The Six Stages of Hangovers

Finding Relief No Matter How Hungover You Are

Hungover man watching effervescent tablets in bathroom
You know you're hungover when your require this much concentration in the bathroom. Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury / OJO+ / Getty Images

The party last night was a blast and you don't regret a minute of it. This morning is a different story and now you're tired, cranky, nauseous, and absolutely miserable. You're hungover and many of us can sympathize because we've been there.

No matter who you are or how much alcohol you drank, the symptoms of a hangover are pretty universal. While there are ways that you can prevent a hangover, that doesn't do you much good right now.

Instead, let's look at the common experiences that come with having a little too much to drink.

While the stages of hangovers are common, the severity of yours will vary. With any luck, you'll only reach stage four. However, if you had a little too much fun, you'll have tough choices to make in five and six.

Stage 1: Where Am I and What Happened?

Maybe you remembered to set your alarm and maybe you didn't. None the less, those first few moments of being awake bring a few questions. You'll groggily look around the room and figure out if you're in your own bed or barely made it to the sofa. Then, you'll try to piece together the last few hours of the night before.

Hopefully, it's pretty easy for you and you can remember the cab ride home or your designated driver dragging you inside. If you need a little help, you'll probably turn to your phone and check call logs and messages to see if you said or did anything that wasn't cool.

A quick stop by your favorite social media platforms may not be a bad idea, either.

With luck, you can shake off the dreariness, head to the kitchen for water, and rethink your decisions for next time. The hangover can be a powerful deterrent for future parties, just as long as you remember to remember how you felt in this round.

Stage 2: The Need for Instant Relief

Your night of drinking led to a few morning aches and pains. It's only natural that you want to head to the medicine cabinet for a quick pain reliever. If you can, try to avoid this as your stomach and liver already have enough to deal with. Things like aspirin and Tylenol can do further damage; ibuprofen is a better choice.

An ice-cold glass of water is one of your best bets for relief. If you need to, pop an Alka-Seltzer in there. It will help ease your queasy stomach. The water will rehydrate you, which is the primary concern right now. 

In addition to water, herbal teas will lift your mood, fruit juices will help restore much-needed vitamins, and the carbonation of sparkling water can ease your stomach. Try to avoid coffee as caffeine will dehydrate you further. If your hangover is mild, a quick cup can perk you up.

Stage 3: Tired, Cranky, and Delusional

Everyone's hangover is different at this stage and some people handle it better than others. You might simply be exhausted and slightly light-headed. Then again, you might not be able to tolerate another human being at this time. Or, you could be feeling vertigo and unable to even sit up in bed.

The effects of a hangover can significantly affect your mood.

To combat the irritability and anxiety, try to get up and take your mind off the pain. If the sun is out this morning, step outside and sit down for a few minutes. You may need your sunglasses because you'll be more sensitive to light, but a little sunshine can do wonders.

Another trick is to take a shower. The effects of cool, running water can wash away a lot of your angst and give you a few moments to think and relax. 

If you're irritable, the most important thing you can do is avoid conflict. Tell whoever you're living with that you'll talk to them after awhile, but now is just not a good time. This will help keep things calm and aid in your recovery.

Stage 4: Can I Keep Food Down?

Are you asking yourself that question right now? If you reached the hangover level where your ability to keep food down is suspect, take some time to evaluate the situation thoroughly.

Slowly drink a second glass of water or opt for some hot tea before you make any decisions about food.

When the nausea passes, ease into whole foods and choose wisely. Some hangover regulars swear by greasy burgers, fries, and milkshakes, but let's consider a healthier option.

Before you move to solid foods, consider mixing up a hangover drink of olive oil, egg, ketchup, and hot sauce. It's a scaled back Bloody Mary and it's likely you have everything you need. It's also filled with antioxidants and amino acids that will drive those toxins right out of you.

Ready for some food? Opt for quick fried eggs or potassium-rich bananas. Even a cup of bouillon or a sports drink will give you back the nutrients you need. Don't overdo the food, but take it one step at a time.

Stage 5: Call the Day a Bust?

There may be those mornings when you need to make a big decision. Do you shirk responsibility and call in sick? Hopefully, you thought ahead and didn't party this hard the night before work. Yet, maybe you were supposed to meet a friend or, worse yet, your mother this morning.

Your job is a tough call and that is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. If you can get yourself moving and at least fake productivity for eight hours, do it. The last thing you want is your nightlife affecting your career.

Family and friends may be a little more understanding. Getting out of the house may not be a bad idea as long as you're up for it. Also, remember that you may still be drunk, so seriously check yourself before driving.

Stage 6: Give Up and Keep Drinking?

When you've reached the point where your hangover is just too much to bare, this can be a tempting thought. It's especially true if you have a few shots left in that bottle of vodka, though it's not the best idea. 

If you decide to start drinking again, you're just prolonging the misery. It may bring you a bit of temporary relief but if you go too far again, you'll just be back in the same place tomorrow morning. Tough it out, lay on the sofa and do nothing, get another hour of sleep, whatever you do, try to avoid having another drink.

Too much to ask? Should you decide that the only relief you can get will come from 'the hair of the dog' then at least get yourself some nutrition at the same time. No, the grains from a straight shot of whiskey don't count.

Instead, opt for a Bloody Mary (better yet, skip the booze). The tomato juice is filled with the vitamins that you need right now and the spices will help clear your senses. Some drinkers will even have one ready before they go out at night, but you can try that next time.