In college, we’d stay out until 2 a.m. and wake up for an 8 a.m. lecture with hardly a headache. Now, a few drinks the night before plus an early wake-up call is a recipe for cotton-mouthed, head-pounding disaster.
No, you’re not just imagining it: Mornings after are getting worse as you get older. The culprit (besides too much tequila): your slowing metabolism, the source of most age-related tricks and fun.
Breaking It Down
There’s a reason you always felt pretty great in college—biologically, we’re operating at peak capacity, says Constance Scharff, Ph.D., director of addiction research at Cliffside Malibu, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in California. We can treat our bodies as less than a temple and bounce back pretty quickly.
But as we get older, our bodies become less and less efficient, Scharff says. Your metabolism plays a big role in working alcohol through your liver, and, based on your DNA and diet, it starts slowing down over time. So while your liver may have been able to clear alcohol’s byproducts out of your system in an hour or two in your early 20s, as you age, it takes more and more time (how long exactly depends on the individual).
The science behind hangovers is still pretty hazy, Scharff says, but it comes down to our mitochondria easing up as we age. Essentially, the fewer “oxidative enzymes” you have (which mitochondria use to get rid of acetaldehyde and acetate, the toxins alcohol deposits in your bloo…