New research from Bensons for Beds reveals what time a hangover is likely to hit you the hardest, and what’s going on in your body after the Christmas party. The office Christmas party is one of the most anticipated events of the year, with more than 40% of excited Brits admitting to binging on up to 10 boozy drinks throughout the night.
How to survive the party
However, the party can massively impact your brain and body – from giving you huge surges of dopamine and happiness, to nightmares, anxiety and depression the next day. Your body takes 24 hours to fully recover, and your hangover will worsen at specific times throughout the day, depending on how much alcohol is in your system.
The rhythm of he night
7pm – After hitting the party and consuming 7 units of alcohol, you’re likely to feel hungry and head to the buffet. This is because the alcohol causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which in turn sends signals to your brain that make you feel hungry, even though you might not actually be.
9pm – Ever find you need to pee a lot after drinking? After 9 units, the alcohol inhibits the release of an anti-diuretic hormone which aids the process of water absorption. Your body is tricked into thinking its more hydrated than it actually is, causing regular trips to the grim bar toilets.
11pm – At around 12 units, your motor skills are impaired, meaning your coordination is seriously limited. The alcohol causes a disruption of neurotransmitters in your brain, resulting in large amounts of dopamine being released all at once, so you feel on top of the world.
1am – The party starts to wind down and by some miracle you make your way home unscathed, cheesy chips in hand from your favourite take-away. Your vision is now blurred as your eyes are not able to respond quickly enough to lights. This is due to the impairment of brain function and weakened eye muscle coordination.
2am – You collapse into bed fully clothed and pass out instantly, dribbling away on your pillow motionless. The 10 units of alcohol in your system are still suppressing your nervous system, helping you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly at the start of the night. You are in a sedated state but your heart rate is elevated by 13 beats a minute.
4am – The alcohol sedation wears off and the rest of your sleep contains a higher than average level of Rapid Eye Movement (REM), meaning it’s less restful and restorative, and also causing you to have a nightmare.
7am – The alarm goes off. Everything aches and you feel like you’ve only had 2 to 3 hours sleep. You slowly and carefully get ready for work, still feeling a little tipsy. The lower REM rates of your initial sedated sleep cause worsened feelings of fatigue and grogginess.
The rhythm of the hangover
9am – You’ve been sat at your desk staring at the same email for half an hour now. Your brain, having adapted to receiving high amounts of endorphins caused by the constant intake of alcohol, is now experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms, in the form of temporary depression and increased anxiety.
11am – So far you’ve managed not to be sick, but that’s about to change. The alcohol has caused a build-up of lactic acid and increased pancreas and intestinal secretion in your body. These cause you to endure stints of vomiting and diarrhea throughout your recovery.
1pm – Now feeling less nauseas, you’re ready to eat everything in sight. You treat yourself to a beige buffet and grab supplies of sweets and chocolates to get you through the rest of the day. Your body is craving sugary foods due to your low blood sugar levels.
3pm – The food made you feel a bit better, but now you’re really tired. There is no alcohol left in your bloodstream, but the short energy boost from the fatty and sugary foods has worn off and your blood sugar levels are crashing again.
4pm – You make it through the last couple of hours at work and head straight home. At this point your body has broken down all of the harmful toxins from the alcohol but your cognitive abilities, like attention and memory, are still debilitated even when alcohol in the blood is no longer measurable and you’re still tired from the restless night’s sleep.