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Ah, hangovers – one of the prime proofs that none of life’s pleasures come without a price.
There’s a cluster of hangover symptoms that are similar for most people, but everyone’s experience is slightly different. Real people describe what a hangover feels like as:
“Like an ice pick at the base of the skull, and I could drink about a gallon of water. I also have shaky hands the rest of the day.”
“For me, a headache always was a small or nonexistent part of a hangover. For me, it was intense nausea and a mild sense of the room spinning.”
“Just tired, wishing I could go back to bed.”
“Alcoholic hangovers leave me thirsty. Hangovers from idiotic conversation tend to focus behind the eyes rather than the mouth, with infernal buzzing reminding me of the bad experience the night before. Bad-movie hangovers tend to be more visceral.”
And that’s just the first round of how people describe how hangovers feel.
Among the most common hangover symptoms is what’s usually called “dry mouth,” but in most experiences, it’s more like “killer thirst.”
Other symptoms include:
Some people also experience:
Even though you feel tired and sleepy, you may feel like your heart is beating too hard or too fast. So even though the booze is likely to put you to sleep quickly, you may find yourself waking up after only four or five hours feeling strangely agitated.
Also, even though they’re no longer drunk, it’s common for people to have trouble concentrating during a hangover, and studies have found that their driving abilities are also impaired. As with most warnings, avoid operating heavy machinery if at all possible.
Another fun hangover symptom: your urine is weirdly dark. This is caused by the effects of dehydration due to increased alcohol consumption.
Most of the time, people recover from hangovers within 24 hours.
How long it lasts depends on how much you drank, as well as how fast. If you went on an especially huge drinking binge, it can last as long as three days.
There isn’t much you can do to shorten a hangover, other than taking care of yourself.
Be sure that you’re hydrated, eat properly, and try to get enough sleep the following nights. And no, “hair of the dog” isn’t going to help you – it will only make things worse.
The genesis of a hangover is complicated because heavy drinking does a number of things to your body.
One of the most obvious ones that you’ll notice if you’re slamming down shots is that it makes you pee a lot. This reaction is because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it encourages your body to expel its fluid quickly.
That leads to dehydration, which in turn brings many of the symptoms described above: killer thirst, dizziness, fatigue, and dark urine.
It can also trigger migraine headaches, for reasons that aren’t clearly understood. One theory, which sounds almost like a joke about overall drunkenness and debauchery, is that it makes your brain shrink.
So one way to fend off the symptoms of a hangover is to drink water in between the booze, and keep drinking it after you’re done. It can be helpful to keep a glass of water on the nightstand too, in case you wake up in the night feeling thirsty.
That waking up in the night – it’s another way that your body reacts to drinking.
During a typical sober night, we go through several cycles of the four stages of sleep, but the sedative effects of alcohol break that pattern.
That’s because the alcohol suppressed a natural stimulant your body produces called glutamine; as your blood alcohol level drops, your glutamine surges.
This means not only that your sleep was short, but it was of poor quality.
You may notice that your initial sleep was dreamless, with the dreams only coming on if you get a chance to fall asleep again. The alcohol-glutamine interaction disturbed your REM sleep, which is important for good overall health.
Yet another reason excess drinking makes you feel ill is what it does to your immune system.
While moderate alcohol is harmless and even healthy in some ways, your body interprets a massive influx of alcohol as a toxin, triggering an inflammatory response.
This response is likely another reason why hangovers involve headaches (on top of the dehydration) and also explains the nausea, as your stomach lining becomes inflamed.
If nausea gets bad enough to lead to vomiting, that can further dehydrate you and worsen all your hangover symptoms.
Suppressing inflammation is what over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen do, making them popular hangover treatments. However, a common side effect of these drugs is stomach irritation, so they can actually make your nausea worse.
Not to mention the laundry list of other side effects, including potential long-term complications over prolonged use.
You may have heard of CBD oil in recent months, wondering what it is and how it can benefit you.
CBD works with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in the proper functioning of your immune system. For that reason, many people have found that taking CBD helps them manage pain, nausea, and general inflammation.
If you’ve got a bacchanal planned in the near future, you might be thinking: what if I take the CBD while drinking? Will it heed off the hangover symptoms?
A scientific study on the subject found that combining CBD with alcohol actually led to lower blood-alcohol levels than a comparable amount of alcohol alone.
The endocannabinoid system is also closely tied to anxiety, so one of the most common reasons people use CBD is that they find it calming.
If you’re drinking a lot of “liquid courage” to overcome shyness at parties or other worries, you might see that CBD could help with a wide range of symptoms.
And as it now stands, drinking less is still the best way to prevent a hangover because there’s still no escaping karma.
Disclaimer: The cbdMD blog contains general information about health, diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Any information provided should not be considered or treated as medical advice and always consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes. Products and information mentioned on the cbdMD blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and cbdMD is not responsible for their content.