Anyone who drinks alcohol can experience a hangover, but some people are more susceptible to hangovers than others are. A genetic variation that affects the way alcohol is metabolized may make some people flush, sweat or become ill after drinking even a small amount of alcohol.

Factors that may make a hangover more likely or severe include:

  • Drinking on an empty stomach. Having no food in your stomach speeds the body's absorption of alcohol.
  • Using other drugs, such as nicotine, along with alcohol. Smoking combined with drinking appears to increase the likelihood of next-day misery.
  • Not sleeping well or long enough after drinking. Some researchers believe that some hangover symptoms are often due, at least in part, to the poor-quality and short sleep cycle that typically follows a night of drinking.
  • Having a family history of alcoholism. Having close relatives with a history of alcoholism may suggest an inherited problem with the way your body processes alcohol.
  • Drinking darker colored alcoholic beverages. Darker colored drinks often contain a high volume of congeners — the chemicals used to add color and flavor to alcohol. Congeners are more likely to produce a hangover.

Drinks with a high congener content include:

  • Bourbon
  • Scotch
  • Tequila
  • Brandy
  • Dark-colored beers and beer with high alcohol content
  • Red wine

By comparison, drinks with a lower congener content — such as lighter colored beers and wine, gin, and vodka — are somewhat less likely to cause a hangover. However, while lighter colored drinks may slightly help with hangover prevention, drinking too many alcoholic beverages of any color will still make you feel bad the next morning.

Dec. 20, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.