Hangover Shakes: Causes and Treatments

Discover the causes and treatments of hangover shakes. Uncover remedies, prevention tips, and recovery factors for a smooth morning after!

Published On

July 6, 2024

Understanding Hangover Shakes

Hangover shakes, also known as tremors, are a common symptom experienced by individuals after consuming alcohol. These shakes can manifest as involuntary trembling or quivering of various body parts, such as the hands, fingers, arms, eyes, head, and voice. The severity and duration of these shakes can vary depending on factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed and individual body composition.

Symptoms of Hangover Shakes

In addition to tremors, hangover shakes are often accompanied by a range of other symptoms. Some common hangover symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, night sweats, thirst, dizziness, dry mouth, and stomach pains. It's important to note that while hangover shakes are a common occurrence, shaking after drinking alcohol can also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as delirium tremens and alcoholism.

Causes of Hangover Shakes

The mechanism behind hangover shakes is multifaceted, involving temporary changes to neurotransmitter activity and low blood sugar levels. Alcohol acts as a nervous system depressant, and when its consumption is stopped, the nervous system can become overexcited, leading to withdrawal symptoms, including tremors. The neurotransmitter changes that occur during alcohol consumption and withdrawal contribute to the development of hangover shakes.

Furthermore, low blood sugar levels, which can result from alcohol's impact on the body's glucose regulation, can contribute to shakiness during a hangover. When blood sugar levels drop, it can lead to symptoms such as tremors and shakiness [2].

Understanding the symptoms and causes of hangover shakes is important for individuals who experience these tremors after consuming alcohol. It's crucial to differentiate between common hangover shakes and more serious conditions, seeking professional help if necessary. Managing the symptoms and treating hangover shakes will be explored further in the subsequent sections of this article.

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

To understand the underlying causes of hangover shakes, it's important to examine the effects of alcohol on the body. Alcohol is a toxic substance that the body needs to process and eliminate. When alcohol is consumed, the body goes through various physiological changes to handle its presence.

Toxicity of Alcohol

Alcohol is toxic to our bodies, and when it is metabolized, it is converted into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance at high levels. The liver is primarily responsible for metabolizing alcohol and eliminating it from the body. However, excessive alcohol consumption can overwhelm the liver's capacity, leading to a buildup of acetaldehyde and other toxic byproducts in the bloodstream.

Impact on Nervous System

Alcohol has a significant impact on the nervous system. It acts as a depressant, slowing down brain activity and suppressing the central nervous system. This can result in various effects, including impaired coordination, reduced reaction time, and decreased cognitive function.

During alcohol consumption, communication between the brain and the kidneys is disrupted, leading to increased urination and mild dehydration. This dehydration can contribute to symptoms commonly associated with hangovers, such as thirst, fatigue, and headache.

Additionally, alcohol affects the gastrointestinal system. It stimulates the production of stomach acid and impairs normal stomach emptying, leading to symptoms like stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Alcohol can also disrupt sleep patterns. While it may initially induce drowsiness, it ultimately disrupts sleep cycles, resulting in less deep and restorative sleep. This can lead to feeling poorly rested upon waking.

Hangover Shakes

Temporary changes to neurotransmitter activity and low blood sugar contribute to the presence of hangover shakes. Hangover shakes are tremors that some people experience after they stop drinking alcohol, typically in the hands and fingers, making fine motor tasks more challenging.

Alcohol acts as a nervous system depressant, and when alcohol consumption is stopped, it can lead to overexcitement in the nervous system, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors. Chronic alcohol use can also result in alcohol-related brain damage, such as cerebellar tremors, which cause shaking at the end of purposeful movements in the arms, hands, legs, or feet.

Understanding the effects of alcohol on the body helps shed light on the mechanisms behind hangover shakes. It's important to note that the duration of hangover shakes and symptoms can vary based on factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed, individual metabolism, and overall health. If hangover shakes persist or worsen, it is advisable to seek professional help, as they can be a warning sign of more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms [2].

