The simple way to avoid a hangover is not to drink. While that method is fine for some, for many others it's missing the point.

Perhaps a more realistic option is to find ways of enjoying a few drinks and having a good time without facing the full repercussions in the morning.

Health experts say the most effective method is to try and drink as much water and non-alcoholic drinks as possible on the night.

Even better, if you can manage it, is to drink as much water as you can before you go to bed.

John Peters, a GP based in Horsham, said: "Alcohol dehydrates you so getting as much water as possible inside you will make a lot of difference.

"It can be difficult to manage but really does work and is so simple. People might think having a cup of coffee 'to sober up' before they go to bed will help but, actually, coffee also dehydrates and could make things worse.

"Other tips are to eat something before you go out so you are not tempted by the free, salty snacks such as crisps and nuts put out in pubs to encourage people to drink more."

Alcoholic drinks consist mainly of flavoured water and ethyl alcohol (ethanol).

They are made by the fermentation of fruits, vegetables or grains.

Beer, lager and cider are usually about one part ethanol to 20 parts water although some brands may be twice as strong as others.

Wine is about twice to four times as strong and distilled spirits such as whisky, rum and gin are about half water and half ethanol.

The unit of alcohol measure is used to determine medical guidelines as to what are supposed to be safe levels of drinking for men and women per week. Safe drinking limits are given as daily maximums.

Authorities recommend men drink no more than three to four units a day and women no more than two to three units a day.

It is also suggested that having one or two alcoholfree days per week is wise.

Most standard 700ml bottles of whisky, vodka and rum have a 40 per cent strength and contain 25-30 units of alcohol.

Most wines are produced at a strength of between ten to 13 per cent in a standard 750ml bottle, containing seven to ten units of alcohol.

Wines from hotter climates such as Italy and California tend to be stronger at 12 to 13 per cent while those from cooler climates such as Germany are usually eight to ten per cent.

A regular pub glass (125ml) of 12 per cent wine is the equivalent of roughly 1.5 units. Sherry is usually 15 to 20 per cent giving about 13 to 14 units of alcohol for a typical 750ml bottle.

Cider varies in strength from low-alcohol varieties such as Strongbow LA at 0.9 per cent up to white ciders at 8.4 per cent.

Bottles usually contain 330ml, cans 440ml. A can of one of the stronger ciders contains around 2.5 to 3.5 units of alcohol.

The most popular types of bitter are around 3.5 to 4.1 per cent, giving around two to 2.25 units for a pint and 1.5 to 1.75 units for a 440 ml can.

Like bitter, many popular lagers are around 3.5 to four per cent, providing 1.5 to 1.75 units in a 440ml can and two to 2.25 units in a pint.

The most common symptoms of a hangover include headache, muscle cramps, thirst, dizziness, fatigue and nausea.

Although the most obvious link to the severity of a hangover is the amount of alcohol drunk, there are other factors to consider.

Some types of alcohol have more components added to give colour and flavour which can have a stronger effect on the body.

Red wine can cause a thumping headache even when relatively little is drunk while the impact of white wine is less strong.

Hangover cures tend to range from hair-of-the-dog to a full English breakfast but the most basic is painkillers and water or speciallydesigned products such as Resolve which are less likely to upset the stomach.

A natural alternative is to try out supplements such as Cynara Artichoke which help the body break down and eliminate alcohol.