When we are young, we tend to feel invincible. We can pull an all-nighter, and still be awake – bright and bushy tailed – in time to face the challenges of a new day. Part of this optimism is just the youthful blessing of having a life of undiscovered adventure still awaiting us. Another part of this experience lies in the biological ability of a young body to regenerate itself. Both of these factors tend to diminish as we age, resulting in a lack of ability to spring back as readily from a drinking binge.
What Causes A Hangover?
The primary source of discomfort following a drinking binge is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which refers to anything which causes the body to relieve itself of fluids. The process of removing alcohol from the body activates this diuretic quality on two fronts. First, the introduction of the alcohol causes the body to react by transforming the attributes into a chemical called acetaldehyde, or ethanol. In large doses, this compound is toxic. The kidney, liver, and bladder are called upon to rid the body of this excess danger as quickly as possible, which results in the frequent urination which is often experienced. Valuable hydration is lost to the toilet, simultaneously, as the water which is normally stored within our cells is used to transport the acetaldehyde away.
A second form of dehydration occurs as a result of a decrease in the body’s production of vasopressin. Vasopressin is a hormone which causes the body to retain hydration and nutrients for the purpose of utilizing them effectively. Alcohol consumption limits the brain’s ability to order that this chemical process occur. With this hormone suppressed, liquids are told to pass directly through the body, and without first hydrating our cells. Our healthy water levels are sent down the drain.
The physical response to this dehydration is most often a dry mouth, weak muscles, and a headache resulting from a shrunken brain mass. Along with the lack of fluids, the recovering body has also been depleted of vital nutrients, such as sodium; electrolytes; potassium; and glucose. This leaves a person feeling weak and lethargic, which often results in staying in bed for longer than intended. The body and brain are scrambling to find enough resources to function.
Polls have revealed that over 40 billion dollars are spent, annually, on the sick time used by those who are hungover. Even for those who show up to work, productivity is negatively affected. Home life can also be negatively impacted, as those who are groggy with a hangover tend to be less patient, and more snappy. As we age, both work life and family life tend to increase in obligation, meaning that we aren’t as easily able to spare this recovery time.
Why Age Makes It Worse
It is a depressing aspect of aging that we tend to produce less energy and tend to recover from deficits more slowly than when we were younger. The cells of our body lose the ability to duplicate effectively, over time. New cells which are produced are not as vibrant or resilient as the ones which came before. Robbing our cells of the nutrients which are negatively impacted by drinking provides these cells with even less fuel to use toward healthy duplication. This means that not only does the experience of recovering from drinking too much tend to get more uncomfortable as we age, we are also adding years to our life when we do it.
How to Stop Drinking So Much
Drinking, like many behaviors, can become a habit. The key to changing the habits which are no longer serving us is to develop and implement a strategy. Some strategies to consider are gaining education; maturing in friendships; engaging in new activities; and asking for help. You may benefit from one, or all, of these tactics toward reaping the benefits of maintained sobriety.
Educate Yourself About Health and Longevity
One of the best ways to change a behavior is to expose ourselves to new information. While simply stopping a behavior can be very difficult, replacing it with another one can make it easier. As you age, consider educating yourself on the types of things that your body and mind needs in order to reach a ripe old age. New diets, exercise routines, and self-care practices can become a part of your midlife resolutions. Your older self will thank you.
While younger years may consist of knocking one back with the boys during poker, or sipping that red wine during girl’s night out, socializing activities can mature along with our bodies. Your friends may look at you strangely when you initially begin to pass on that next round, but they will grow to respect the fact that your abstinence eventually results in your looking – and feeling – younger than the rest of them.
Find New Hobbies
Anyone who has been the owner of an aging canine knows that the popular adage is not true: You can teach an old dog new tricks. It may be the case that you have existed, thus far, on your nightly rum and coke, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to trade those habits for healthier ones. Even if you aren’t yet nearing your retirement years, establishment of some satisfying hobbies, now, can make that eventual transition much more fulfilling.
If none of these tactics are working for you, it may be time to ask for the help of a professional. Every year, over three million people reach out for assistance in reaching their goals of giving up the drinking, and there are many more who can benefit from it. In addition to the full experience of inpatient recovery facilities, many communities offer outpatient classes, support groups, and therapy for those who are desiring a life free from the negative impacts of alcohol.