Why You Really Shouldn’t Drive or Work With A Hangover

A new study reveals exactly how much our brains struggle the day after drinking.

As it turns out, hangover science is some tricky stuff. While there have been lots and lots studies to quantify exactly what happens the day after you imbibe too heavily – many have come back with mixed results. Luckily, the helpful psychologists at the University of Bath have gone through all the scientific literature with a fine toothed comb and come to some definitive answers.

The Challenges In Hangover Research Until Now

First, there’s been some disagreement in the scientific community about what a hangover actually is. Most of us are familiar with the feeling, but quantifying it for the purposes of a study is a greater challenge. In the past, some studies merely look at those who are experiencing certain hangover symptoms while others qualify those with a certain blood alcohol concentration.

Then there’s the actual process of inducing a hangover for the sake of science. Studies can go one of two routes here. They can “administer” the alcohol themselves for more quantifiable results, or, allow the participants to consume alcohol on their own time. As the new report notes, the former approach can bring up a few “practical and ethical issues” while the latter can’t account for outside late-night variables such as food trucks or the amount of sleep they got.

To get some answers once and for all, the psychologists at the University of Bath looked at a pool of 770 hangover studies before narrowing it down to 19 that met their standards. They then analyzed all the results to determine what learnings rang true overall.

New Analysis Results

Thanks to the new study analysis from psychologists, we now know for sure that a hangover has a significant effect on the following areas…

Memory

In the cross-examination of several studies, it became apparent that both short term and long term memory were affected the day after heavy drinking. Specifically, memory formation (rather than retrieval) appears to be impaired. That means it’s not just the night before that will be a little fuzzy. In a hangover state, you’re actually less likely to retain and file away important details. Not  exactly ideal for important meetings at work.

Sustained Attention

Also known as your ability to concentrate on a task. The various study results suggest that hangover induced fatigue may be to blame. “Fatigue is a common symptom of hangover and involves reward-cost trade offs,” the study reads. So maybe you’re able to stay hyper focused on getting that breakfast burrito in your system (high reward) but less focused on making it through that yoga class you foolishly booked two days ago.

Psychomotor Speed

Nope, this isn’t the name of a heavy metal band (but it should be!) Psychomotor speed refers to your brain’s ability to detect and react to outside stimuli. While there had been conflicting results in individual studies, this analysis found there was an overall impairment in your brain’s reaction time. As you can imagine, this is a huge deal for safe driving.  In fact, a few of these studies in the analysis assessed driving specifically and reported a decreased ability to control a vehicle. To be safe, we say go on and treat yourself to a Lyft the day after drinking so you can focus on hydrating.

Combine all these impairments and, frankly, we wouldn’t recommend getting behind the wheel – or your work laptop in such a state. Instead, we say pop two Wing Man and call us in the morning.

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