So you wake up after your big night out, and you're full of regrets. Not just because of the physical hangover (headache, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches etc.), but because of all the things you said and did last night - which in all likelihood, no one even remembers anyway.
Sound familiar? In addition to typical hangover symptoms, many drinkers experience what's known as hangover anxiety, or 'hangxiety'. This manifests as feelings of guilt or stress, often related to the previous night of libations. Even worse, hangxiety often kicks in when you're trying to sleep off a hangover. If you drink alcohol, you'll probably be no stranger to at least some of these symptoms.
Clearly, hangxiety is no fun - but there are steps you can take to avoid it in the first place. Let’s learn a bit more about what causes hangxiety, its symptoms and how to prevent it from haunting you when you next drink alcohol.
What exactly is hangxiety?
Hangxiety is the feeling of anxiety, stress, panic or guilt that can be experienced after drinking alcohol. It's often accompanied by physical symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and increased sensitivity to sound and light.
Why does hangxiety happen?
Hangxiety is believed to be related to the way alcohol affects the brain. When you're drinking, your serotonin levels are temporarily boosted (making you feel happy) as your Gaba receptors are stimulated (making you feel calm). After several drinks, glutamate (which makes you feel stressed), also starts getting blocked. This all sounds great - until your brain notices the imbalance a few hours later.
During a hangover, your brain works hard to bring Gaba back down and glutamate back up. Blood alcohol concentration can also fall quickly and suddenly, leading to feelings of anxiety as your body adjusts back to sober levels. This is what leads to those dreaded morning-after feelings of anxiety and depression. Hangxiety can also be worsened by dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and blood sugar fluctuations - as well as psychological reasons, like social anxiety or feelings of regret. Poor sleep patterns and eating habits can exacerbate anxiety symptoms too. Not exactly a great endorsement for a bender.
How long does it last?
The good news is that hangxiety is usually short-lived, and symptoms typically subside within 24 hours. However, if you're struggling to cope with anxiety after a night of drinking, there are a few things you can do to manage your symptoms - and even avoid them all together.
How to prevent and treat hangxiety
Cut down (or cut out) the booze: The most straightforward and effective way to avoid hangxiety is skip the alcohol altogether or the next best thing: consuming alcohol less. Today, many people can choose to skip drinking with low-ABV or alcohol-free beers such as our UNLTD Beer, and they taste like the real deal. Non-alcoholic cocktails and spirits are also growing in popularity - so why not give them a try?
Drink lots of water: If you want to keep drinking, you can try reducing the symptoms of hangxiety by having plenty of water while consuming alcoholic beverages. Alcohol tends to be a diuretic, meaning you'll need the loo more often than usual. This causes dehydration, which could exacerbate hangxiety symptoms the following day.
Try not to drink too fast: Drinking too quickly can lead to more intense feelings of hangxiety the next day, so try to pace yourself by alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Drinking a glass of water after each alcoholic drink can also help rehydrate your body and reduce the intensity of hangxiety.
Eat before you drink: A full stomach helps slow down the absorption of alcohol, which means it will take longer for you to reach higher levels of intoxication. Eating before and during your night out can also help with hangxiety.
Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep is another major cause of hangxiety, so try to get at least 6-8 hours after a night out. Of course, drinking an alcoholic beverage before bed can be a major disruptor of sleep - so try and wind down properly before bed to set yourself up for a good night's rest. Instead of passing out immediately, have a snack and some water, take a shower and get cosy. Plus, if you know you'll be drinking in the evening, lay off the caffeine after lunchtime.
Go booze-free to avoid hangxiety altogether
If hangxiety is becoming an overly regular part of your life, consider saving yourself the mental anguish by cutting out booze completely. If you're not ready to commit, why not simply try going alcohol-free during your next pub trip or night out? Today, more and more people are avoiding alcohol to skip not just hangxiety, but all the aches, pains and fatigue that also come with a hangover.
Plus, alcohol-free drinks are far better now than they used to be. Instead of watery blandness, you can now find alcohol-free beers that taste like the real thing - such as our award-winning UNLTD Beer, for instance. As well as tasting like full-ABV beers, our alcohol-free lager and IPA are low-calorie, gluten-free, and packed with vitamins B6 and B12. They're also vegan. They're the perfect way to enjoy the refreshing taste of beer without having to worry about struggling tomorrow.
The bottom line
As we get older, we start feeling the negative aftereffects of a night's boozing more and more keenly - and whilst the physical symptoms are no fun, the psychological symptoms can be even more punishing.
There are steps we can take to reduce the severity of hangxiety and other hangover symptoms: watch your alcohol intake, drink plenty of water, eat well, pace yourself and get a good night's sleep. However, there comes a time in many people's lives when the negatives of drinking start to outweigh the positives.
If this is striking a chord with you, fear not! You don't need to be clutching a lemonade for the rest of your days. A new generation of booze-free beverages means that you can enjoy the taste of beer, cocktails and spirits alcohol-free - and thus enjoy your Sunday mornings as well.
Feeling rough whilst reading this? Don't fret. At the end of the day, the most important thing to know is that like all things, these feelings shall soon pass. But if you want your future self to make better decisions next time, treat them to a crate of AF beer.
If hangxiety is impacting your quality of life (or if you're anxious due to a pattern of antisocial behaviour during drinking) speak to a doctor or health professional for advice.