If you’ve been a social drinker at any point in your life, you’ve probably experienced the downsides of a night overindulging in alcohol. The dreaded hangover. The reviled puffy eyes. The embarrassing late-night text or phone call. You probably know better than to check your bank account at this point.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve probably also considered taking a dry spell from alcohol for a while. The most common respite that westerners like to take is the dry month, aka Dry July or Sober October. If you’ve ever been on the fence about trying a month of sobriety, here are some reasons to take the plunge into dryness.
The Beauty Benefits
Alcohol is a diuretic that leaches the body of hydration and nutrients. You’ve probably noticed this fact given how often you need to run to the bathroom between multiple drinks. What you may not know is that alcohol also diminishes the production of hormones in the body that help you rehydrate. In other words, you’re going to feel the dehydrating effects of alcohol long after your last drink. Chronic drinkers are known for having persistently flushed faces and possibly jaundice, but even a frequent social drinker can have persistent dry, flaky skin, noticeable wrinkles, and possibly puffy eyes or acne.
Additionally, cutting out the alcohol can help you cut down on the unnecessary calories. Alcohol is sneakily dense in calories, whether it be beer, wine, spirits, or the bag of Taco Bell you scarf down after a night on the town. In fact, one study by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that examined the eating and drinking habits of 22,000 Americans found that alcohol causes people to eat an extra 384 calories per day. In one month that could translate to nearly 12,000 extra calories!
If you’re concerned that alcohol could be leaving your faceless presentable or a couple of extra pounds on the scale, then perhaps a month of sobriety may not be a bad idea.
The Brain Benefits
Brain scans have offered scientists a glimpse into how alcohol impacts the different areas of the brain. Long-term alcohol abuse results in shrinkage of brain tissue, with chronic drinkers exhibiting short-term memory loss and cognitive function difficulties. This shrinkage also occurs with short-term and social drinkers, but only lasts for the duration that alcohol is within the bloodstream.
However, that doesn’t mean short-term and social drinkers are entirely in the clear. Studies on animals have shown that binge drinking for as little as two days in a row can cause some brain cells to die off. The results are even more pronounced in younger animals.
Booze has a reputation for causing droopy eyelids and yawns, but multiple studies have shown that alcohol hurts the quality of your sleep more than it helps it. Ingesting alcohol before bed increases the activity of alpha waves in your brain, meaning you get less restful, restorative sleep time. Studies also consistently show high comorbidity for insomnia and alcoholism with anywhere from 36% to 91% of alcoholics reporting trouble sleeping while drinking. Chronic lapses in quality sleep can lead to all sorts of health problems such as anxiety, depression, obesity, and duller mental acuity.
The Heart Benefits
According to the American Heart Association, consistent, heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure over time and induce irregular heartbeats. Plus, if you’re also consuming more calories and sleeping less, you may increase the level of triglycerides and harmful fats in the bloodstream.
Over time, this can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which could eventually result in a stroke or heart attack. In one study by Harvard, participants who quit alcohol found that their cholesterol fell by an average of 5% over a period of just one month!
You don’t have to wait until Dry July or Sober October rolls around to start a month of sobriety. You can reap the benefits of sobriety at any time, and even if you’ve never had a problem with sleep, dry skin, heart problems, or brain function, you’ll at least save yourself a few bucks and possibly spare yourself a hangover or two.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.
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