It’s a truth universally known that hangovers are the worst.
The pounding head, the dry tongue, the spinning room, the blinding light – and that’s before you’ve even made it to the bathroom to throw up.
You might think they’re an unavoidable side effect of a heavy night, and to a degree, you’re right – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that downing tequila shots at midnight on a Saturday doesn’t generally lead to a happy, productive Sunday.
However, there are a number of factors that actually make your hangover much worse, and many of those things, you actually have the power to control.
From the colour of your spirits to the food you eat alongside, here are seven surprising things that could be contributing to your hangover from hell, and how to make them a little less painful in future.
Drinking darker drinks
‘Congeners are the products of fermentation in alcoholic drinks which give alcoholic drinks their colour and flavour,’ Professor Paul Wallace, Chief Medical Advisor to Drinkaware, explains. ‘The darker congeners (such as those in red wine, rum and brandy) tend to cause more severe hangovers’– so while drinking excessive amounts of Pinot Grigio is obviously still going to hit you hard, drinking excessive amounts of Pinot Noir could hit you even harder.
Not drinking water
Okay, so this one is probably the least surprising of the bunch. But while we know we should be doing it, we almost never do.
The ethanol in alcohol has a dehydrating effect, which is why you feel so desperate for liquid when you wake up, but alternating your alcoholic bevs with hydrating ones could help to minimise this impact.
‘Drinking plenty of water helps to optimise your levels of hydration and can help avoid a hangover, providing you drink within a sensible limit,’ Wallace says. Plus, following the one-for-one rule paces your consumption and stops you drinking too quickly, which is another guaranteed ticket to Terrible Hangover City.
Eating salty food
Forget ‘eating is cheating’ – it’s never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, but even when you do eat, it’s important to consider the kind of snacks that you’re choosing carefully.
While Wallace says that food itself is unlikely to make a hangover worse, choosing salty foods (hello, sharesize bag of crisps) will increase your thirst – and instead of reaching for water, chances are that you’re likely to reach for yet more booze, adding to the dehydration.
Eating low-fat food
However, while chowing down on chips while you’re drinking might be a bad idea, studies have suggested that eating fatty foods before you start drinking could help your body to absorb alcohol more slowly.
Professor James Schaefer, a researcher in alcohol metabolism, told WebMD that grease essentially helps to ‘line the stomach’: ‘I recommend eating pizza, but chorizo would work too,’ he said.
If you’re trying to err more on the healthy side, you can still get a dose of fat from nutritious products like oils – in fact, there’s an old folk remedy in the Mediterranean that involves swallowing a spoonful of olive oil to do the same trick, although we can’t say it’s one that we’ve tried and tested ourselves.
Not getting enough sleep
Bottomless brunches and public holidays aside, there’s a reason we call it a ‘big night’ rather than a ‘big day’. Going out on the lash generally means neglecting your bed, and as Wallace points out, ‘lack of sleep can lead to many of the symptoms associated with hangovers.’
Not only does being ‘out out’ typically mean getting to bed late, research shows that being drunk can have a negative effect on the quality of sleep you do end up getting. So, although you might nod off faster after a few gins, you’ll still wake up feeling drained.
There’s some debate over this point. According to Wallace, smoking probably has no direct effect on hangovers (although it will add to the horrible taste in your mouth), but there have been trials conducted in the past that indicate it could be another factor in feeling extra rough after a sesh.
In 2012, a study of college students revealed that those who smoked reported much worse hangover symptoms than those who didn’t – and the symptoms got even worse when they smoked the following morning. It’s not entirely clear how the two are connected, but still something to consider the next time you light up.
Believing the ‘hair of the dog’ myth
You know that Bloody Mary with breakfast that you think is sorting you right out? Hate to break it to you, but underneath the surface, it’s probably making things worse. ‘The hair of the dog does not help with hangovers – it is a bad practice which is associated with alcohol addiction/dependency,’ Wallace advises – and when you think about it, it does make sense.
When you’re suffering the ill-effects of a big night full of alcohol, the last thing your body needs is, well, more alcohol, so skip the morning mixer and reach for the OJ (or even better, a giant glass of H2O) instead.
Still can’t shake it? Read How To Hide Your Hangover At Work
Originally published on Cosmopolitan UK