What Causes Hangovers?

You wake up on Sunday morning (or probably afternoon). Saturday was amazing. Penn State beat up on Buffalo and you hit up downtown State College in celebration. You should wake up with many good feelings because of the previous night, but the only thing on your mind is “I need Advil right now, why did I slap the bag last night?”

Hangovers are the struggle we all deal with after one of these nights. So what is it exactly that causes these Sunday morning struggles and what can be done to prevent them? A hangover is, for the most part, caused by the dehydrating effects of alcohol. These effects can be best explained that “When absorbed through the digestive system alcohol inhibits the secretion of vasopressin, a hormone which regulates the retention of water in the body. In response the body begins releasing water through the urinary system, which eventually leads to dehydration. This lack of moisture causes headaches, dry mouth and of course, thirst.” Dehydration is a common problem the morning after, which makes drinking water prior to falling asleep after a night of drinking crucial to avoid many of the nasty problems associated with a hangover.

It is not just dehydration that makes people feel off the morning after drinking. When the liver breaks down alcohol, it turns it into acetic acid, which can be more toxic to the body than actual alcohol. This can add to the sick feeling you may already be experiencing. The alcohol still in the body, not broken down can also line the stomach, which leads to the nauseous feeling. Another possible cause of irritation the next morning are high levels of cytokines. These cytokines usually help fight off infections, but can cause headaches and nausea if levels are too high. Different drinks are also rumored to have different affects on hangovers. Chemicals can differ in alcohol and these different chemicals can cause different hangovers. For the most part, the chemicals in “darker and sweeter” drinks cause worse hangovers.

Hangovers are a struggle sometimes we have to deal with. Drinking more water after a night of drinking can help reduce the effects of the hangover the next morning, but not everything can be solved by this remedy.