(The Fool-Proof Seven Step Hangover Cure, continued)
It’s been well established that the human animal, denied sleep for long enough, falls apart. Remember the fuzzy days that followed the all-nighters you studied/gamed/partied through back in college, the days that just sort of sprawl on in slow-motion, or unspool jerkily, like film on an old projector, constantly speeding up and slowing down, while everyone around you seems both too loud and too quiet at the same time, and you keep on getting jolted by the strange sensation that yesterday never ended, that it may never end, and that you’re not sure which morning you brushed your teeth, or whether you really played a hand of cards at Denny’s with a couple of strangers, or merely dreamed it while nodding off over the keyboard for a split-second. (Or maybe you’re pulling one right now. If so, my thoughts are with you. Brace yourself, it’s gonna get weird).
Going without sleep in the short term is a sure trip to Surrealsville – in the long term, an all expenses paid vacation to Psychosistown. A friend once confirmed for himself that auditory hallucinations start sometime in the fifty hour range. He decided that was far enough to go in his own personal existential/scientific endeavor. I guess the voices didn’t have a problem with that.
Most of the time, though, we experience the ill-effects of sleep deprivation on a much milder level. A sustained sleep deficit has been linked to all sorts of impaired function, disorientation, inability to process, to focus, and a greater susceptibility to various illnesses, not to mention manipulation via advertising. (For a decent and sobering roundup of mal-effects, this article works well enough). But for the most part, these mal-effects are incremental, subtle, long term, and therefore, easily ignored. There are some conditions, however, in which the difference made by an hour or two of sleep, more or less, is exponential. The hangover is just one such condition.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that many an unnecessary hangover might have been prevented entirely by just a little more sleep. And many a mild hangover has turned needlessly into a full-blown catastrophe for the very same reason. Now, I realize that few among us have extreme liberty in terms of our schedules, and particularly, in matters of rising times (a peculiar and quite telling element of our culture’s neurotic war upon its own well-being in pursuit of, we must presume, “happiness” – or perhaps, as the cool kids are saying, utility – for a glimmer of insight into these collective social issues, I find this a worthy starting point). I realize further that it is precisely this lack of leisure which may have landed you in the miserable, nigh-inhuman ranks of the overhung. Needless to say, if you have no liberty to perform step 2, there are still many avenues of regeneration still available to you. If this is your situation, please proceed to step 3.
“At this point I must assume that you can devote at least a good part of the day to yourself and your condition. Those who inescapably have to get up and do something can only stay in bed as long as they dare, get up, shave, take a hot bath or shower, (more of this later), breakfast off an unsweetened grapefruit (m.o.t.l.) and coffee, and clear off, with the intention of getting as drunk at lunchtime as they dare.” (Kingsley Amis, The Hangover, Everyday Drinking)
Ahhh, the British. And by the British, I mean those British. Who really in fact resemble the Americans of the same era, what with their lunches of unapologetically multiple martinis. These were less stressed times, at least in some senses, and for some of the people. They were less alcophobic times and places, this much is clear. But we are nothing if not a post-Prohibitionist culture, convulsed at many turns by post-Prohibitionist guilt, which operates at once as would-be barrier and as unintended fuel to our fetishization, our very sacralization, of the spirit. But there goes a rant, and a fine one at that. We’ll save the rest for later.
Returning to the matter at hand: if you wake up with a few hours to spare and feel the onset of a hangover, or perhaps find yourself already well into the early-middle of it, (the telltale dehydration headache that seems to migrate about every part of your skull like a marching band’s drum section gone rogue, its pulses caroming off every wall; the sense you’ve stayed up all night eating cotton balls; the too-thin eyelids; the utter and complete absence of anything resembling poise): consider yourself most fortunate! You have been granted something of a reprieve. Slug a few glasses of water (see step 1 for elaboration). Sip, if necessary, if you fear too much liquid too quickly will make you queasy, but by all means, consume substantial quantities. The minor discomfort of a sloshing belly will be far outweighed by the grand improvement upon your condition when you again awaken.
This moment also offers an excellent opportunity to swallow an ibuprofen or two (check recommended dosages, by all means). If other analgesics are preferable to you, feel free, though beware of those that contain stimulants or cause irritation to the stomach. If you have a bit of bread, a banana, or something equally mild and small, consume it quickly before pitching any kind of pill at your system. It will soften the blow to your digestion, and may make your return to sleep more effortless. The ibuprofen itself, with its dual effects of pain-relief and anti-inflammation, will seem to have infused your constricted, tightly wound system, with space and ease, enough for your precious insides to relax and feel well. Your headache will subside soon, removing another possible barrier to sleep.
Please note: if you find yourself in the habit of regularly dodging a hangover with the help of pain/anti-inflammatory pills, don’t. These may be wonderful remedies, but they’re far from whole or natural foods. There is, I’ve discovered, no Ibuprofen tree. The consequences of prolonged use of these curatives is notoriously rough on the stomach. What’s more, combining them with a regular overindulgence in drink poses serious threats to various organs. The backs of bottles will have told you this much already, but in this context, I feel it bears repetition. If you too often find yourself weighing the dilemma of short-term relief vs. long term wellness, (and I never suggest this lightly, but) you might want to reconsider your relationship with wine and spirits, whether they’re serving you well, or vice-versa.
Then go back to sleep. Your body, replenished with the liquids necessary to resume its purge, will continue to work for you at the accelerated rate achieved only while slumbering. When you reawaken, however you find yourself, you’ll be able to take great comfort in the fact that you might have felt gravely worse.
Up next, Step 3: Purgatorio