The sleep disturbance could be one reason why some studies find that people who've drunk to legal intoxication the night before perform poorly in flight simulator tests, as well as in others that measure driving ability. Warning: You needn't have an obvious hangover to perform subpar. Thus, the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots go eight hours "from bottle to throttle" and recommends a more prudent 24 hours. Watch out: Swedish researchers are working on drug tests that would reveal recent drinking even after blood alcohol levels reach zero.
(Tip 3: Catch up on your sleep, agree all.
"People should be aware that after a night of heavy drinking, they're going to be impaired the next morning. If they can, they should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, anything dangerous to their fingers," says Bud Perrine, a psychologist at the University of Vermont. Coffee, while it wakes you up and might help the headache, could make you extra-jittery.)
And if we're feeling extra-languid and limp-wristed, that could be because alcohol sapped us of some blood sugar, too. (Tip 4: "Stack of silver-dollar pancakes with extra heavy syrup before bedtime," suggests Frolic patron John. Alcohol experts, however, suggest partaking of complex carbohydrates the next day, which help replenish blood sugar and are easy on the suffering stomach. Honey or fruit help metabolize the alcohol and may lessen a hangover's severity.
Still, the alcohol's only one part of a hangover. A cornucopia of other chemicals are probably culprits as well, agree researchers. Such chemicals developed in the booze as it fermented and aged. As a rule, the darker the drink, the more of these extras it contains: You'll find more in brandy, whiskey and red wine than in vodka, gin and white wine. You'll even find methanol in there, a chemical that can strike us blind, even kill us, if we get too much of it in the wrong batch of home-made hooch. It's there in small amounts in most alcoholic beverages.
Methanol in particular is a hangover biggie, reckons Wayne Jones, an alcohol researcher at the National Laboratory of Forensic Chemistry in Linkoping, Sweden. The ethanol may be gone when the hangover hits us, but the methanol is still hanging around. Our liver is busy metabolizing it into decidedly unpleasant substances like formaldehyde and formic acid, which could well be making our heads pound.
(Tip 5: Stick with drinks like white wine, vodka or gin, which contain less of these bonus chemicals.)
Still, there's more to a hangover than impurities in booze. After all, people can get hangovers from pure alcohol, which is just that--pure. And don't forget that a hangover strikes after the alcohol's long gone from your body. Here's where the other main hangover theory comes into play--that it's not so much the presence of alcohol that's making us feel bad as its absence.
Our system was taken by surprise by the alcohol we drank. It was messing with our brain, making it more sluggish, which explains all that poor judgment, slurred speech, staggering around and collapsing in corners (and death, might we add, when people drink enough to knock out brain regions controlling vital functions). But then the brain tried to adjust, turning up the dial on its "excitability" to counteract the depressive action of alcohol on its nerves.
Then the alcohol gets metabolized. And what's left behind? A still-hyperactive brain and nervous system, explaining the anxiety, poor sleep, sweating and fever, plus all that cringing from noises and lights that seem oh-so-much brighter and louder than usual.
(Tip 6: "Hair of dog." Of course. The strategy makes sense, because you're returning your brain to the pickled state it's now adapted to. But experts advise strongly against it. You're putting off the inevitable. More seriously, making a habit of this kind of "cure" is not the best way to protect against developing a drinking problem.)
Down the centuries, people have concocted endless exotic "cures" for the hangover: everything from vinegar and raw eggs, heavily salted cucumber juice and bitter almonds mixed with raw eels. Few have been scientifically tested.
Nor, though it sounds pretty powerful, has this last offering from Frolic denizen Tod: "Roll back a can of anchovies. Dig out a big pinch of it. Then snort it up your nose like snuff."
Try that if you wish.
Or you might prefer to do what the alcohol researchers suggest: Bide your time. Sleep it off. And don't do it again!
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
In Search of Relief?
Ancient Assyrians treated their hangovers with ground swallow beaks mixed with bitter myrrh. If your grocery store's fresh out of beaks, consider these less exotic remedies:
Water: Drink lots of water the night before and morning after, because alcohol makes you urinate more than usual, which dehydrates the body.
Pain Relievers: Aspirin can ease your pounding head, but your stomach, already irritated by the alcohol, may object. Don't use drugs with acetaminophen, which can be toxic to the liver when alcohol is present.
Coffee: Caffeine will help with hangover sleepiness and headache. But bear in mind that your body's already more jittery than normal.
Hair of the Dog: A hangover, in essence, is a miniature alcohol withdrawal, so a little more alcohol will ease the symptoms. But in your state, should you really be drinking more?
Time: The only cure that really works.