Skip navigation and jump to content
Welcome to Ireland's Youth Information Website
Follow us
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Snapchat

Accessibility Options

High Contrast Text Size

What happens during a hangover?

The science behind the misery


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


Share this article -

Hangovers can be a really uncomfortable experience. No matter how amazing a night out was, a hangover can suck the joy right out of all those great memories and leave you feeling nauseated, dehydrated, exhausted and generally out of it. 

What does a hangover feel like?

If you're hungover, you might be feeling:

  • Low mood/feeling down
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Intense cravings for fatty, sugary and processed food
  • Intense thirst, no matter how much you drink
  • Exhaustion
  • Shakiness
  • Sensitivity to light and noise

What happens to your body during a hangover

Hangovers can affect your body in a number of ways. Here are some things you might experience:

Changes to your hormones

Alcohol actually affects neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. This means alcohol can have an affect your mood, causing you to feel down or low the day after drinking. 

Alcohol also affects histamine, a chemical released by the body when you come into contact with something you're allergic to.

Sleep disruption

Alcohol interferes with sleep quality, in particular REM sleep. REM sleep is the period of sleep where you dream, and it is also one of the most important stages. Even if you slept for 12 hours straight, you could still feel exhausted the next day because your sleep cycle has been disrupted.

Stomach irritation

Alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach and increase stomach acid. This is what causes feelings of nausea and stomach pain.

Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases makes you pee more. The more you pee, the more dehydrated you will become. This is also why you're likely to be very thirsty in the morning after drinking.

Dehydration can also reduce the amount of sodium and potassium in your system, which is why  you may crave crisps or salty foods the morning after.

Headaches

Alcohol causes the blood vessels in your head to widen, which is what contributes to the morning after headaches. It also seems to contribute to light sensitivity.

Low blood sugar 

Some people are more sensitive to this effect than others. Alcohol generally lowers glucose levels in the blood, and can also reduce the stored sugar in the liver. Some peoples' bodies just make more sugar to compensate, but not everyone can, and so you may find yourself dealing with low blood sugar symptoms like intense hunger, cravings, shakiness, weakness and headaches. If you are diabetic or if you know that you have a tendency to low blood sugar, you need to be mindful of this effect.

Best ways to cure a hangover

There is no end of hangover remedies out there. A quick google search will yield hundreds of potential remedies. 

Some remedies, such as eating a proper meal before you start drinking, are best done before you hit the bar, but here are some things you can try the morning after.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drinking water is important to combat dehydration. Some people even add a small amount of sea salt to their juice. This helps to replenish electrolyte stores. If you are feeling nauseated, hot ginger tea is a great remedy too.  Go easy on the caffeine, because it will just dehydrate you further. 

Good food

Eating well after a night of drinking can help you to get the nutrients you need to start feeling better. Eggs are a great choice, along with orange juice and bananas. Eggs contain a type of amino acid called cysteine which helps to break down alcohol by-products, and orange juice and bananas contain potassium, which you may be low on after your hard night. Be careful if you crave stodgy food though, your delicate tummy may not be able to handle it.

A hot shower

Some people find that the steam from a hot shower helps to ease their hangover symptoms. You could also take a hot bath and give yourself more time to relax

Walking in the fresh air

Walking outside is probably the last thing you want to do when you have a hangover. However, the fresh air can help a lot by increasing circulation and blood flow to the brain.

Share this article -

Published Feb­ru­ary 26th2013
Last updated June 22nd2018
Tags alcohol drugs hangover
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

Youth Work Ireland - Crosscare - YMCA

Contact via: Phone E-mail Text
By clicking submit you agree to our terms and conditions. ​Please note that this service is run by Youth Work Ireland and Crosscare​.​ E​nquiries are not handled by SpunOut.ie directly.
Jump to related articles
Was this article helpful?

Having a tough time and need to talk?
Text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer

Standard text rates may apply*