Anyone who drinks alcohol can experience a hangover, but some people are more susceptible to hangovers than are others. 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. Research hasn't clearly shown whether light drinkers or heavy drinkers are more likely to experience hangovers. Frequent drinkers may build up a tolerance that decreases their risk of hangovers.
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 and drinking together appears to increase the likelihood of next-day misery.
- Not sleeping long or well enough after drinking. Some researchers believe that some hangover symptoms are often due, at least in part, to the short and poor-quality 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:
- Dark-colored beers and beer with high alcohol content
- Red wine
By comparison, drinks with a lower congener content — such as lighter colored beers, 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 morning after.
Dec. 14, 2011
- Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol's impact on your health. National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm. Accessed Oct. 5, 2011.
- Prat G, et al. Alcohol hangover: A critical review of explanatory factors. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2009;24:259.
- The incidence and severity of hangover the morning after moderate alcohol intoxication. Howland J, et al. Addiction. 2008;103:758.
- Maranan J. Too much fun? Natural Health. 2010;41:1.
- Verster JC. The alcohol hangover - A puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol & Alcoholism. 2008;43:124.
- Alcohol use and health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Accessed Oct. 5, 2011.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 14, 2011.