Dry mouth. Banging headache. Nausea. Dizziness. Depression...sound familiar?
These are all common symptoms of a hangover, an after effect of drinking excessive alcohol. But whether you experience hangovers or not, the presence of booze in your body can cause damage regardless.
Fortunately, we live in 2021, meaning we now have deliciously bold alcohol-free spirits that provide the same sensory experience, without the insufferable morning after. Oh, and there are plenty of other short- and long-term health benefits to going alcohol-free as well!
So whether you’re doing Dry January, you’re “sober-curious”, or simply having a few nights off the booze, we’ve covered some of the alcohol-free benefits you can expect. And in the interest of being prepared, we’ll also explain what happens to your body after 7 days of no alcohol.
Short-term alcohol-free benefits
You may be surprised at how quickly you’ll notice the benefits of going alcohol-free. For example, you may experience the following advantages almost immediately:
Improved sleep and energy
There’s nothing better than waking up after a good night’s sleep.
After drinking alcohol, the soporific effects may help you to fall asleep more easily. That means it can be tempting to drink before an important event. However, as the booze gets metabolised, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase and you’ll experience impaired sleep homeostasis.
One of the best alcohol-free benefits you’ll discover, therefore, is an improved sleep cycle. Without the alcohol-induced disruption to your central nervous system, your energy levels and productivity will increase. Great news for those of us with a big game or business meeting coming up!
No more hangovers
This one may seem obvious but it’s perhaps the most immediate and perceptible benefit of drinking alcohol-free, which acts as powerful motivation. Instead of feeling dizzy and nauseous, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, positive, and productive...if you’ve decided to stay off the booze for good, you’ll never say “Never again” ever again!
Alcohol can impede healthy brain function, leading to memory loss. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can even modify your brain structure, impacting long-term memory and information retention.
By drinking alcohol-free, your neurons will be able to communicate effectively and you’ll be able to remember what a great night you had with your mates. That’s why it’s so important to create a balance. No blackouts, just awesome memories!
Better immune response
Ever gone on a night out with a sniffle and woken up with a full-blown cold? Alcohol can have an immediate impact on your health by reducing its ability to fight infection and damaging the immune cells throughout your body. You’ll likely notice a clear improvement in your immune system when you choose to drink alcohol-free.
If you’ve ever experienced crippling anxiety after a night out on the liquor, then you might be interested to learn that this is because alcohol causes an imbalance in brain chemicals.
By stimulating GABA function and blocking glutamate (both important neurotransmitters), alcohol can relax your mind and reduce social anxiety. However, in response to this imbalance, our bodies go into overdrive in an attempt to put things right. That’s why, “When you stop drinking ... you end up with unnaturally low Gaba function and a spike in glutamate – a situation that leads to anxiety,” says David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London.
What’s more, prolonged alcohol misuse can cause changes in the homeostasis of your brain for weeks, months, even years! Staying off or limiting the booze will maintain a balance in brain chemicals, reducing the likelihood of anxiety and improving your overall mental health.
Healthier skin and weight
Drinking alcohol can affect our appearance in numerous ways, from dehydrating our skin to piling on the weight with those empty calories (not to mention the late-night snacks due to an increased appetite). Reducing alcohol consumption lowers calorie intake and regulates hydration. You’ll most likely make better food choices and will urinate less frequently, which has a significant impact on weight management and skin health.
The long-term benefits of going alcohol-free
The best thing about reducing your alcohol intake is that the benefits keep on coming! Giving up drinking can lower the risk of developing the following alcohol-related diseases:
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Cancer (including breast, bowel, mouth, and liver)
- Liver cirrhosis
- Sexual dysfunction
Of course, there are more than just health benefits. Giving up or limiting your booze intake can leave your wallet fuller, improve athletic performance, and even improve your relationships with your loved ones!
What happens to your body after 7 days of no alcohol?
Depending on how much alcohol you were drinking before going alcohol-free and your state of mind, the first 7 days may produce different results. For example, if you’re used to drinking a lot, then it’s likely that you will feel some negative effects initially, whereas lighter drinkers might not notice much change at all.
Before noticing the short- and long-term benefits listed above, heavy drinkers may experience:
In addition to an imbalance in GABA and glutamate, your body will have depleted levels of dopamine, a mood-enhancing brain chemical. It may take 7 or more days to feel better but remember, the short- and long-term benefits are just around the corner!
As we mentioned earlier, the soporific effect of booze can help us to pass out. Therefore, it’s common to have difficulty sleeping in the first few weeks of being alcohol-free. To mitigate this, we recommend creating a healthy bedtime routine. For example, you could try going to bed at the same time each evening, avoiding screens at least an hour before bed, drinking hot caffeine-free drinks, reading War and Crime, or listening to relaxing music/podcasts.
Overall, after 7 days of no alcohol, you’ll feel a sense of pride for taking control of your life and working your way towards those alcohol-free benefits. Go you!