Last night I drank enough vodka to fell a Russian soldier. This morning I woke up with a stonking headache. I am assuming that this is a case of cause and effect, unless at some point in the night I got into an argument with Thor and he/she introduced Mjolnir to my head (which is entirely possible: it was that sort of night).
I feel extraordinarily lucky that after a heavy night, generally the worst I have is a headache, general sense of grogginess and new exciting bruises, but I have experienced a couple of the “oh-god-no-the-pain-how-am-I-still-alive” ones. Now seems as good a time as ever to evaluate various hangover cures. I’m sure you’ve got your own tried and tested methods – any suggestions?
NB this is a light-hearted – and lightheaded – article, please drink responsibly
- Yes, for all you 15 year olds “eating is cheating” but something in the tummy means you won’t feel the effects of booze immediately. The food slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, thus preventing you adopting the nickname of “One-pint Jimmy”, or whatever your name is. Carbs and fatty foods are best, as they also lessen nausea and stomach irritation. This also gives you something to lose if a tactical chunder is necessary – a grim thought at this early stage in the game, but nothing is worse than dry retching.
- Water and paracetamol/ibuprofen. Water’s an obvious one: you should half drown yourself before going to bed, or at least have a big glass, to combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol. My dad’s a nurse, and he also recommends alternating a soft drink or water with every alcoholic drink. But he was once also a student nurse, and knows the chances of remembering to do that get slimmer as the evening wears on. I’ve got a mate who also swears by having one paracetamol before sleep too, saying he finds it reduces the headache a bit. Nurse Dad doesn’t recommend this, as it gives your poor, hardworking liver something else to process. To be honest I don’t recommend it, if like me you tend to lose your motor skills after a skinful: I once missed and accidentally rammed the tablet up my nose. (Apparently asprin is a good one though.)
The next day
- Works perfectly if you can manage it, but unless you’re actually unconscious, the chances are you’ll not sleep in and just wake up when you normally do. So you feel knacked from tiredness too. My cousin-in-law recommends the “start early, finish early” approach. I recommend cursing your body clock’s efficiency.
- Healthy breakfast. Fruit juice is excellent, as it contains sugar and vitamins. A smoothie is good for replacing some of the nutrients you’ve lost, especially if you include banana, and honey, which speeds up the processing of alcohol. Though if you’re able to get up and mix a smoothie you’re not suffering a particularly bad one.
- Not coffee – it may perk you up, but it dehydrates like alcohol so you’ll feel worse later (though it’s that attitude which got you in this state in the first place, I suppose). Tea wakes you up more gently, and adding milk and sugar will help stop any trembling. Plus it’s TEA – its restorative powers are known the world over. It makes everything better.
- Alka-seltzer and Ibuprofen. Never tried this meself, despite its fame. The combination of the two neutralises stomach acid making you feel less queasy and more human. Best not to do on an empty stomach, though.
- Fry-up. HELL YES. Comfort food is what you need in this situation and, like tea, bacon is known to make everything it touches better.
Again, the sugar helps calm your trembling, and the meat and carbohydrates break down into amino acids which your body has lost during the night. Eggs are also great for the ol’ amino acids. Take warning, though, as an egg and bacon butty may not be the way to go if you want to keep your similarly hungover friends. Fried egg spluttering out of a sandwich is not an appealing sight in the morning.
- Hair of the dog. Ehh, kinda the worst thing you can do. It’s like Socrates having a few cyanide chasers to follow his pint of hemlock. However, if you’ve a busy social life like me (stop laughing at the back), on occasions it has been unavoidable to go from one party to another. Just remember to book time off for later when it all catches up. In my university’s post-exam party week, we ended up waking in the afternoon and almost immediately being handed a glass of champagne. Keeps one ticking, I suppose.
- Getting outside. Light exercise and just sunlight will help boost your mood by releasing endorphins, but exercise can dehydrate you more unless you drink water too. Sunglasses are a must if you’re still pretty delicate, and maybe y’know, try and make yourself presentable. My first proper hangover, I forced meself up to get a sausage sandwich and tea from the shop across the road, so I wasn’t looking good by any stretch of the imagination, and the first person I should bump into? The college Chaplain. I don’t think he noticed much, but it made me feel more ungodly after the previous night’s antics.
- This is a weird one my dad discovered (you might be guessing he’s a bit of an expert at this point). After a particularly heavy New Year, my grandmam forced him to eat a bowl of arrowroot custard because it’s known to be good for settling stomachs. Turns out it possessed fully restorative powers and he was magicked back to full health after a bowl. I don’t know if you can still get the custard, but arrowroot biscuits are good. Maybe they’re more of a placebo than a hangover help, but, hey, any excuse to eat biscuits.
- Examining last night’s photos. If you dimly remember having a good night, this can be quite fun first thing in the morning. I’m pretty sure the college cleaner once thought I was having some sort of fit I was shrieking with so much laughter, reviewing the photos of my mates pulling ridiculous faces. If you’re the sort of person who drunk texts, that can be a funny review too. However, this can lead to a long shower of regret and re-evaluation of life choices, which may not put you in the best mood for the rest of the day.
- Writing an essay. I’ve tried this; it doesn’t make you feel better at all. In fact, this is a sure-fire way to end up bemoaning your life choices and the fact that it took you four hours to write one paragraph, in which time you could have watched a whole series of Sherlock.
So there you have it. Of course, the best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking in the first place: the NHS choices webpage is a wonderfully disapproving read (though seriously, if you wake up often like this, read the webpage, you may need help).