After a holiday season’s worth of celebrations and overindulgences, many Americans are using the month of January to take a self-imposed break from alcohol.
“Dry January,” as it is known, has become one way to hit the reset button.
Katren Tyler, professor of emergency medicine and associate director of the UC Davis emergency medicine residency program, is participating in Dry January with her husband. She has challenged emergency medicine faculty, fellows and residents to join her this month.
“The purpose is not deprivation or punishment. It’s just good to reset some habits and to see how you feel after making a change,” said Tyler, who tried a Dry January a couple of years ago and had a good experience.
Making a change like this 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 – it may be that they sleep better, that their workouts are stronger, that their energy at work increases or that they have less fights with their spouse,” Weckstein said.
By taking a sober approach to the new year, the health benefits include:
- Weight loss. One of the many reasons to avoid alcohol consumption is the unwanted calories and resulting weight gain, which 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. 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,” said UC Davis registered dietitian Alex Nella. One alternative? UC Davis registered dietitian Staci Collins recommends replacing alcoholic beverages with healthier choices such as fruit-infused water.
- Better sports performance. “Although it’s a drink, alcohol dehydrates you so it's easier to have good recovery and better performance when you are fully hydrated,” said Brandee Waite, professor of sports medicine at UC Davis Health. “Without alcohol, it is easier for the body to stay fully hydrated.”
- 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. Insomnia and sleep apnea are two common sleep disorders that are strongly associated with alcohol,” said Nicholas Kenyon, professor and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at UC Davis Health.
- 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.
- A longer life. "Drinking imposes a surprisingly high cost on society. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption accounts for 1 in 10 deaths in the United States and is estimated to account for $28B in health care expenditures. And that doesn't include the legal and motor vehicle costs or those costs associated with lost workplace productivity,” said Luther Arms, internal medicine and psychiatry resident, who is working on a hospital-wide quality improvement project to increase medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorders.