The severity of a person's hangover can depend on many factors, such as how much and what type of alcohol they drank, how much sleep they got, and whether they had any food or water.
Here, we look at nine ways to prevent or reduce the severity of a hangover.
1. Drinking in moderation
Drink in moderation. Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol increases the likelihood of a severe hangover.
The best way to avoid a hangover is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. The more alcohol someone drinks, the more likely they are to have a severe hangover the next day.
How much is safe for an individual to drink will vary from person to person and depends on many factors, such as how much food they have eaten, how much water they have drunk, and how much sleep they have had.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that only adults of legal age should drink alcohol and they should only consume it in moderate amounts, consisting of:
- up to one drink per day for women
- up to two drinks per day for men
These guidelines consider a single drink to be
- 12 ounces (oz) of 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer
- 8oz of 7 percent ABV malt liquor
- 5 oz of a 12 percent ABV wine
- 1.5 oz of a 40 percent ABV distilled spirit or liquor
2. Drinking water
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases a person's need to urinate and can cause some people to be at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated.
Drinking plenty of water alongside alcoholic beverages can help a person stay hydrated and reduce the symptoms of dehydration, such as thirst, fatigue, and headache.
3. Getting a good night's sleep
Drinking a lot of alcohol and going to bed early do not necessarily go hand in hand. However, getting plenty of sleep can help reduce the effects of a hangover the following day.
Alcohol can have a negative impact on both the quality and duration of sleep. By getting a good night's sleep, a person can help their body to recover from the night before, so try lying in or going to bed early the next day.
4. Avoiding congeners
Alcoholic drinks that contains congeners, such as whisky, may contribute to hangover symptoms.
Certain alcoholic beverages contain chemicals known as congeners. These chemicals are impurities and can contribute towards hangover symptoms.
Drinks high in congeners include:
- whiskey, particularly bourbon
Drinks with low levels of congeners include:
In one study, the researchers found that congeners affected the severity of hangovers, with people feeling worse after drinking bourbon than with vodka.
5. Taking supplements
Some experts think that some of the symptoms a person experiences when they have a hangover result from low-grade inflammation. Therefore, some people might benefit from taking supplements of herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as red ginseng and prickly pear cactus.
6. Pacing yourself
People who pace themselves when they are drinking alcohol and drink slowly are less likely to experience severe hangover symptoms the following day.
The average person can process one standard drink every hour. Drinking slowly also means that a person may drink less overall.
7. Measuring your drinks
It is crucial for a person to measure their drinks and be aware of how much they are drinking. When drinking at home, some people may pour themselves more substantial measures or be less aware of the volumes they are using. This can make it more difficult for an individual to keep track of their alcohol consumption.
8. Eating before drinking
Eating a good meal before drinking can reduce a person's blood alcohol level.
It is important for a person to eat a good meal before drinking.
Eating before or at the time of drinking can slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
Food can help keep a person's blood alcohol concentration lower and may reduce the effects of a hangover.
9. A good breakfast
Having low blood sugar levels may make a hangover worse. Eating a good breakfast can help to maintain blood sugar levels as well as provide the body with the right combination of vitamins and minerals to function better.
Drinking in moderation or not at all is the best way to avoid a hangover. However, it is essential to remember that excessive drinking, and even moderate drinking, can have an adverse impact on a person's short-term or long-term health.
People who drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol are putting themselves at increased risk of:
- heart disease
- certain cancers
- liver disease
- nervous system damage, including brain damage and peripheral neuropathy
The risk of developing these conditions increases over time with the amount of alcohol a person drinks.