Call time on hangovers
Take the doctor’s advice and avoid morningafter pain forever
Medicine has come a long way in the past century, but curing a hangover is still a tall order. First problem: you’re severely dehydrated. As well as having poor hydration properties, booze also turns off your anti-diuretic hormone, making you urinate a lot more than usual. Being low on fluids compounds the headache you’ve got as a result of the alcohol dilating the blood vessels in your brain. The final piece of the morning-after puzzle is exhaustion, brought on by low blood sugar and disrupted sleep. Oh, and your irritated stomach lining is probably making you gassy too. Fun times.
So what are the best coping strategies? Certainly not hair of the dog, an old wives’ tale that will only make you feel worse and further mess up your metabolism – the last thing your body needs at this point is more alcohol! To offset the dehydration before it kicks in, add an occasional glass of water into the mix while boozing – you can always neck a cheeky half of H2O at the bar when it’s your round if your mates frown on such sensible behaviour – and then drink a bit more of it before hitting the sack. Food will certainly help too, although you want to steer clear of anything too rich that’ll further upset your stomach. Ideally eat naturally sweet, minimally processed snacks with little if any fibre – think honey on sourdough toast – as this will redress your blood sugar balance without inducing additional toilet trips.
Finally, try to get as much sleep as possible after a session and keep sipping water regularly throughout the following day.
Q: I spend all day at a computer and a lot of my free time staring at a screen. Is this bad for me?
You may be at risk of eye strain, and while there’s no lasting damage, it can cause short-term discomfort. Take regular screen breaks using the 20-20-20 rule, whereby you rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 metres away for 20 seconds. You should also consider optimising your screen brightness so that it’s similar to your surroundings and getting an anti- glare film for your tablet, computer or phone.
Q: Can naps make up for my lack of night-time sleep?
While the old maxim “nothing beats a good night’s sleep” is certainly true, tactical napping can give you a refreshing boost. But it’s crucial to time it right or you risk making yourself feel worse. The two ideal durations are 20 minutes, which nudges you into the first and second sleep cycle stages, and 60 minutes, which pushes you into the third and fourth (enhancing your memory networks and helping cement new learning). You don’t want to get caught between the two time windows or sleep longer than an hour, because you’ll wake up feeling groggier than before you dozed off, so always remember to set an alarm.
Q: How much coffee is too much?
It’s easy to slip into a cycle of refills, but ideally you want to cap your daily caffeine intake at 400mg, which equates to roughly four cups of coffee. Exceeding this could cause heart tremors and palpitations. For maximum impact, have a cup 45 minutes before you need to be at peak alertness – ie before a weightlifting session or a big meeting at work – and steer clear of it all together in the evening, when its stimulating powers will disrupt your sleep.
A GP in training, with a PhD in performance nutrition and physiology, Nick isMF’s resident health expert. Follow him on Twitter @Dr_NickKnight