It’s officially Fling! Our craziest weekend of the year. For some students Spring Fling’s all about the great music and great food, but for many, it’s more about embracing the Penn tradition of getting drunk before lunchtime rolls around and partying late into the night.
But Fling should come with a warning label: Will cause extreme excitement and enjoyment, with side effects that include one hell of a hangover. Headache, nausea, dry mouth, fatigue, the overall feeling of having a Buick parked on your face. Why do we get hangovers, and what can we possibly do to make them stop?
I asked students what they thought about the matter and got a range of responses. College sophomore Jenn (who didn’t want her last name printed because she’s under 21) swears by the power of blue Gatorade. College senior Adam Schwartz, on the other hand, resigns himself to the hangover, explaining, “I just take four Advil and sleep all day.”
No doubt, you’ve heard loads of stories about hangover cures, but before you’re tempted to take any friend’s advice, you should know the truth behind a hangover.
I’m going to be honest with you from the get-go. Like you, scientists really aren’t 100-percent sure what causes a hangover, so they can’t give us the definite answers we need.
Nonetheless, amidst the vast quantity of folklore, there is some truth. And when you wake up Sunday morning and realize you have about a week of ignored homework to do, you’d rather put your faith behind something that has a chance of helping.
Unfortunately, the remedies that are likely to be useful are probably the ones you already know and find unsatisfactory: Advil, water, breakfast and a nap.
The reasoning behind the advice to chug water is perhaps the most sound. When you drink, dehydration is enemy number one. Although you’re likely consuming no shortage of beverage, anything alcoholic’s going to act as a diuretic (will make you pee). Dehydration of the brain will play into that foggy, dizzy feeling that’s hard to shake.
Another fairly substantiated hypothesis behind the hangover is “hypoglycemia,” a rebound drop in blood sugar after a night of binge drinking. This may be why you feel perkier after a proper breakfast. But despite what you’ve heard about the perfect hangover meal — like a super-greasy or “white carbs only” breakfast — nothing will help “absorb the alcohol” in your system; it’s simply not how things work. So eat whatever appeals to you (which probably isn’t much if you’re nauseous and tired).
And the last thing I recommend: a nap. Even if you pass out at 2 a.m. and wake up at 11 a.m., getting a full nine hours of sleep, it won’t be the kind of restful sleep you usually enjoy. Alcohol suppresses REM (rapid eye movement), a crucial part of your sleep cycle. Although you can’t actually catch up lost REM until you have a proper (sober) night’s sleep, a nap will help with the immediate grogginess.
Regarding some of the more creative remedies out there — Vitamin B, an alternating boiling/freezing shower or pickles (yes, pickles) … sorry if I’m about to ruin the wonderful placebo effect you’ve been enjoying, but these “hangover cures” are likely a bunch of BS.
One story that might actually have some weight to it is “darker liquor, never sicker.” Recent studies have found congeners, a by-product of alcohol found more in dark booze (rum, brandy, scotch etc.) might contribute to the crappy morning-after feeling. Nevertheless, even if you’re sticking with Vodka, you’ve got to worry about acetaldehyde, alcohol’s primary toxic metabolite, poisoning your system.
In no way do I mean to put a damper on your Fling (it’s amazing, enjoy yourself!). But try to keep some of this stuff in mind this Sunday when you’re feeling a little “Flungover.”
Sally Engelhart is a College sophomore from Toronto. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Scientifically Blonde appears on alternate Fridays.Comments powered by Disqus
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