Not so fast.
Here is a timeline of how drinking affects your body over the course of one night of partying (Adapted from a post on The Daily Mail):
8 pm: Ahhh…
You know that little sigh you give after you take those first sips? Well, that’s probably the best you’ll feel all night.
Those first drops enter your bloodstream and head straight for your brain’s pleasure centers, boosting the good chemicals, making you feel buzzed and comfortable in your skin.
It’s tempting to drink more, to keep those good feelings flowing. Problem is, after a few more drinks, the brain receptors for these chemicals become saturated and the brain can’t generate enough new chemicals to make you feel as good as when you first started drinking.
TIP 1: Eat a small meal before you drink.
The food in your stomach will absorb some of the alcohol, causing it to enter your bloodstream at a slower rate. If you and a friend each have three drinks at a party, but she’s eaten beforehand and you haven’t, your blood alcohol content could be up to three times higher than your friend’s.
TIP 2: Alternate alcohol with soda or seltzer water to slow down its effects.
After a few hours of drinking, alcohol starts to interfere with communication between the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for processing information and initiating muscle movement.
The alcohol masks warning signals from other parts of your body, so you have poor judgment, coupled with a higher pain threshold. You feel more confident, but you’re actually less coordinated.
Your liver might not be able to metabolize the alcohol fast enough, which increases the concentration of alcohol in the body, causing nausea, lack of coordination and dizziness.
Alcohol also affects the hippocampus and septal areas of your brain, which are responsible for emotional responses and registering and storing memories. This accounts for the memory gaps the day after, and explains why drunk people are prone to extreme emotional responses, like crying or fighting.
TIP 3: Try to slow yourself down by doing something other than standing around, drinking. Dance. Play cards. Take a lap around the party. Head to the bathroom and play Words With Friends on your phone.
11pm: Time for a nightcap…
As the party goes on, you may start feeling draggy, and then try to recapture those initial good feelings. Maybe what you need is something stronger, you think, so you switch to the hard stuff. The problem is, the darker the drink, the worse the hangover, due to impurities from the fermentation process.
TIP 4: If you switch from beer or wine to liquor, stick to clear drinks, such as vodka, to minimize your hangover. Avoid port wine, brandy or whiskey, which can linger in your system for up to 24 hours.
12 am: Should I stay or should I go?
At some point, your body starts telling you it’s time to leave the party, but it’s hard when you see others, still going strong.
Those people—larger people, heavy drinkers, men—have a higher tolerance. Men can drink more than women without feeling its effects, since they have more water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol. Women also have less of the liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
TIP 5: Know your limits. Just because your friend or companion has had four drinks and feels fine, doesn’t mean you can do the same.
2 am: I’m tired, but I’m also starving!
After a night of drinking, the pancreas pumps insulin into your system to break down the alcohol in your blood. Your blood sugar levels drop, leaving you ravenous for high-calorie, fatty foods.
4am: Why do I feel so tired, when it felt like I had the deepest sleep of my life?
When you drink a certain amount, the same brain chemicals that made you feel great in the first place drop to low levels, leaving you exhausted.
For part of the night you’re in a deep sleep, but you don’t achieve REM sleep, which is restorative, so you don’t feel refreshed the next morning.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so you wake up in the middle of the night with a parched mouth and a full bladder.
7am: Please God, don’t make me get out of bed.
Your monster headache is due to dehydration, plus a chemical your liver makes to purge the poison from your body.
TIP 6: After a night of heavy drinking, you may crave the energy boost of grease and caffeine, since your blood sugar is low. But fatty foods will only aggravate an upset stomach by stimulating an over-production of stomach acids. Instead, go for low-glycemic foods: whole wheat toast, oatmeal or low-fat dairy, like yogurt.
11am: Why do I still feel drunk?
You thought you could sleep it off, but hangovers tend to get worse throughout the day.
You’ve assaulted your body with too much alcohol, and now your body is going through withdrawal symptoms. Those chemicals that made you feel so great in the first place are lower than normal, making you feel irritable, depressed and anxious. You may also have an increased body temperature, a racing heart rate, and the shakes.
1pm: Starting to feel human
TIP 7: An antacid can help calm an inflamed stomach lining.
8pm: Still feeling the effects?
Before you start envying the estimated 25 per cent of people who don’t suffer hangovers, consider this: A hangover can be a good thing—a reminder that your body is having a normal response to too much alcohol. Maybe—just maybe—that third cup of spiked eggnog wasn’t worth it!