5 Sneaky Things That Make Hangovers Even More Hellish

A little preparation goes a long way.

by Emilia Benton
A woman has a glass of wine while on a Zoom call with family. These sneaky things can make hangovers...
AleksandarNakic/E+/Getty Images

Even if it's been a while since you caught up with the girls over cocktails, you can remember the raging headache and grogginess that accompany a hangover. You know that you can prevent a hangover with a few simple tricks: stay hydrated, eat something, oh, and don’t drink too much. The last thing you want is to potentially make a hangover worse. But what if you’ve done all that and still feel like a cup of day-old coffee the next morning?

“While the main thing that impacts us is the amount of alcohol we drink, drinking too much alcohol has varying effects on our body,” says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many people are drinking alcohol at home — sometimes in amounts that are higher than they would consume in non-pandemic times. As such, it’s as important as ever to be mindful of how much you’re drinking and how it’s making you feel. Hangovers are a part of that equation, but so is how you feel while you drink and on days when you’re not drinking.

Here are just a few factors that can affect your hangover beyond just overdoing it.


Being Dehydrated *Before* You Start Drinking

You probably know that dehydration is the main building block of a hangover — that's why you alternate glasses of wine with glasses of H2O, right? But being hydrated before you start drinking can help you ward off its ill effects and lessen your chances of waking up feeling less-than-great.

“If you don’t stay hydrated through the day, the hangover sensation can exacerbate,” Dr. Bhuyan says.

So if you know you haven’t drunk enough water that day, consider something a little more hydrating that night. Regardless of your hydration levels, it never hurts to double-fist with a glass of water anyway.


A Vicious Sleep Cycle

Ever notice that you easily fall asleep after a glass or two of wine, only to wake up a few short hours later with your head pounding? Drinking too much can disrupt your sleep, which then leads to feeling even groggier and low-energy the next day.

“As a result … you wake up with a sleep deficit that only feels worse as the day progresses, which can make your hangover feel worse,” Dr. Bhuyan explains.


Better Quality Booze Makes A Difference

While it’s possible to find good quality wine or liquor that won’t break the bank, constantly reaching for the bottom-shelf options can come back to bite you.

"Cheaper or low-quality alcohol can contain trace alcohol, particularly congeners, which are one of the byproducts of the fermentation process that are linked to worse hangovers,” Dr. Bhuyan explains.

Some of the worst culprits on the congener front include red wine, brandy, and rum, so keep that in mind when you’re filling your shopping cart.


Eating Enough Before & After A Night Out

You’ve likely heard it over and over again that you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach, but according to Dr. Bhuyan, it’s just as important to refuel the next morning, even if you don’t have much of an appetite.

“Alcohol also irritates your stomach lining and when you don’t eat healthy fats or proteins, that can make you feel worse,” she explains. “This is why I encourage everyone to eat breakfast when they have a hangover, even if it’s the last thing they want to do.” Opt for a simple breakfast of eggs or fruit if you can’t bring yourself to fix anything more complicated.


Age & Overall Health Make A Difference

It’s not a coincidence if you’ve noticed alcohol and hangovers hit you harder as you’ve gotten older. Scientists have a lot of theories as to why hangovers feel worse as you age, but the exact cause is unknown, Dr. Bhuyan says. One theory is that the body doesn’t metabolize alcohol as effectively as when you’re younger. Additionally, your percentage of total body water decreases as you age, causing higher blood alcohol concentrations and, therefore, worse-feeling hangovers.

It’s also worth noting that when you drink more than one glass of wine regularly, it can affect your heart rate or blood pressure longer-term, Dr. Bhuyan says. Taking care of yourself in general, such as by exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, can also help to minimize hangovers.

“Overall health definitely comes into play with how drinking impacts one’s body, so it’s important to manage alcohol consumption moderately and also maintain good overall health,” she says.


Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona