Wellness

7 Things People Believe About Hangovers That Actually Aren’t True

Hair of the dog, a bedtime aspirin, and more hangover cures that science says aren’t a thing.

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Hangovers are the bane of every drinker's life. You have a few beveraginos with friends, and wake up feeling like you knocked back a Hydroflask of sawdust. Folk remedies for hangovers reach back thousands of years; the ancient Romans recommended swallowing some burned swallow beak to alleviate the morning-after blues. While that's decidedly out of fashion these days, many myths and old wives' tales about hangovers are still around, making your Saturday morning wake-up even more awful.

Tried and true advice about hangovers — like hydrating — aren't up for debate. One good way to heal your hangover in the morning is stocking your fridge, Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, D.O., a family physician at Parsley Health, tells Bustle. "Your first meal should be something liver-supportive, gentle, and anti-inflammatory, like avocado toast, a banana, a high-quality broth, or eggs," she says. Eggs contain cysteine, a compound that may help break down the acetaldehyde that builds up in the body while drinking.

Other ideas about hangover "cures" are a lot less reliable, though. You can't actually take preventative aspirin, drink half of Niagara Falls, or down a Bloody Mary as soon as you wake up to banish symptoms. As a hangover happens, your body processes your alcohol intake, recovers from dehydration, deals with inflammation, and generally makes your life as miserable as it can. There aren't any hard-and-fast proven shortcuts to a hangover, even if your drinking buddies insist a morning mimosa makes it all better. Here are seven myths about hangovers, and the reality behind them.

Myth 1: You Can Stop Hangovers With Aspirin

"Many people believe that hangovers can be prevented by taking pain relievers before going to sleep," Dr. Scott Braunstein, M.D., medical director of Sollis Health in LA, tells Bustle. "In fact, this can be dangerous and is not recommended preventatively." For one, the benefits will wear off long before you wake up. For another, taking acetaminophen will aggravate your liver, and aspirin may hurt your stomach lining — both areas that are already pretty tender after a night out.

Myth 2: "Beer Before Wine, You'll Be Fine"

The idea that the order in which you drink alcohol — beer before hard liquor, for instance — might affect your hangover is pretty pervasive, but it's not actually true. "In fact, it is your peak blood alcohol level that determines how dehydrated and symptomatic you will be," Braunstein says. It doesn't matter if you had two beers, then a glass of wine, or a cocktail followed by wine followed by shots — if you drank too much, you'll feel it when you wake up.

"That is why it's important to set your alcohol intake based on your tolerance level and not by how much people are drinking around you," Dr. Michael Richardson, M.D., a physician at primary care group One Medical, tells Bustle. If you feel you don't know how to stop, it's worth talking to somebody, like your GP or a therapist.

Myth 3: Drinking A Ton Of Water Before Bed Will Make Hangovers Go Away

"Water won't prevent a hangover; that's a myth," Tolentino says. A study of Dutch students in 2015 presented to the European College of Neuropharmacology found that while drinking water before bed made some people feel a little better, in general it didn't make any difference to the severity of their hangover symptoms in the morning.

While drinking water throughout the night will lower your alcohol levels gradually, a flood just before bed isn't going to help; your liver is already processing the alcohol. Water will help when you wake up, though, because your body will likely be badly dehydrated.

Myth 4: Puking Will Make Hangovers Less Intense

This is gross, but worth mentioning: If you puked after a heavy night out, it's not going to make a dent the next day. This doesn't lessen your chances of a hangover, Braunstein says. "In fact, all the alcohol has likely been absorbed already, and you are vomiting out stomach acids but not lowering your alcohol level," he says.

Myth 5: Hair Of The Dog Is Your Friend

Drinking again in the morning will only delay your hangover symptoms, not prevent them, Braunstein says. Hangovers are caused by the body's processing of alcohol over time, and giving it more alcohol to work with just lengthens the process. Instead, you should stick to water or Gatorade. "A water-based drink with electrolytes and a little sugar may help you recover a bit faster than water alone, as alcohol throws off our electrolyte and blood sugar levels," Richardson says.

Myth 6: Your Alcohol Level Is The Sole Factor In How Bad You'll Feel

"Hangovers may hit some people harder than others for a variety of reasons," Tolentino says. "Evidence has increasingly demonstrated that hangover frequency and intensity is at least partially influenced by genetics." Other factors include your body mass, overall health, and what you ate before you went out.

"Even if you and your friend are identical in size, shape, and lifestyle, your body could still process the alcohol differently, leading to differing effects," Richardson says. Hence why your friend Pam can drink like you do all night, and still do yoga in the morning while you're in bed. Ugh, Pam.

Myth 7: The Best Way To Cure A Hangover Is By Sleeping It Off

Alcohol can make you sleep badly, Dr. Richardson says. "You could sleep for a full 10 hours but your body may feel like it only received four." You may need more sleep after a night out, so there's no shame in staying in bed for a long period, but it's not the only way to feel better.

"Since alcohol is eliminated in urine, sweat, and breath, you would eliminate alcohol faster via exercising and hydrating well," Braunstein says. Once you feel a bit better, Tolentino recommends a bit of gentle movement, as it'll also give you a boost of endorphins that will help your mood.

Experts:

Dr. Scott Braunstein, M.D.

Dr. Michael Richardson, M.D.

Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, D.O.

Studies cited:

Verster, J.C., Bervoets, A.C., De Klerk, S. & Kruisselbrink, L.D. (01.09.2015). Alcohol hangover amongst Canadian university students: Can hangover immunity be really claimed?. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25, (pp. 603) (1 p.).