If you’re in the throes of a monster hangover, relief can’t come soon enough.
Fortunately, hangovers typically go away within 24 hours. There are some reports online of them lasting for up to 3 days, but we can’t find much evidence to back this up.
Still, 24 hours can feel like an eternity when you’re dealing with a mishmash of physical and mental symptoms. And depending on various factors, some symptoms can be worse than others in terms of severity and duration.
Speaking of symptoms, here are some of the most common ones:
- a pounding headache
- dry mouth
- feeling tired and “out of it”
- upset stomach
- sensitivity to light and sound
- trouble sleeping
- dizziness or feeling like the room is spinning
There are several factors that influence how long a hangover lasts and how bad you feel.
How much you had to drink
Believe it or not, how many drinks you have doesn’t appear have a significant impact on how long a hangover lasts, according to a 2017 study.
However, drinking more does often make for a more severe hangover, and severe hangovers usually last longer.
How much sleep you get (or don’t get)
Alcohol affects sleep, and not in a good way. It may help you fall asleep faster, but the sleep is likely to be fragmented and short.
The less sleep you get after drinking, the crummier you’re going to feel.
Drinking on an empty stomach
Indulging in some bevvies on an empty stomach is never a good idea for several reasons.
For one, it gets you intoxicated faster and makes day-after misery a lot more likely. Plus, hangovers tend to be more severe after drinking on an empty stomach.
Alcohol also irritates the lining of your stomach. If you haven’t eaten, you’re a lot more likely to have stomach pain and vomiting after drinking.
How dehydrated you are
Mild dehydration can give you a headache, dry mouth, and make you feel dizzy and tired — all common symptoms of a hangover.
The more dehydrated you are, the worse you’ll feel, and longer.
Existing health conditions
Medical conditions that affect the way your body metabolizes alcohol or those that affect your blood sugar can affect the severity and duration of a hangover.
Some medications interfere with your body’s ability to properly metabolize alcohol. As a result, you’re more likely to throw up and have your hangover linger for a longer period.
Always check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before drinking if you take any medications.
You aren’t imagining it; you really can’t hold your liquor like you used to.
As we get older, our body’s ability to process toxins slows down. As a result, you might be down for the count on less alcohol (and for longer) than before. Sorry.
There’s no quick fix when it comes to hangovers, but there are several things you can do to make things more manageable as you wait it out.
Make sure you:
- Stay hydrated. Sipping on water and juice will help you stay hydrated. This can help ease some of your symptoms and get you feeling better.
- Get some sleep. Remember, alcohol isn’t great for sleep quality. Even if it seems like you slept enough, it probably wasn’t very restorative. If you’re feeling wired after a night of drinking, even just closing your eyes may help.
- Eat something. You may not feel like it if your hangover has you running between the couch and the bathroom, but eating can help you replenish lost electrolytes and settle your tummy. Go for bland things (think saltines, broth, and toast).
- Take a pain reliever. An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever can help with a hangover headache and muscle aches. But keep in mind that aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your stomach, and acetaminophen can damage your already taxed liver if you drank a lot. It’s best to take any of these with a bit of food.
You know those hangover remedies passed down for generations or miracle hangover cures you see online?
None of them have actually been scientifically proven. Some may actually do more harm than good.
Skip these if you’re stuck in nightmarish hangover:
- Hair of the dog. Drinking a little alcohol the morning after can actually make your hangover last longer by preventing your body from recovering. Avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours after heavy drinking.
- Greasy foods. Who doesn’t love to hit a quintessential greasy spoon for burgers and fries or a big breakfast after drinking? The thing is, greasy food can mess with your already irritated stomach, bring on or worsen nausea, and make you feel even more sluggish.
- Too much caffeine. A cup of java can have a stimulating effect and help with some grogginess and even a headache. However, caffeine has a diuretic effect. It can pick up where the alcohol left off and continue dehydration.
- Skipping meals. It’s easy to skip meals when you’re nauseous or just want to stay in bed all day, but that can mess with your blood sugar and make you feel worse. Stay nourished with healthy things like fruits and veggies, or stick with bland foods if you’re feeling queasy.
If you’re not feeling any better after 24 hours, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re dying or anything. But there may be something else going on.
It’s also good to know the difference between alcohol poisoning and hangovers, though alcohol poisoning symptoms usually show up while you’re drinking, not the day after.
Call 911 or your local emergency number right away if you or someone else experiences the following symptoms while drinking:
- slow or irregular breathing
- low body temperature
- bluish or pale skin
Not drinking alcohol is the only surefire way to prevent a monster hangover in the future.
If you’re not ready to swear off booze entirely, these tips are your next best bet:
- Set a limit. Give yourself a drink limit in advance and stick to it. Don’t let anyone pressure you into drinking more than you want.
- Pace yourself. Sipping instead of chugging and alternating booze with mocktails or other nonalcoholic drinks will keep you from drinking too much, too fast.
- Choose the right drinks. Avoid or at least limit red wine and dark spirits, like bourbon. Dark drinks contain more congeners, which can make hangovers worse.
- Eat before you drink. Alcohol gets absorbed faster on an empty stomach. Eat before you start drinking, and nosh while drinking to slow absorption.
- Be the DD. If you volunteer to be the designated driver, any pressure you might feel to drink more is basically off. No hangovers, and your friends will love you for it!
Hangovers are miserable, but most subside within 24 hours. Drinking in
If you’re dealing with hangovers on the regular, it could be a sign that you’re misusing alcohol. You have several options for confidential help if you’re concerned about your alcohol use: