man's hand refusing a beer

The start of the new year means an end to all the holiday celebrations, eating and drinking. As some have taken to New Year's resolutions, many Americans use the month of January as a self-imposed break from alcohol.

“Dry January,” as it's known, has become a way to hit the reset button in the new year.

Katren Tyler, professor of Emergency Medicine and associate director of the UC Davis Health Emergency Medicine residency program, is participating in Dry January with her husband.

“The purpose of Dry January is not deprivation or punishment," Tyler said. "It’s just good to reset some habits and see how you feel after making a change."

A change like eliminating alcohol can help provide a new perspective, said Julie Weckstein, licensed clinical social worker at UC Davis Health.

“Not drinking for a month can give people a perspective on what feels different," Weckstein said. "It may be that they sleep better, their workouts are stronger, their energy at work increases or they have less fights with their spouse."

Here are five health benefits of cutting alcohol to start the new year:

  1. Weight loss: One of many reasons to avoid alcohol consumption is the unwanted calories resulting weight gain. This can lead to other health conditions if consumed in excess.

    “When you drink alcohol, you immediately shift your metabolism from burning energy to storing energy – in other words, storing more fat," UC Davis Health registered dietitian Alex Nella said. "If your goal in 2020 is to lose weight, burn more fat, or show off your abs, ditching alcohol is a step in the right direction."

    One alternative? UC Davis Health registered dietitian Staci Collins recommends replacing alcoholic beverages with healthier choices such as fruit-infused water.
  2. Better sports performance: “Although it’s a drink, alcohol dehydrates you," UC Davis Health professor of Sports Medicine Brandee Waite said. "So it's easier to have good recovery and better performance when you are fully hydrated – without alcohol."
  3. Better sleep: Alcohol has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and reduce REM sleep, which is the most restorative phase of sleep.

    “Consumption of alcohol is associated with a variety of sleep-wake cycle disorders,” said Nicholas Kenyon, professor and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UC Davis Health. "Insomnia and sleep apnea are two common sleep disorders that are strongly associated with alcohol."
  4. Better sex: Drinking too much alcohol can dampen your love life. “Being alcohol free improves libido and sexual function,” said Brian Davis, professor of Sports Medicine at UC Davis Health.
  5. Longer livespan: "Drinking imposes a surprisingly high cost on society," said Luther Arms, an Internal Medicine and Psychiatry resident. He is working on a hospital-wide quality improvement project to increase medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorders.

    "Excessive alcohol consumption accounts for 1 in 10 deaths in the U.S. and is estimated to account for $28 billion in health care expenditures, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Arms said. "That doesn't include the legal and motor vehicle costs or those costs associated with lost workplace productivity."

So, does this sound doable for you? It might be worth trying out to see if it helps improve your quality of life and allows for a reset in 2020.