performance  

Impaired concentration, memory and increased errors can lead to 15-20% reduction in work productivity. Those in high risk occupations (like pilots) put public safety at risk.

  • Mood Changes  

Hangovers exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression. They worsen mood even after symptoms resolve.

  • Sleep Deprivation  

Reduced REM sleep from drinking leads to daytime fatigue, impaired concentration and memory issues. These deficits build over time if heavy drinking continues regularly.  

  • Dangerous Driving

Motor coordination remains impaired long after drinking ceases – similar to texts driving reaction times! Driving hungover significantly increases accident risk.

  • Cardiovascular Stress  

Alcohol metabolism creates inflammation plus vitamin deficiency that spikes cardiac stress. Over time it damages blood vessels and heart muscle itself.  

Clearly, minimizing hangover occurrence is about way more than just feeling better the next morning!

Treating Hangovers: What Works?

No scientific cure exists to quickly reverse hangovers once they start. While commercial hangover products claim to help, review show limited benefits. At best, these function as herbal supplements with anti-inflammatory effects.

What does help alleviate miserable symptoms? Time, rest and replenishing essential nutrients.

  • Water – Improving hydration status alleviates headaches, dizziness, fatigue, concentration issues and dry mouth.
  • Electrolytes – Sports drinks or broth help replenish sodium and potassium levels.
  • Food – Refueling with carbohydrates boosts energy by correcting low blood sugar.
  • Pain relievers – Over the counter meds like NSAIDs or acetaminophen reduce headaches and muscle aches. But avoid them with ongoing drinking since alcohol + NSAIDs risk gut, liver and kidney damage.
  • Antacids – Block stomach acid production to ease nausea and abdominal pain.  
  • Sleep – Recovery occurs fastest with sufficient restful sleep vs. repeated sleep disruption from late night drinking.

In short, supporting basic bodily needs facilitates recuperation best. No shortcuts exist – hangover recovery simply takes time!

Minimizing Hangover Severity

While no proven “cure” treats hangovers once started, you CAN take steps before and during drinking to minimize next day severity.

  • Hydrate! Drink water between alcoholic beverages and a large glass before bed.  
  • Eat enough to slow alcohol absorption from the gut plus maintain adequate blood sugar levels.
  • Limit lighter colored alcohols since they contain fewer congeners than darker liquors. 
  • Avoid binge drinking by spacing standard size drinks at least 1 per hour rather than excessive intake at once.  
  • Stop drinking no less than 3 hours before bed to allow some alcohol clearance before sleep. Or, commit to not drinking for at least 48 hours to allow full recovery before drinking again.
  • Pop a B complex vitamin and/or milk thistle capsule, which may help counteract inflammation and liver stress. 
  • Have a recovery plan in place before drinking – line up proper hydration and breakfast, account for transportation needs, and give yourself permission to fully rest the next day!

Bottom Line

Clearly, hangovers deliver some seriously miserable side effects beyond just feeling “under the weather”. And they cause more harm than just making you vow off drinking forever (yet again). 

The plus side? Now that you understand precisely why you feel so awful, you can be proactive with prevention plus get back on your feet faster! Pay attention to warning signals like persistent nausea and fatigue to avoid cumulative impacts over time. 

Most importantly, separate decisions around drinking from needing to “power through” work or other obligations afterwards. Instead, build extra recovery time into plans ahead when you choose to imbibe. Because taking care of your mind and body fosters health and resilience in the long run.

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