11 Harsh Truths About Hangovers

iStock
iStock

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

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

From September 23 to September 24, customers can get as much as 80 percent off home decor, furniture, WFH essentials, kitchen appliances, and more during the Wayfair's Way Day 2020 sale. Additionally, when you buy a select Samsung appliance during the sale, you'll also get a $200 Wayfair gift card once the product ships. Make sure to see all that the Way Day 2020 sale has to offer. These prices won’t last long, so we've also compiled a list of the best deals for your home below.

Rugs

AllModern/Wayfair

- Mistana Hillsby Power Loom Beige Saffron/Teal Rug $49 (save $97)

- Wrought Studios Shuff Abstract Blue Area Rug $100 (save $105)

- All Modern Lydia Southwestern Cream/Charcoal Area Rug $49 (save $100)

- Union Rustic Gunter Power Loom Blue/Khaki Rug $22 (save $38)

- Willa Arlo Interiors Omri Oriental Light Gray/Ivory Area Rug $49 (save $149)

Furniture

Langley Street/Wayfair

- Alwyn Home 14-inch Medium Gel Memory Foam King Mattress $580 (save $1420)

- Andover Mills Pascal Upholstered King Bed Frame $318 (save $832)

- Sol 72 Outdoor 8-Piece Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $650 (save $1180)

- Langley Street Darren 68-Inch Tuxedo Arm Sofa $340 (save $1410)

- Three Posts Tyronza Coffee Table $147 (save $193)

Kitchen

NutriBullet/Wayfair

- Cuisinart 11-Piece Aluminum Non Stick Cookware Set $100 (save $200)

- Rachael Ray Cucina 10-Piece Non-Stick Bakeware Set $92 (save $108)

- NutriBullet Rx Smart 45-Ounce Personal Countertop Blender $124 (save $56)

- Henckels Graphite 13-Piece Knife Block Set $160 (save $340)

- DeLonghi ECP3220 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine $120 (save $90)

Electronics

Samsung/Wayfair

- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Energy Smart Refrigerator $3600 (save $400)

- Cosmo 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range Oven $1420 (save $1580)

- Whynter 19-Bottle Single Zone Built-In Wine Refrigerator $380 (save $232)

- bObsweep PetHair Robotic Vacuum Cleaner with Mop Attachment $226 (save $443)

- Rowenta Focus 1700 Iron with Burst of Steam $68 (save $47)

Work From Home Essentials

Foundery Select/Wayfair

- Techi Mobili Adjustable Laptop Cart $50 (save $20)

- Foundry Select Arsenault Farmhouse Desk $210 (save $190)

- Symple Stuff Clay Mesh Task Chair $128 (save $121)

- Three Posts Salina Standard Bookcase $183 (save $617)

- Lorell Hard Floor Chairmat $52 (save $39)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

7 Formidable Facts About the Tower of London

The Tower of London looms large within the city’s history.
The Tower of London looms large within the city’s history.
Vladislav Zolotov/Getty Images

The nearly 1000-year-old Tower of London inspires many reactions, among them awe, horror, and intrigue. William the Conqueror built the White Tower in 1066 on the River Thames as a symbol of Norman power and dominance. Over the centuries, the structure expanded into 21 towers. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a landmark in London that millions come to see every year.

The impenetrable fortress has played many roles over the years, serving as a royal palace, a menagerie, a prison, the Royal Mint, and a repository for royal documents and jewels (the royal jewels, including the Imperial Crown, housed here cost $32 billion). Here are seven facts you may not know about the Tower of London.

1. The Tower of London has held notable prisoners.

From royals accused of treason and religious conspirators to common thieves and even sorcerers, many people have been incarcerated in the Tower of London, but the experiences differed—some were tortured and starved, while others were waited on by servants. And, of course, there were executions. Three queens were beheaded at the tower in the 16th century. Elizabeth I was just 2 when her mother Anne Boleyn was condemned to death by her husband, King Henry VIII. The king later also beheaded his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. The third rolling regal head was of proclaimed queen Lady Jane Grey, also known as the “Nine Days’ Queen,” who was 17 when she was charged with high treason by Queen Mary I.

