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What’s happening when you’ve got a hangover?

Your head is on the verge of exploding and but don’t know what’s keeping it from setting off! If only there was a switch that’d ignite the damn thing... you think to yourself when suddenly your stomach tries to force itself out of your mouth. Disgusted with your self you promise to never touch another glass of alcohol if you ever make it through this in one piece.

So what’s causing all this mayhem? If you wake up with a hangover, it’s a sign that you drank far too much last night and your body didn't like it at all. Here's what's happening...


Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you urinate more. In fact, you lose far more water in your urine than you are taking in the drink itself. Dehydration causes the brain to shrink away from the skull slightly. This triggers pain sensors on the outside surface of your brain.

Electrolyte imbalance

Vital electrolytes such as magnesium and potassium are excreted from the body with the urine.These minerals help keep the heart beating and dangerous cardiac arrhythmias can occur after heavy drinking.


Alcohol lowers your blood sugar levels as glucose is excreted in the urine. Along with the late night, this contributes to extensive yawning the following day.

Attack of the free radicals

Free radicals are harmful molecules formed in the liver as it struggles to break down ethanol. Usually, these are seen off by an anti-oxidant called glutathione but its reserves can run low after a drinking session.

The infallible cure for a hangover

Unfortunately, there isn't one. (This is something the scientist should be working on!) The general advice is to drink plenty of water, possibly even a sports drink to rebalance those electrolytes and sleep it out.

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