The Big Hangover

You were out last night. It’s coming up to 5am and you’ve woken to the driest mouth you’ve ever had; your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth – the interior of which is oh-so-very-dry – and you’re gasping for water to quench the Mother of all Thirsts that’s slowly crippling you.


Unfortunately, since you were in a bit of a state before eventually crashing face down into your pillow, you didn’t think to bring a glass of water to bed in anticipation of the inevitable dehydration emergency that has so cruelly wrenched you from your slumber. So, you find yourself staggering towards the kitchen, fumbling for the taps, waiting for the water to run cold before downing copious gulps. After a few more frantic glasses you feel a bit of relief and begin the long stagger back to bed, but not before a quick pee-break (which yields surprisingly little since your body is as absorbent as a desert). Isn’t it funny that when you are out, you seem to need to relieve yourself all the time?  Well, this is actually a big part of our problem. Alcohol triggers a stop in our body’s production of a hormone (ADH) that plays a part in regulating our hydration, so we pee everything out – even drinking one water to one vodka won’t cut it (having said that, you will be better off than no water at all!).

Back into the tangle of sweaty sheets.

A toss and a turn and a feeling of moistness (but nothing exciting, I might add) – the reward for your big night out is a few hours of delirious sweating. The dreaded night sweats occur as a result of your liver working hard to rid the body of the toxic overload you so generously treated it to the night before, and now it is struggling to get you back in balance as quickly as it can. Your skin is the body’s biggest organ of detoxification and the effect of its labour can be felt in the dampness of the morning pyjama – which you may or may not have managed to dress in before bed – and depending on how you rate a good night out, you may find yourself in a happy tangle of jeans, the odd sock and maybe even a shoe. Oh, the joy of the morning reveal!

Rise and shine.

Time to shake a leg! Best foot forward! Seize the day! Up with the lark! … BLUUUURGH! Yeah right. You’re more likely to crawl out of bed, groaning and growling with bloodshot eyes and a raging head. Or, you might also have a very tender stomach that is about to explode because your digestion slowed while you were out on the lash, and the proteins that remain undigested in the gut are becoming toxic and will trigger sickness. A good shower will often give a boost. A hot and cold shower might feel like the worst idea but will be very helpful to get the blood and lymph moving. But at least you’re finally up on two feet and dressed, despite feeling a little green, shaky and jaded. These classic signs and symptoms are caused by alcohol withdrawal: a blood sugar level at rock bottom; lack of sleep (this is a biggie); and an overworked liver that hasn’t had enough time to deal with the excessive amount of alcohol swishing around the blood stream. You desperately search for a magical cure to help you spring back into action, but you decide instead to eat everything  in sight – a bacon roll, crisps, chocolate. You down every fizzy drink you can get your hands on, leaving you bloated, even less hydrated and most probably nauseous again. It’s time to face the music.

Off you go to work to see the same folks from last night. Your best bet is that they are suffering too, because there’s safety in numbers and the company of fools, you hope – we haven’t even touched on the anxiety that might come with a hangover… ooof. You know what I mean, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach! The paranoia, sweat patches and shaky hands! There are nights when we just about get away with it and wake up with a smile; then there are those when we wake feeling already raked over hot coals. Let’s face it, booze is a depressant. We know this fact to be true and yet we wilfully ignore this little detail when we’re in full flow, feeling tipsy, giddy and having a giggle. Soon enough we don’t care about anything anymore since we’re on a roll, and the only way things roll is down!

You struggle through the day.

There might be a little respite at 4pm when you realise you’re on the home straight. Finally, at home you eat yet more crap before passing out into another sort of coma and sleeping the hangover off. Sleep is one of the best hangover cures, but that does not stop us searching for the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card in the meantime. In fact, the first symptom of a hangover is actually the feeling of alcohol withdrawal. When we first wake up in the morning this can be a pretty severe experience, especially if that comes with waking up before we really should so that we can rush to another engagement.

The headache begins to start.

You’re dehydrated and you don’t have much of an appetite. It’s at this point that one Bloody Mary starts to make many people feel a lot better. The ‘hair of the dog’ concept is one of the oldest hangover cures that can be traced all the way back to the time of Aristophanes. The theory goes that in order to overcome the pain caused by drink the evening before, you take a swig of it the next day. Not surprisingly, as the renewed alcohol intake gets to work on the chemical receptors in the brain you begin to feel chirpy again. The bottom line is… at some point the body is going to just have to deal with the booze, but maybe, in the meantime, just one little drink to ease the pain till bedtime?

Published in Beauty Papers Issue Six
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