Revealed - A Hangover Cure That Works
19 Dec 2019
Shots shots shots! we have all been there at Christmas time. But how do you avoid that hangover?
At LifeSearch, we protect families. Protection products are closely related to health and lifestyle, so we've a vested interested in keeping you bright and healthy this Christmas.
With that, the best way to cure a hangover is to keep your blood-alcohol well below 0.05%. AKA don't get drunk. Were you expecting something else?
It's quite a strange thing, the hangover. The medical professional isn't massively interested in curing it - researchers and academics would rather spend their time investigating (and reducing) the impact and social harms caused by drunkenness. Selfish.
The phenomenon (it's not a phenomenon, it's perfectly logical) of the hangover is almost a conspiracy. It's 2019 - cars drive themselves, Pokemon are real, and robots live among us. What, the brightest minds won't/ can't figure out a hangover? Please.
What is a hangover
A hangover is a mysterious mix of many things. It is primarily the effects of dehydration and poor sleep, plus the loss of bodily salts and electrolytes. Beyond the physical, the next-day psychological effects are linked to lack of sleep and the fact booze is a depressant. There's also the guilt and shame factor for those who, the night before, spoke/ acted/ urinated out of turn.
To explain the dehydration part: the phrase breaking the seal is closer to medical fact than we might think. Alcohol is a diuretic (something that makes us pee) and it's sort of a double whammy. Not only does drinking mean onboarding more fluid than usual (making us need to pee), alcohol inhibits the release of a hormone that tells our kidneys when it's OK to hold onto water. When we break the seal our brains tell our kidneys to take the night off.
The signal registers and we begin to let go of all fluids: as we drink more, we pee more and we systematically dehydrate. For fairly complicated physiological reasons, some alcoholic drinks are worse than others. For example, sugary booze tends to dehydrate us more than lower sugar booze.
After a few drinks we can feel quite sleepy, but don't be fooled into thinking booze leads to any kind of healthy, quality sleep. It definitely, definitely, definitely doesn't.
The brain needs to be able to do certain things when we sleep and when we're sozzled it can't do them. Boozed up, the brain can't easily get into the REM part of sleep – that's the deep sleep we need to feel genuinely rested – and it can't sort and file the day's information like it wants to. In simple terms, insufficient sleep leaves us with a backlog of learning to catch up on.
The hangover is tiredness, sure, but there's more. When we dent the quality of our sleep, we impair our cognitive performance. In other words, we feel much slower the next day. We lose alertness and our reactions aren't what they should be. Sound familiar?
We're not talking about the physical sickness of a hangover, that's mostly nausea linked to dehydration. No, in the days after a heavy drinking session, it's common that people start to feel rundown, coldy and sniffly. Again, this isn't coincidence, it's booze. Or at least booze has contributed.
When things go as they should, consistent quality sleep ensures we are constantly healing and growing - day in, day out. Drinking interrupts this pattern so when we damage our sleep we underserve our body's natural recovery and leave ourselves vulnerable.
Physically, sleep is by far and away the optimal time for our bodies to fight off bugs and nasties, and to repair any damaged nerves and muscles. Booze means insufficient sleep and insufficient sleep means the body can do, at best, only half the repair job it wants to. Consequently, our immune systems are compromised and we're at greater risk of sickness.
Cure for a hangover?
Simple as it sounds (and as much as no one is going to listen), the best cure for a hangover is to not get drunk in the first place.
But it's Christmas and we're realists, so the best ways to counter the after-effects are to drink water during and after a session and to sleep as much as possible. There's no magic potion.
Small mercies - if the hangover's here to stay we can at least have fun looking at its myth and legend around the world.
International words for 'hangover'
While most countries call a hangover as we do – some iteration of 'next day pain' – others are far more poetic. Let's start boring:
Mandarin, suzui or stay-over drunk
Japanese, futsukayoi or two-day drunk
Vietnamese, ton tại or to endure
Hungarian, másnaposság or next-dayishness
Italian - postumi della sbornia or the after-death of the drunkenness
We start having more metaphorical fun in France, where hungover folks talk of sighing through a gueule de bois, literally a wooden gob. Deeper in Europe, German-influenced countries like their metaphors a little cattier.
In German, the word Katzenjammer translates as caterwauling, which is to make a shrill howling or wailing noise like that of a cat.
Describing the hangover as a screaming cat also plays in the Czech, Polish and Dutch languages. Head north to Scandinavia and the metaphors are less about cats and more about getting whacked repeatedly with blunt instruments, as so:
In Danish, tommermaend means carpenter, the same as timburmenn in Iceland. In Sweden it's the same idea - kopparslagare, means coppersmith. The Swedes also take it further with baksmalla, which continues the hammering theme but translates to something more like getting whacked on the backside.
Interestingly, researching this article we found that the English word hangover was predated by another term, stemming from kraipale (Ancient Greek) and crapula (Latin). You've guessed it: crap. The phrase feeling crap was in fact used by hungover Brits way back in the 1900s.
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