A glass of wine after work, beers with mates, champagne to celebrate and a shot or two on a night out - so far so normal? It's surprisingly easy to slip into a habit of drinking more than intended.
With the recommended weekly allowance of 14 units a week, equivalent to six medium glasses of wine, or seven pints of beer, the drinks soon add up with one in five of us (25-34s) consuming above and beyond our weekly allowance in one night*. This figure is likely to be even higher. Experts comment that statistics like this should be taken with a pinch of salt, skewed by people consciously or unconsciously underestimating their alcohol consumption.
If you've been thinking about trying to Go Sober for October, the good news is the benefits of giving up alcohol for a month (or longer) extend far beyond a break from hangovers. To start with, not drinking for one month can lead to a long-term drop in alcohol consumption, according to research by Sussex University. They found that 72% of participants had maintained reduced levels of harmful drinking six months after completing the study*.
1. Better Sleep
Regular drinking disrupts your sleep cycle. Whilst that nightcap might help you drift off to sleep quicker, as the night goes on you'll spend more time in the less restful REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep making you feel tired in the morning no matter how long you sleep for. Cutting out alcohol increases the time you'll spend in deep sleep helping you to wake up feeling rested and ready for the day ahead.
2. Better Skin
Turning down drinks helps your skin recover from the dehydrating effects of alcohol and means your body can absorb more vitamin A, increasing cell turnover and keeping your skin looking healthier and younger! A spell of sobriety also helps your skin recover from the dehydrating effects of alcohol, which can give it an unhealthy texture and colour - often causing redness or rosea.
3. More Money
79% of Dry January participants said they saved money after taking a month of drinking & doing the maths, if you usually spend £30 a week on a bottle of wine and a night of cocktails with friends you'll save £1,560 in a year. Hello holiday to Bali!
4. Weight Loss
Hidden calories in that glass of wine or celebratory cocktail are significant, with an average of over 300 calories in half a bottle of wine. But it's not just the calories that impact weight loss whilst drinking; alcohol reduces your metabolism as your body burns off alcohol first, with this process taking priority over absorbing nutrients and burning fat. If you cut the drinking habit (and don't replace it with cake) you will lose weight.
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*Sources: British Medical Journal, Office for National Statistics' Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain 2013, Drink Aware, Alcohol Concern, YouGov Dry January Pol, Public Health England, Sussex UniversitySuggest a correction