Queen Mary also imprisoned her half-sister Elizabeth I in in the tower in 1554, but she escaped her mother’s violent end due to lack of evidence. In 1559, when Queen Mary passed away, Elizabeth came back to the Tower, this time for preparations for her coronation.

The last execution took place more recently than you might think: It occurred in 1941, when German spy Josef Jakobs faced a firing squad. In 1952, gangster brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray were among the last prisoners to be detained in the tower.

2. A Catholic priest escaped the Tower of London in 1557 using invisible ink.

During the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, the persecution of Catholics led to the incarceration and torture of Jesuit priest John Gerard. His escape is still a wonder—he sent notes to his fellow prisoner John Arden and outside supporters with an invisible ink made of orange juice, which revealed his secret messages when held to a heat source. He later used a rope to get to the boat waiting across the moat. HBO’s series Gunpowder depicts this prison break in the second episode.

3. The Tower of London once had a zoo that was home to a now-extinct subspecies of Barbary lion.

You won't find any live lions at the Tower of London today.petekarici/Getty Images

In the 1200s, King John started the royal menagerie in the Tower of London to hold the exotic animals gifted by other monarchs. It became an attraction for Londoners who came to see captive lions and the white bear, who was regularly taken to the Thames to hunt. The menagerie closed in the 1830s and the royal gifts were re-homed in the London Zoo. As a nod to this legacy, the Tower exhibits animal sculptures by artist Kendra Haste.

In 1936, excavations around the moat led to a fascinating discovery: two lion skulls dating to the medieval times. Genetic evidence suggests they belong to a subspecies of Barbary lion that once lived in Africa but disappeared a century ago.

4. In 2014, the Tower of London organized the Centenary Commemoration of World War I with 888,246 poppies.

Five million people came to see the art display of ceramic poppies in the moat, all created by artist Paul Cummins. Each poppy denoted a British military fatality in the war. They were sold for £23 million (each individual poppy was £25) to raise money for armed forces charities. However, a controversy arose when it was revealed that a whooping £15 million was spent on costs (Cummins made £7.2 million) and the charities only received £9 million.

5. In 2019, 500-year-old skeletons were unearthed under the Tower of London’s chapel.

Archeologists found two skeletons, an adult woman and a child, near the same spot where the headless body of Queen Anne was also laid to rest. The bones were thought to be buried somewhere between 1450 and 1550 and give an insight into the lives of the common folk who lived at the tower in the medieval times.

6. Beefeaters live in the Tower of London with their families.

A 19th-century illustration of the vibrantly clad Yeomen Warders at the Tower of London.duncan1890/Getty Images

The Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) have been guarding the Tower since the Tudor era. Clad in a sharp red dress, these 37 men and women give tours of the fortress. Every night at 9:53 p.m., they lock the tower, a 700-year-old tradition called the Ceremony of Keys. Beefeaters and their families, around 150 people in total, live in the supposedly haunted Tower of London, and also frequent a secret pub in the fortress.

7. There’s a superstition that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the kingdom will fall.

According to legend, in the mid-17th century, King Charles II was warned that the Crown would fall if the ravens ever left the Tower of London—so he ordered that six of the birds be kept captive there at all times, as he believed they were a symbol of good fortune. (However, some sources claim this tale is Victorian folklore, while others maintain the legend was created even later, during World War II.) Today, there are seven ravens (one spare) living in an aviary on the grounds. The ravens’ primary and secondary wings are trimmed carefully, so they can fly but stay close to home, where they feast on blood-soaked biscuits and meat.

In the past, ravens have gotten away—one took flight to Greenwich but was returned after seven days, and one was last seen outside an East End pub. Now with fewer visitors after the coronavirus-induced lockdowns, ravens are getting bored and two adventurous birds have been straying from the Tower, much to the distress of the ravenmaster.