Happy bank holiday Monday. You've probably spent the weekend getting acquainted with a few bottles of the good stuff and now you've got a raging hangover. It'll disappear in a few hours, won't it? Well, a new study says that the effects of a hangover last a lot longer than you may think.
Psychologists at the University of Bath reviewed the results of 19 studies conducted since 1970 and found that alcohol's effects on the brain may be more severe than official guidelines state. The NHS states that one large glass of wine may take three hours to leave your system while a pint of beer can take around two.
However, the study — which was published in the journal, Addiction — has found that alcohol can impair attention, memory, and psychomotor skills for a lot longer. This means that people are taking part in activities that require concentration (such as driving or even going to work) while still under the cognitive effects of alcohol.
"We found that hangover impaired psychomotor speed, short and long-term memory, and sustained attention," the study's lead author Craig Green wrote in a statement. "Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking."
So while that glass of wine or cocktail may technically have left your body, it may still be wreaking havoc on your brain, causing your performance to be affected at work and, more importantly, while driving.
Author David DiSalvo explained the exact process that occurs when alcohol enters the body. In an article for Forbes, he wrote that alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated, causing organs to take a lot of fluid in. This unfortunately leaves the brain "fighting to stay hydrated."
When the initial fluids leave the body, important nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium also disappear. According to DiSalvo, these are "necessary for stable cognitive function" and can take hours — or even an entire day — to be replaced.
You may think that you can return to normal with a quick fry-up and a few hours' sleep but science may have just proven that this isn't the case. So, if you're finding that your reaction times are slower a good 12 hours after drinking or you're struggling to concentrate, your brain could still be returning to its normal functioning.
The study's senior author, Dr. Sally Adams, believes that these findings prove that hangovers can have "serious consequences for the performance of everyday activities." She also states that more research will need to be done in order to see how hangovers affect things like individual and workplace safety as well as the overall UK economy.
I'm not advocating taking a day off work if you're incredibly hungover. But showing your boss this might convince them that you'd be better off spending the day recuperating than falling asleep at your desk and inputting the wrong information into that spreadsheet. Don't quote me on that, though.