How to beat a festive hangover

Someone having a hangover with Christmas hat on in bed. (Getty Images)
Who wouldn't want to stay hangover-free this Christmas? (Getty Images)

The lead-up to Christmas may be a time to get merry – whether that’s at the office party, ‘friendsmas’ or simply with loved ones while exchanging presents.

However, the likelihood you’ll overindulge in booze and wake up foggy-headed with a hangover is rather higher than usual, and it can risk dimming your festive cheer and turn you into a Scrooge pretty fast.

In a nutshell, this is because too much alcohol can lead to dehydration, and ultimately cause the symptoms you'd rather not experience the next morning: splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness, dehydration.

Not to mention the anxiousness that arises from hazy memories of your night.

Fortunately, while curing a hangover entirely might be too much of a Christmas miracle to ask for, there are things you can do to try and avoid, or ease one.

Read more: Why do we get anxious when hungover? 'Hanxiety' explained by expert

How to prevent a hangover

Eat before you party

Sounds obvious, but far too many of us fall short on this when rushing out or going to a celebration straight from work. The NHS recommends you don’t drink on an empty stomach for a reason.

It suggests enjoying a dinner that includes carbohydrates – like rice or pasta – or fats, to slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol.

A plate of pasta. (Getty Images)
Load up on carbs before going out. (Getty Images)

Drink soft drinks too

Just because you're out for drinks doesn't mean you have to drink only alcohol (or any booze at all). Remember to drink water or non-fizzy soft drinks inbetween. And be aware that anything that is fizzy will affect your body more quickly.

Avoid dark drinks

There is some evidence that choosing drinks, like gin and vodka, with lower congener levels – natural chemicals – may be less likely to cause a hangover than dark-coloured drinks with higher congener content, like bourbon and red wine. That’s because they irritate the blood vessels and tissue in the brain.

However, while participants in studies reported greater hangover intensity with the latter type of booze, all forms affected general next-day concentration and performance in tasks like reading and driving.

Avoid cigarettes

While being a few beverages down may make lighting up all the more tempting – you could feel far worse the next day if you succumb.

A study looking at the alcohol intake of 113 university students discovered that smoking significantly increased the risk and severity of their hangovers compared to when they just consumed alcohol.

Read more: What is the new £1 hangover prevention pill and how does it work?

Friends toasting Christmas drinks. (Getty Images)
When it comes to Christmas drinks, less is more. (Getty Images)

Use a sleeping mask

Not getting quality shut-eye can heighten your risk of a sore head the next day.

You need to prep your bedroom so that nothing will wake you up early – this is particularly important since research has shown alcohol disrupts the restorative functions of sleep, which won’t help your body deal with all the toxins it needs to process.

Invest in a good sleeping mask, black-out blinds or curtains, ear plugs and have a glass of water ready on your bed-side table for when you wake up with that pesky dry mouth.

Stay within your limits

Above all, don't drink more than your body can cope with. There is no 'safe' level of drinking, but if you consume less than 14 units a week, this is considered low-risk. As well as preventing a hangover, you also want to avoid drinking too much and having an accident, misjudging risky situations, or losing self-control.

Read more: Binge drinking just once a week raises the risk of health problems almost fivefold

How to cure a hangover

Eat something

You may feel nauseous, but getting something down you – if you can – will make you feel much better.

Opt for something sugary if you feel trembly, though you may need to settle your stomach first with an antacid. It works by neutralising the stomach acid, and can also reduce nausea, heartburn and indigestion caused by booze.

Replace vitamins

If you’ve woken feeling less than amazing, your first step – as well as slowly sipping H20 so it doesn’t irritate your stomach – should be to replenish the vitamins and minerals you have lost from drinking.

The most crucial are vitamins B and C. Bouillon soup (a thin, vegetable-based broth) is a good choice to give you a boost, while being gentle on your stomach, and tasting delicious.

Replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that also won't upset your digestive system. Aside from water, opt for soda water and isotonic drinks.

You can also consider taking a vitamin B complex, which usually includes B1, B2, B6 and B12, or consuming a Berocca (or similar).

vegetable broth
Eat well the next day. (Getty Images)

Take painkillers

If you’ve got an important day ahead where you can’t stay in bed, popping paracetamol, for example, will be able to mask a headache or muscle cramps, and get you through.

Remember, the usual dose for adults is usually one or two 500mg tablets up to four times in 24 hours, and you should always leave at least four hours between dose. Check what's right for you.

Say no to 'hair of the dog'

If you've been drinking heavily, wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol (even if you're hangover-free), to allow your body the needed time to recover.

But perhaps you've already learnt this the hard way.

Watch: Why do some people experience 'hanxiety' after drinking?