You know the symptoms: splitting headache, shaking, nausea, and general despair. Although conveniently shoved to the far recesses of your mind while you’re enjoying your night out, your hangover becomes impossible to ignore the next morning when your alarm clock is blaring in your ear. In addition to their undisputed existence, here are 11 more unfortunate truths about hangovers.
1. WE'RE NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHY WE GET THEM.
Despite what your college friends may have told you, hangovers are not the result of dehydration or low blood sugar. The real cause is still shrouded in mystery. One hypothesis suggests that drinking leads to a build up of acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that is created when enzymes in your liver break down alcohol. When your body can’t process the acetaldehyde quickly enough, it hangs around, making you feel horrible.
Another hypothesis points to cytokines, proteins that will signal for an inflammatory response to fight infection. Drinking can activate this signal, leading to flu-like symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and headaches. This is why anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help ease hangover symptoms.
2. THEY GET WORSE WITH AGE.
Another fun aspect of adulthood: Hangovers get worse as you get older. Scientists think this has to do with the depletion of enzymes that are needed to break down alcohol. Enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenase, or ALDH, and alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH, work together to break down the booze first into acetaldehyde (mentioned earlier), and then into a non-toxic substance called acetic acid. Without these enzymes working in full force, hangovers last longer.
However, at least one recent Danish study has shown that hangovers actually get easier as you age. If true, the reason may have more to do with human behavior than with the alcohol itself: It might simply be because as we get older, the people who get severe hangovers stop drinking, while the people who aren’t prone to hangovers see no reason to stop.
3. YOU CAN'T "SOAK UP THE ALCOHOL" BY EATING STARCHY FOODS.
Despite one popular myth about a bacon sandwich being the ultimate hangover cure, there is no evidence to support the popular theory that carbs and greasy foods will cure your hangover. However, more forward thinkers can prevent the whole mess from happening by drinking Asian pear juice before hitting the bottle. The fruit acts on the enzymes that break down alcohol, so a glass before going out could be your saving grace. Another study looked into prickly pear skin extract and found that it reduced the chances of a severe hangover by half. But again, it had to be consumed several hours before drinking began.
4. THERE'S NO MAGICAL HANGOVER FAIRY.
But if you’re really hurting (and willing to pay a pretty penny), you can always turn to the Internet for help. Services now exist that send helpful messengers, armed with non-alcohol drinks and breakfast, to your home for some tidying up so you can get some R&R.
5. IT'S UNLIKELY WE WILL EVER SEE A HANGOVER-FREE BEER.
A few years ago, a story about Australian scientists who were concocting a beer that wouldn’t give you a hangover made the rounds. It was believed that by adding electrolytes to the drink you could counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects, and you’d therefore feel fine in the morning. Unfortunately, dehydration is not the cause of a hangover, so the effects would be minor at best.
6. SMOKING MAKES THEM WORSE.
Studies have shown that drinkers are much more likely to smoke tobacco. And to add insult to injury, doing so only adds to the problem. The exact reason is not clear, but it could be because tobacco has acetaldehyde, a possible culprit for why we get hangovers from alcohol. In hangover terms, lighting up a cigarette could be the equivalent of knocking back another drink, and should therefore be avoided if possible.
7. THERE'S A PATRON SAINT OF HANGOVERS—BUT EVEN SHE CAN'T MAKE THE ROOM STOP SPINNING.
St. Bibiana, Roman virgin and martyr, is the patron saint of hangovers. She’s also the patron saint of headaches, epilepsy, and insanity (go figure).
8. JUICE AND COFFEE CAN'T SAVE YOU.
You might be tempted to roll out of bed and reach for the OJ or coffee, but these beverages aren’t going to do you any favors. There is no evidence that either will lessen the effects of your hangover. Plus, sugar and caffeine crashes are very real things—and are not fun when mixed with your already-throbbing headache.
9. WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET HANGOVERS.
Unfortunately for female drinkers, the negative effects of alcohol are much more prevalent for them than for their male counterparts. Studies have shown that women are much more likely to feel the effects of their drinking in the morning, especially if they didn’t eat before imbibing the night before. One survey found that 12.6 percent of women said they always or almost always get a hangover after five drinks. In comparison, only 6.1 percent of men said the same.
10. YOUR HANGOVER IS BAD FOR THE ECONOMY.
You may think the only one who suffers when you come to work with a pounding headache is you, but you’d be wrong. The economy experiences $1.37 in lost productivity for every beer thrown back the night before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hangovers cost the American economy over $160 billion in 2006. So the next time you show up disheveled and sluggish, remember that your lack of productivity comes with a heavy price tag.
11. THE SILVER LINING: WE CAN THANK OUR HANGOVERS FOR BRUNCH.
It probably comes as no surprise that the Bloody Mary cocktail was invented as a hangover cure, but you might not have known that some food historians believe Eggs Benedict and the world’s most popular cola drink were both created for the same reason. In fact, the entire tradition of brunch was started to let Saturday night partiers catch up on their sleep and eat a later first meal.
Nothing ruins a fun night of drinking like the specter of a hangover—and no one ruins all the things you think you know like College Humor comedian Adam Conover. Tune in to Adam Ruins Everything on truTV Tuesdays at 10/9C.