Following reports that 27% of drinkers in Britain admit to binge drinking on their heaviest drinking days, it is unsurprising that searches for “how to cure hangxiety” have risen by 150% in the past month, suggesting many of us are left feeling anxious the morning after.
To delve deeper into this phenomenon, the experts at Brainworks Neurotherapy have explained what “hangxiety” does to the brain and have provided seven key tips on how to deal with “beer fear”.
James Roy from Brainworks Neurotherapy comments on what “hangxiety” does to the brain: “Alcohol is hard on the brain and body. Dehydration is a factor, but less well-known effects are also at play. It takes about a day to fully metabolise the alcohol after drinking.
“While alcohol is still in the system, new neural nets don’t form properly, and learning is compromised. Rather than making solid new connections while learning, the dendrites (the little neuron arms) tend to miss their targets and connect where they shouldn’t.
“It is the same effect as seen in foetal alcohol syndrome, and when there is alcohol in the system, new neural nets struggle to form. Even in an adult, this can cause shrinkage to the brain and damage the nervous system.
“Alcohol also compromises our ability to hold back emotions – a brain factor called “gating”. Combined with other weakening factors such as fatigue f ce the following day.
“As a result, a hangover gives us a glimpse of what lies under the surface of our conscious mind. If anger is the underlying propensity, “hangry-ness” will be the result after a night out. If anxiety is your underlying habit (as it is for so many), “hangxiety” will be at the forefront. For others, low mood or depression can come to the fore.”
7 expert tips to help with “hangxiety”
Prevent the dehydration
The dehydration caused by alcohol is usually to blame for the inevitable next-day headache. While you’re drinking, remember to keep yourself hydrated. Ensure to drink plenty of water between alcoholic drinks throughout the day. Although it may not prevent the headache, the added hydration will help alleviate some anxiety.
Line your stomach
Before you start drinking, make sure to eat something. Drinking on an empty stomach can be dangerous. Not only will people become drunk quicker, but there is also an increased risk of experiencing sickness the next day. The lack of food will make the alcohol harder for the body to process, prolonging the “hangxiety” symptoms.
Sleep it off
Alcohol can hurt the quality of sleep. According to research, sleep deprivation amplifies reactions in the amygdala and anterior insula, which are parts of the brain associated with anxiety. By getting enough sleep and rest, your body will calm down and alleviate some of the feelings of anxiety. Sleeping will also allow the amygdala and anterior insula reactions time to regulate.
Consuming alcohol causes dehydration and also inhibits the production of electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential for the brain to function, maintain balance, carry electrical charges and regulate hydration. After drinking, opt for a sports drink to rehydrate quickly. These are packed with electrolytes which will increase the body’s depleted levels, rehydrate and improve brain function.
Eat to regulate blood sugars
Alcohol can disrupt the body’s blood sugar levels, leading to nausea and the symptoms of “hangxiety”. To help with this, opt for a lighter meal that contains complex carbs to increase blood sugar. This will help the body regulate blood sugar levels and alleviate any nausea.
Speak to your friends for reassurance
To ease your mind, talk to the people you were drinking with for reassurance about the previous night’s events. Expressing your thoughts and worries will help ease the feelings of “hangxiety”, and your friends can offer reassurance and hopefully put your mind at rest.
Set yourself a limit for next time
Even after the hangover symptoms have subsided, you may still experience lingering “hangxiety”. Ahead of the next day’s drinks or night out, think about how to prevent the “hangxiety”. Set yourself a limit, which could be deciding on a specific number of drinks or imposing a time limit for each drink to avoid drinking too quickly.