9 Common Things That Can Make You Feel Hungover (That Aren’t Alcohol)
Hangovers are awful. But if you have ever woken up in the morning feeling all the symptoms of a hangover — from grogginess, to headaches, to nausea — without having taken a single drink the night before, then you may be dealing with a different medical issue. It's possible to feel hungover without drinking, largely because the symptoms are so amorphous.
What happens to your body when you're hungover is a bit complicated and mysterious. You could, however, experience anything from nausea due to alcohol's triggering of emptying stomach lining, to headaches caused by dehydration, to anxiety from a chemical compound your body produces called acetaldehyde. But without alcohol in the mix, sometimes these symptoms still happen.
"There are many reasons why you may experience the effects of a hangover without drinking," Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "This is largely because the symptoms of a hangover are not exclusive to a hangover itself." So while you may write it off as a fluke, your body could actually be telling you something quite important with your symptoms.
No one wants to wake up feeling terrible, so paying attention to the different things that can cause you to wake up unwell may help you take better care of yourself down the line. Here are nine common things that can cause symptoms that feel like hangovers.
1. Auto-Brewery Syndrome
It is actually possible to get drunk without drinking. A medical condition called Auto Brewery Symptom can actually cause your body to create alcohol in your gut.
“Auto Brewery Syndrome is a condition where your gut produces ethanol through the fermentation of food," nutritionist Lisa Richards, CNC, tells Bustle. "It can lead some people to feel drunk or inebriated, and can also cause them to feel hungover when the effects wear off." While it may seem cool or funny at first glance, it's not. Auto Brewery Syndrome can really mess with your life along with your health. So if you're dealing with chronic issues that feel like inebriation without drinking, then that's worth talking to your doctor about.
Having too much salt, too much caffeine, or too little water can cause feelings similar to a hangover the morning after. Whether you exercised without refilling your water bottle, or made up for a lack of sleep with twice the amount of coffee as usual, you may end up feeling hungover as your body processes these stimuli.
"Anything that dehydrates the body can potentially cause similar feelings to a hangover," Greg Burrell, M.D., internal medicine doctor and co-founder and VP of Clinical Product at Carbon Health. Making sure you're staying hydrated every day can prevent this from being a recurring problem.
3. Liver Or Kidney Problems
If you wake up feeling hungover relatively often, it could be that your body is trying to tell you that one of your organs isn't functioning properly.
"Any derangement in liver or kidney function can also manifest with altered physical and mental conditions," Ehsan Ali, M.D., tells Bustle. So if your hungover feeling is coming alongside any other new health problems, then it's important to bring these symptoms up with your doctor.
4. Electrolyte Imbalance
You don't just need electrolytes when you're sick to your stomach or literally hungover. Electrolyte imbalances can happen at any time, and can mimic symptoms you might recognize from the morning after drinking.
"Any alteration in important electrolytes can also affect ones mental and physical status, especially with sodium and potassium levels altered," Dr. Ali says. Making sure you go to your primary care physician when necessary, and check your vitamin and mineral levels every once and a while, can help prevent this from happening.
5. An Underlying Infection
Some infections can cause your body to be knocked off kilter enough to mimic the feelings of a hangover.
It's possible to feel hungover "if someone has an underlying infection that has not been treated," Dr. Ali says. This may especially be a red flag that an infection is getting worse, Dr. Ali adds, so going to the doctor if your non-alcohol-induced "hangover" feels particularly severe is important.
6. Sleeping Medications
If you wake up feeling hungover but didn't go out drinking the night before, you may feel confused about your symptoms. If you took any sleeping medications, however, they may be the culprit.
"Certain medications, taken for sleep, can also cause next day sedation or headaches," Alex Dimitriu, M.D., double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine, and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle. If your doctor prescribes sleep medicine to you, make sure you read the side effects. And if you're picking them up over the counter, consulting a pharmacist may still be a good idea.
7. Caffeine Withdrawal
If you're a big caffeine drinker, especially if you're not properly hydrating, you may begin to wake up feeling "hungover" more often than not.
"The symptoms of [caffeine] withdrawal can look a lot like a hangover," Backe says. "Cutting back on caffeine can result in headaches, brain fog, and dizziness. Caffeine consumption affects blood flow, so withdrawal can result in a sudden change in your body’s blood circulation — resulting in hangover-like symptoms." Because of this, it's important to consume caffeine in moderation and drink water throughout the day.
Pregnancy causes a host of physical changes. So if you're pregnant, you may begin to feel hungover in the mornings, even though you aren't drinking.
"A [pregnant] body will preference the baby, meaning that the first nutrients will go there, and the [parent] may end up feeling tired, dehydrated, or ‘hungover’ if [they are] not getting enough of those things," Dr. Burrell says. So if you may be pregnant, it could be worth it to take a pregnancy test. And if you already know you're pregnant, this could be another reason to put an emphasis on your overall health and wellbeing while carrying a child.
9. Post-Migraine Hangovers
Migraine sufferers are well-aware that migraines are way more than just a headache. But people who are recently diagnosed, or perhaps getting migraines for the first time, may not be aware how serious a migraine postdrome can be.
"Migraines, a special class of headaches, have been known to cause lingering hangover-like symptoms even after the migraine is over, known as a postdrome," Dr. Burrell says. "Light exercise, maintaining hydration, and avoiding overstimulation may help with this." If you can trace your symptoms back to a severe headache, then it's possible this is the connection.
Waking up hungover is extremely unpleasant. So if you haven't been drinking but still feel these symptoms, it's important not to ignore what your body could be telling you. A variety of common medical issues, from vitamin imbalances to chronic health conditions, may cause you to feel "off" in the morning. And talking to your doctor about this issue can help you take on the day without any uncomfortable sensations.