Mechanisms Behind Hangover Shakes

Hangover shakes, also known as alcohol tremors or alcohol shakes, refer to the involuntary trembling or shivering of the body that can occur after excessive alcohol consumption. These shakes typically manifest as shaky hands, quivering limbs, or a general feeling of tremors throughout the body. The mechanisms behind hangover shakes involve neurotransmitter changes and blood sugar levels.

Neurotransmitter Changes

The shakes experienced during a hangover may be related to changes in the nervous system associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Alcohol acts as a nervous system depressant, and when alcohol consumption is stopped, the nervous system can become overexcited, leading to withdrawal symptoms such as tremors. These changes involve alterations in the receptors for neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity, while glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that promotes brain activity.

During alcohol consumption, the receptors for GABA increase, leading to a sedative effect. However, when alcohol leaves the body, there is a decrease in GABA receptors and an increase in glutamate receptors. This imbalance in the central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system can contribute to hangover symptoms, including shakes, tremors, sweating, and increased heart rate.

Blood Sugar Levels

Low blood sugar levels can also contribute to hangover shakes. Alcohol impacts the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to fluctuations in glucose levels. This can result in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can contribute to symptoms like shaking during a hangover.

Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the balance of electrolytes in the body and lead to dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, increasing urine production and causing fluid loss. This fluid loss can result in dehydration and the loss of essential electrolytes and minerals. An electrolyte imbalance can further contribute to the development of hangover symptoms, including shakes [4].

To manage hangover shakes, it's important to address the underlying causes. Staying hydrated, replenishing electrolytes, and consuming balanced meals can help regulate blood sugar levels and alleviate symptoms. Additionally, seeking medical attention for severe or persistent hangover symptoms is advisable, as it may indicate a more serious condition or require professional intervention [4].

Duration and Recovery

Understanding the duration of hangover shakes and the factors that contribute to recovery is essential for managing the aftermath of alcohol consumption.

Duration of Hangover Shakes

The duration of hangover shakes can vary depending on several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed and individual differences in metabolism. The body typically metabolizes alcohol at a rate of approximately one drink per hour, with no way to speed up this process or shorten hangover recovery time [2].

Hangover symptoms, including shakes, usually begin a few hours after alcohol consumption stops and peak when blood alcohol concentration reaches zero. The effects of a hangover, including shakes, can last up to 24 hours after the alcohol has left the body. However, it's important to note that individual experiences may vary, and factors such as alcohol tolerance, hydration levels, and overall health can influence the duration of hangover shakes.

Recovery Factors

Several factors contribute to the recovery process from hangover shakes. By understanding these factors, individuals can take steps to alleviate symptoms and promote a quicker recovery.

  • Hydration: Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which can exacerbate hangover symptoms. Staying hydrated by drinking water or electrolyte-rich beverages can help alleviate shakes and other hangover-related discomforts.
  • Nutrition: Consuming a balanced meal or snack can provide essential nutrients that support the body's recovery process. Opting for foods that are easy to digest, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help replenish depleted nutrients and stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Rest and Sleep: Resting and getting adequate sleep can aid in the recovery from hangover shakes. Giving the body time to recover and rejuvenate can alleviate fatigue and promote overall well-being.
  • Avoiding Further Alcohol Consumption: While it may be tempting to consume more alcohol as a perceived remedy for hangover shakes, it is crucial to avoid this. Continued alcohol consumption can prolong the recovery process and worsen hangover symptoms.

It's important to note that the duration of hangover shakes can vary from person to person. Factors such as alcohol consumption, body composition, and overall health play a role in the intensity and duration of symptoms [5]. If hangover symptoms persist or worsen, it may be necessary to seek professional medical advice.

Managing hangover shakes involves taking steps to alleviate symptoms, promoting a healthy recovery, and practicing responsible alcohol consumption. By understanding the duration and recovery factors associated with hangover shakes, individuals can better navigate the aftermath of alcohol consumption and prioritize their well-being.

Managing Hangover Shakes

Experiencing hangover shakes can be uncomfortable and distressing, but there are steps you can take to manage and alleviate the symptoms. This section will provide some prevention tips and remedies to help you cope with hangover shakes.

