I know, I know. It’s a full week into January, and I’m just getting around to posting vaguely about New Year’s Resolutions. But that’s about how things are going right now. So congratulate me for wearing clean (unmatched) socks today, and let’s move on with this super important post that nobody really wants to read but definitely should.
Now, I know you’ve already decided not to read this post just because of the title, but I promise it’s worth it. I have valid reasons for recommending what a lot of people think is just another gimmicky fad based resolution. See Dry January isn’t just for masochists, because science says that skipping the alcohol for a month gives you a slew of health benefits.
And listen, I get it. I too find it very challenging to go a whole month without a celebratory glass of wine just for making it through Tuesday. And you probably don’t know this, but Texas temperatures actually dip into the 30s sometimes. Which leaves me wanting to do nothing but stay inside and drink Glogg, a lovely winter drink made of 95% alcohol and 5% Christmas-smelling spices. So I understand how much you don’t want to give up your Friday afternoon happy hour. But if you want to enjoy those happy hours, and associated shenanigans, for as many years as possible, you should probably take a month off.
As always, you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, let me convince you with the song of my people: boring scientific publications that I’ll paraphrase and make terrible jokes about.
Skipping Alcohol For A Month Improves Liver Function
Not just for frat boys who just finished pledging either. Even regular people who don’t eat three day old pizza they just found under the bed can benefit from an alcohol free month. In a study published last year, researchers assessed the effects of a month without alcohol on 16 men and women who previously consumed between 6 and 12 servings of alcohol per week. At the end of the month, researchers saw statistically significant decreases in enzymes that typically indicate liver disease. So skipping the booze for a month actually allowed these test subjects’ livers to function in a healthier way.
Passing On The Alcohol Improves Sleep
Researchers have done a lot of work trying to figure out exactly how alcohol affects sleep, and I’m sure it was all for the sake of knowledge, y’all. But even on the off chance that it was just a bunch of grad students trying to get government funded beer, we still learned a lot about how alcohol tricks you into thinking it improves sleep and then steals it away like Rumplestiltskin.
According to a study that looked at a bunch of studies on the topic, any dose of alcohol before bed makes you fall asleep faster, but that’s where the benefits stop. In the first few hours after falling asleep, you sleep hard, but after that you wake up super easily, dramatically decreasing the overall amount of sleep you get that night.
To top it off, you get less REM sleep after drinking alcohol, and REM sleep is a biological necessity. In animal studies, rats experience impaired muscle healing, high blood pressure, and memory problems in response to REM sleep deprivation.
So a month without alcohol leaves you free of all to fall asleep a little slower, but get a better quality and higher quantity of sleep overall.
This isn’t science, but if I try to imagine the effect of a month of improved sleep for me – I assume I’d look eighteen again, complete with braces and perpetually pony-tailed hair. Which I really think I’d be ok with if it also reverses my grey hair and the subtle yet obvious fatigue that permanently lives under my eyes now. But let’s get back to this Dry January stuff.
One Dry Month Helps You Lose Weight And Other Stuff!
The University of Sussex recently surveyed 800 people who participated in Dry January, and they reported these benefits:
- Decreased Spending (by not buying alcohol!)
- Increased Energy (probably from all that high quality sleep)
- Weight Loss (I got nothing here – late night wine leads to kitchen dancing for me, and that burns calories)
- Generally Improved Health (decreased stress from saving money + increased energy + weight loss = not rocket science)
Dry January – It’s Only 30 Days!
Listen, it was cold and rainy here last week, and Glogg warms you up all the way down to your bones. If you were sitting in an igloo, and Hannibal Lecter had just poked his head in and said “sleep tight, Clarice,” this stuff would still warm you up. But I skipped it, because I want to see people land on Mars. So I need all those liver-helping, sleep-improving, money-saving benefits you just read about. And you, me, and literally any other human who ever consumes any amount of alcohol can have those benefits by just cutting it out for four weeks.
For those of you who stuck with me all the way through this post, here’s your brief summary of why Dry January, or just taking a 30 day break from alcohol any old time, is a good idea (all backed by science):
- Your liver gets healthier.
- You get better sleep.
- You save money.
- You lose weight.
- You have more energy.
- Your overall health improves.
Alright, that’s it for me this weekend. If you want to tell me I’m crazy and that I’ll pry the wine from your cold, dead body, (1) get in line, and (2) shoot me an email or leave a comment below!
Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash