“I don’t drink enough to get a hangover”
Have you heard that before? It’s a common misconception about alcohol that hangovers are only the result of binge drinking. Regardless of your drinking habits, the reality is that even moderate, responsible alcohol consumption can make you feel less than 100% the next day.
A hangover is defined as “disagreeable physical effects following consumption of alcohol”. Those disagreeable effects manifest themselves in 2 big ways:
One of those disagreeable effects is caused by GABAa rebound, which causes “hangxiety”, irritability, and restless sleep. This occurs because alcohol binds to your brain’s GABAa receptors, and then goes into rebound once you stop drinking.
To metabolize alcohol, your body must first convert alcohol into acetaldehyde (which is 20x more toxic than alcohol) before being able to finally clear it from your system. Acetaldehyde buildup has been associated with the most common hangover symptoms, such as headache and nausea.
Alcohol’s negative effects are not binary (i.e., you’re either hungover or not), but rather are relative to the amount consumed. So, whether you’ve had 1 drink, or 1 too many, you’ll still feel “hangover” symptoms.