How You Should Actually Treat A Nasty Hangover

We've all been there — a boozy night out followed by a morning of exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, and a raging headache. Hello, dreaded hangover.

Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to dehydration, causing the uncomfortable (and downright miserable) experience of the dreaded "spins" (marked by dizziness, vertigo, and lightheadedness). Drinking too much also causes your body to produce an excessive amount of stomach acid, which is why you might find yourself waking up from a night out and running to the bathroom to vomit. In addition to your dizziness and nausea, it can also leave you feeling tired, weak, and shaky — thanks to the alcohol causing your blood sugar to drop. And that pounding headache you woke up with? That's because the drinks you threw back the night before caused your blood vessels to expand (per Mayo Clinic).

In addition to some nasty physical symptoms, a hangover can lead to an impairment in cognitive abilities. According to Mayo Clinic, alcohol also sparks an inflammatory response from your immune system, which can make it difficult for you to concentrate and lead to memory problems — which is why you might not remember texting your ex (oh, the hangxiety!)

If you're a fan of craft beer, cocktails, and spirits, you've likely experienced all of this. Luckily, if you do break your vow to "never drink again" that you made while throwing up the morning after, there are expert-recommended ways to treat your next inevitable hangover.


As soon as you wake up following a night of drinking, it's important to start hydrating. Alcohol is a known diuretic, as it slows your body's release of vasopressin — a hormone that decreases the amount of urine made by your kidneys. In other words, excessive alcohol leads to excessive urination, which can dehydrate you, one of the biggest culprits of your worst hangover symptoms. Particularly heavy drinking can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive sweating, which can dehydrate you even further (per Harvard Medical School).

As a general rule of thumb, you should stick to water or even sports drinks with added electrolytes, which are minerals that help regulate the fluids in your body. According to emergency medicine physician Thomas Waters, MD, drinking a beverage with added electrolytes can help you hydrate more quickly and restore nutrients in your body that it lost due to dehydration (per Cleveland Clinic). Because your hangover might leave you feeling nauseous, downing a huge glass of water or a full bottle of Gatorade as soon as you wake up might not be the best idea if you don't feel like vomiting (and you probably don't). Instead, take a few sips at a time to see how your stomach will react.

As groggy as your hangover might make you feel, Dr. Waters advises that you will want to avoid drinking coffee. Coffee is also a diuretic in itself and can make it more difficult for your body to restore its hydration levels.

Eat something

In addition to hydrating, getting food into your stomach is one of the best things you can do for yourself following a night of drinking — especially if you've been vomiting and there's nothing left in you. According to Dr. Waters, eating after waking up can help you feel slightly more human again by boosting your blood sugar levels (per Cleveland Clinic).

As good as a greasy burger may sound after waking up hungry from a night of drinking, it might not be the best choice for an already queasy stomach. Instead, research suggests that fruit might be one of the best foods for your hangover. Choose ones that are particularly rich in water, such as strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Not only does fruit contain essential vitamins and nutrients, but the high water content can assist in helping you rehydrate (per Cleveland Clinic). The natural sugars found in fresh fruit can also aid your body in flushing alcohol from your system faster than hydrating alone.

If you are dealing with a lot of nausea and are having trouble keeping food down following a night out, registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD also recommends the "BRAT" diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Those foods are bland and easily digestible when you have an upset stomach (per Cleveland Clinic). Additionally, bananas contain high levels of potassium, one of the main electrolytes that your body loses when you drink.

Avoid alcohol until you fully recover

While your old college roommate might swear by the "hair of the dog" approach to dealing with a nasty hangover — which involves drinking more alcohol to ease the severity of symptoms — experts say this approach can do more harm than good. Because your body is essentially experiencing withdrawal from alcohol during a hangover, the idea is that following up your night out drinking with another boozy beverage or two can help ease the symptoms.

According to Dr. Robert Swift, alcohol reacts with GABA receptors in your brain, causing you to experience withdrawal when your blood alcohol level begins to drop. This is similar to how people experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking certain sedatives and benzodiazepines. So while a bloody mary or a mimosa at brunch the morning after a night out might help provide immediate relief from your most severe symptoms, you're just delaying the inevitable. "The hair of the dog just perpetuates a cycle," said Dr. Swift via Harvard Medical School "It doesn't allow you to recover."

"When you eventually stop drinking and your blood alcohol levels return to zero, the hangover will return," added Dr. Alka Patel (via Cosmopolitan). "In some sense, 'hair of the dog' delays the time until you experience a hangover — but it cannot prevent it entirely." The best thing you can do is avoid alcohol until your body has a chance to fully recover.

Take a pain reliever

If your hangover leads to a bad headache or muscle aches, experts recommend reaching for a bottle of pain reliever to help some of the symptoms subside. Experts say that aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are safe and effective for treating headaches and body aches after a night of excessive drinking when taken at the correct dosage (per Pharmacy Times). NSAIDs are also said to help combat some of the inflammatory effects on the body caused by alcohol.

That being said, not all pain relievers are recommended for treating hangovers. Acetaminophen, the generic name for Tylenol, can damage your liver if you still have alcohol in your system the next day. "Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, so if you're drinking enough to give you a hangover, there's a good chance you've had enough that your liver is working overtime," said Pharmacist Dr. Stacia Woodcock (via Rachael Ray). Taking any form of acetaminophen on top of that, even at the correct dosage, can lead to increased liver toxicity.

If you wake up with a hangover, skip the Tylenol and reach for a bottle of NSAIDs instead. In fact, you can even pop some the night before as well before going to sleep if you want to prevent an alcohol-induced hangover altogether. "Pharmacist tip to everyone: If you take two the night before with a glass of water, you're going to wake up and feel great," said Dr. Woodcock.

Sleep it off

If you still feel the negative effects of alcohol after hydrating, eating, and taking a pain reliever, the only thing left to do is give your hangover time to pass by sleeping it off. "There's no magic pill, no miracle cure to make a hangover go away," said Dr. Waters (via Cleveland Clinic). "Your body has to catch up and metabolize the alcohol you consumed."

According to a study published in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine, drinking alcohol in excess before falling asleep can also lead to poor quality sleep. often leading you to wake up throughout the night. This can cause you to wake up not only hungover, but groggy and tired. Sleeping off your hangover not only decreases the amount of time you have to spend awake and feeling miserable, but it also allows you to catch up on valuable sleep you lost the night before. This can help your body recover faster.

"Ultimately, the best way to get rid of a hangover is to let it run its course and allow your body time to recover," said Dr. David Seitz, MD (via Self). "The most you can do is to keep yourself as comfortable as possible until the hangover passes."