Ever had one too many the night before? Yup, then you’ve almost certainly experienced a hangover. 

You and every other adult you know, right? Thumping headache, dry mouth and only a fuzzy memory of what happened to get you there? Yes, my friend, that’s a hangover. And as we all know, the symptoms don’t stop there. Hangovers come in many shapes and sizes, with a whole slew of possible features, including nausea, anxiety and tiredness. 

Not the most fun you ever had, and yet most of us take hangovers as part and parcel of a ‘good night out’. But that can be a pretty hefty price to pay, especially if you don’t have a lot to remember the night by. And because your body’s recovery abilities deteriorate with age, that price tag keeps getting bigger as hangovers last longer and feel more severe. 

What is a hangover, exactly?

A recent study redefined the alcohol hangover as: “the combination of negative mental and physical symptoms which can be experienced after a single episode of alcohol consumption, starting when blood alcohol concentration approaches zero.” 

A roll call of these symptoms reads like a serious illness, including fatigue, headache, increased sensitivity to light and sound, muscle aches, thirst, and dizziness, plus cognitive and mood disturbances like anxiety, memory loss, brain fog and so on. Exact symptoms vary from occasion to occasion and person to person, but we’d be willing to bet that the ones we’ve listed are ringing a few bells right now. 

Even worse, the hangover experience isn’t limited to just the day after. Depending on factors like tolerance levels, illness, and age (and for women, the time of the month is known to have an effect), it could be a couple of days before you’re feeling back to normal. 

Fun hangover facts

  • The really perplexing thing about a hangover is that it’s not the presence of alcohol that causes the symptoms. Actually, the negative side effects kick in when alcohol has been metabolised and eliminated from the body. 
  • In addition, hangovers are generally associated with heavy (or heavier than your usual) drinking, but research suggests that even moderate or light alcohol consumption can bring on symptoms—even when drinking the ‘usual’ amount and type. 
  • This could be down to the quantity of ‘congeners’, a by-product of fermentation—the more congeners there are in your drinks, the more severe the hangover. One theory explaining this was outlined in a 2013 study, where they suggested that when the body has to break down more congeners, that competes for attention with breaking down the ethanol. Result? Alcohol and its byproducts take longer to be processed, and your hangover feels worse in the meantime.

The true cost of a hangover

While some hangovers can be shaken off by downing a few bottles of water and getting some fresh air, others can be more debilitating. Not only do you have to suffer through some less-than-appealing hangover symptoms, but your ability to be present and to perform in the hours and days after drinking can also be affected. Think having to get up bright and early with the kids the next morning, or having work the day after dinner turned into drinks, followed by yet more drinks…

But the real problem is when hangovers begin to impact those around the hungover. If you choose to spend your free time nursing a hangover, then that’s totally your prerogative. But if you can’t stick to the plans you made for the following days, or be present for the people around you, or do your job properly, then larger issues can start to surface. 

And of course, hangovers must be a big cause of people calling in sick to work, yes? Surprisingly, no. One study found no significant differences in absenteeism between those reporting hangovers and those who didn’t. What does that say about our workforce? Well, it suggests that a lot of people show up to work hungover. This could be due to feeling obligated because it was ‘their own fault’, which while understandable may be problematic in highly responsible roles where wrong decisions can have serious consequences.

Had it with the headache?

If you feel like hangovers are getting in the way of you living your life to the fullest, then we have good news—there is another way! 

By changing your perception of alcohol and how you prioritise it, you can limit the number of hangovers you ever have to experience again. 

Changing your relationship with alcohol may feel like a daunting prospect, but we’re here to help. With a proven step-by-step process backed by the latest in behaviour change science, plus expert guidance and a supportive community on the same journey, long-lasting change is just around the corner. 

Get started by checking out our free mindset hack video series!


Take the challenge



Verster, J.C.; van de Loo, A.J.A.E.; Benson, S.; Scholey, A.; Stock, A.-K. The Assessment of Overall Hangover Severity. J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 786. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9030786

Joris C. Verster, The alcohol hangover–a puzzling phenomenon, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 43, Issue 2, March 2008, Pages 124–126, https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agm163

Rodda LN, Beyer J, Gerostamoulos D, Drummer OH. Alcohol congener analysis and the source of alcohol: a review. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2013 Jun;9(2):194-207. doi: 10.1007/s12024-013-9411-0. Epub 2013 Mar 3. PMID: 23456600.


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