A hangover is a collection of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms that occur after a session of heavy alcohol consumption. The severity of hangover symptoms can depend on many factors, such as how much alcohol was consumed and the type of alcohol, but hangovers are caused by only one thing -- drinking too much alcohol.
How much is too much? Some people report hangover symptoms after consuming only two or three drinks, while some heavy drinkers never experience hangover symptoms at all. But for most people, the greater the amount of alcohol consumed and the longer the duration of alcohol consumption, the more severe the hangover symptoms.
Hangover SymptomsAccording to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a hangover can include some or all of the following class of symptoms:
Constitutional - Fatigue, weakness, and thirst.
Pain - Headache and muscle aches.
Gastrointestinal - Nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
Sleep and Biological Rhythms - Decreased sleep, decreased deep sleep and increased slow-wave sleep.
Sensory - Vertigo and sensitivity to light and sound.
Cognitive - Decreased attention and concentration.
Mood - Depression, anxiety, and irritability.
- Sympathetic Hyperactivity - Tremor, sweating, and increased pulse and systolic blood pressure.
The Intensity of Hangover SymptomsThe intensity of these symptoms and the particular set of symptoms can vary from person to person and from occasion to occasion. A person might experience nausea and dizziness (the feeling that the room is spinning) on one occasion, but experience mainly headache symptoms the next occasion.
Hangover symptoms usually begin within several hours after the drinking session ends when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) begins to fall. The symptoms usually peak at the time when the drinker's BAC returns to zero.
Hangover symptoms can last from a few hours to up to 24 hours.
See Also: What Is a Hangover?
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol Hangover - Mechanisms and Mediators (PDF)." 14 Jan. 2002.
A.D.A.M. "Hangover Treatment." 10 Oct. 2007