Prevention Tips

The best way to prevent hangover shakes is to moderate your alcohol consumption or abstain from drinking altogether. Drinking in moderation is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, according to the Mayo Clinic. By pacing yourself and keeping track of your alcohol intake, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing hangover symptoms, including shakes.

It's important to note that certain factors can contribute to the severity of hangovers. Dark-colored alcoholic beverages, such as brandy and bourbon, contain higher levels of congeners, compounds that are more likely to produce or worsen hangovers. Opting for clear liquors like vodka and gin, which have lower congener content, may help minimize hangover symptoms [6].

Remedies and Treatments

While prevention is key, if you find yourself experiencing hangover shakes, there are remedies and treatments that may provide relief. It's important to keep in mind that these remedies may help alleviate symptoms, but they won't cure a hangover.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Hydration: Consuming alcohol can lead to dehydration, contributing to hangover symptoms. Replenishing your body with fluids is crucial. Water, sports drinks, and electrolyte-rich beverages can help restore hydration levels and alleviate shakes.
  • Carbohydrate intake: Low blood sugar levels can exacerbate hangover symptoms, including shakes. Consuming easily digestible carbohydrates, such as toast, crackers, or fruits, can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and provide you with energy.
  • Avoid pain relievers: While you may be tempted to reach for pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, it's important to consult a healthcare professional before taking them. These medications can have adverse effects on the stomach and liver, especially when combined with alcohol.
  • Stimulation: Some individuals find relief from hangover shakes by consuming caffeine through coffee or tea. However, it's important to remember that caffeine is a diuretic and can contribute to dehydration. Moderation is key.
  • Supplements: Taking B vitamins and zinc supplements may help support your body's recovery from a hangover. However, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements.
  • Avoid the "hair of the dog" approach: While it may seem tempting to have another drink to alleviate hangover symptoms, this approach only perpetuates the cycle of alcohol consumption and can potentially worsen your symptoms.

Remember, the severity and duration of hangover shakes can vary from person to person. If your symptoms persist or worsen, it's important to seek medical attention. Additionally, individuals with a family history of alcoholism may experience more severe hangovers.

Risks and Considerations

When it comes to hangover shakes, it's important to be aware of the potential risks and considerations associated with alcohol consumption. Understanding these factors can help individuals make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Two key aspects to consider are the effects of alcohol consumption and the importance of seeking professional help when necessary.

Alcohol Consumption Effects

Excessive alcohol consumption can have a range of negative effects on the body, including the occurrence of hangover shakes. While hangover shakes are often temporary and subside within a day (Mayo Clinic), they can also be a warning sign of more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens (DT).

Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can be life-threatening. Seeking early diagnosis and treatment is crucial, as it can significantly decrease the mortality rate from 37% to less than 5% [2].

Seeking Professional Help

In some cases, hangover shakes can be symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. If hangover shakes persist for an extended period, lasting longer than 24 hours, or if other severe withdrawal symptoms such as mental confusion, hallucinations, or seizures occur, it is advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional [5].

Prolonged or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms require professional management and guidance to ensure the individual's well-being. Healthcare professionals can provide appropriate interventions, monitor the individual's condition, and offer support throughout the recovery process.

When experiencing prolonged hangover shakes or any concerns about potential alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to promptly seek advice from a healthcare professional. This proactive approach helps address any potential issues related to alcohol withdrawal syndrome and ensures that the individual receives the necessary support and care.

Being aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption and understanding the importance of seeking professional help when needed are crucial steps in promoting overall well-being and making informed decisions regarding alcohol use. Remember, if you have concerns or experience symptoms that go beyond the typical effects of a hangover, do not hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional for guidance and support.


[1]: https://www.rehabguide.co.uk/hangover-shakes/

[2]: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hangover-shakes

[3]: https://www.webmd.com/balance/hangover-cure

[4]: https://www.townsendla.com/blog/hangover-shakes

[5]: https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/hangover-shakes

[6]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hangovers/symptoms-causes/syc-20373012

[7]: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/7-steps-to-cure-your-hangover

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