What does a hangover feel like? Symptoms to look out for
Ever wake up feeling like you could do with another night’s sleep? And does that sluggish, tired feeling then hound you all day, making it hard to concentrate at the office and impossible to focus on your loved ones? Have you ever thought this unpleasant feeling could be related to your day to day drinking and be a manifestation of a permanent hangover?
If you’re feeling this way, it’s all too easy to put it down to a tough month at work, the kids running you ragged or not eating healthily. But have you ever considered that the real culprit may be that extra glass of wine you’re drinking most nights of the week and that these stress-like symptoms are actually evidence of a constant hangover state?
Welcome to the world of what we call the permanent, or ‘hummer’ hangover, also known as permanently suffering from hangover symptoms.
If you regularly drink more than the government's UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines, of 14 units a week for men and women, your increased tolerance to alcohol might mean you no longer experience the more obvious hangover symptoms like a banging head and sickness. In the absence of these tell-tale signs, you could be missing the other ways alcohol is affecting you, or even attributing them to the hustle and bustle of your busy lifestyle.
You may have been feeling this way for so long you may dismiss it as “just the way you feel.” Thankfully your vigour and zest for life is retrievable and you can banish the symptoms of a permanent hangover with just a few simple changes.
When you're subject to a permanent hangover, one of the most common symptoms is having trouble sleeping. Alcohol can seriously disrupt your sleep, leaving you jaded and making it hard to focus.
“Although many people may feel alcohol helps them get off to sleep, it is also a major culprit for disrupting your night as it can interfere with the body’s chemical processes needed for sound sleep,” says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson for the Sleep Council.
“Waking up deprived of the vital sleep your body needs will leave you feeling drained and, if experienced night after night, can seriously affect your health and wellbeing.”
Unknowingly, you may find yourself caught in a vicious circle where the alcohol you drink to unwind at home after a bad day in the office could actually be contributing to your stress levels at work.
“If you’re drinking within the guidelines, an occasional drink may help you relax,” says Martin Hagger PhD, Reader in Social and Health Psychology at the University of Nottingham.
“But if you’re regularly drinking over the guidelines there’s evidence that you’ll be less able to deal with stress. This is especially true if your body is still dealing with last night’s alcohol when you’re at work.”
Hagger says that alcohol can interfere with routine cognitive tasks, like remembering that birthday card or sorting out your presentation.
“This is because alcohol affects the way signals are received by the brain, making it hard to concentrate on routine tasks,” he says.
And since alcohol is a depressant, you might find your motivation gets sapped along with your work abilities.
As well as affecting your work life, the symptoms of a 'hummer' hangover can impact on your relationships with your friends, partner and children.
When you’re dealing with the average permanent hangover, you’re not likely to be speaking, or thinking clearly.
“Alcohol and the after-effects definitely make you feel more irritable,” says Psychotherapist Paula Hall.
“It cuts down your inhibitions too, so you’re more likely to snap with your partner and say something you shouldn’t.”
If you do have a row, a permanent hangover will mean you’re less likely to be able to make it up with your partner between the sheets later.
“Regularly drinking alcohol makes women take longer to get aroused and men less likely to achieve an erection,” adds Hall.
Regularly drinking above the low risk drinking guidelines can increase your risk of suffering from the symptoms of a permanent hangover and contribute towards the development of serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Cutting down straight away can do wonders in the short term, as you feel the fog lift and the spring return to your step.
Start with a simple experiment: take a couple of alcohol-free days. Be mindful of how hangover signs evolve, how you slept and whether you felt any better the following day. The chances are you’ll feel fresher, more on top of work and far happier in your relationships. Indeed, many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking or spreading your intake evenly over the week.
Then, if you want to have a drink, you can avoid these permanent hangover symptoms by sticking within the low risk drinking guidelines. To help you on your way, we’ve got some great practical tips about how to cut back on alcohol.