June 16, 2022

Benefits of cutting down on alcohol

Couple having alcohol free fun

Our relationship with alcohol is starting to change in Australia.

Events such as Dry July and Feb Fast encourage taking a month-long break from alcohol, while also raising awareness and funds for important causes.

It’s becoming more common for people to reduce, or stop, drinking alcohol – maybe for health reasons, as part of a lifestyle change or just out of curiosity.

Whatever your reason, the good news is there are great benefits to dialling back your drinking.

Giving up alcohol for one month can also lead to some longer-term changes.1

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top benefits, just in time for Dry July.

1. Better sleep

When you cut down, or cut out alcohol, your sleep quality is one of the first things to improve.1

Although alcohol can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it also disrupts your sleep. Excessive (binge) drinking especially will affect your sleep, even if it’s only occasional.2

And, poor sleep has a flow on effect on your mood and overall mental and physical health.

Falling asleep without alcohol means you won’t wake up so often and you’ll have a more restorative deep sleep. With that comes better mood, concentration, creativity, productivity and mental performance.

2. More energy

This really follows on from improved sleep – if you sleep soundly then you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, with more energy for the day.

Even one drink during the afternoon or evening can interrupt your sleep, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.3 That’s because alcohol is a diuretic – it removes fluid from your body – and one of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue.3

Half our body weight is made up of water, so we need proper hydration to thrive.

Remember, thirst is not your body’s first sign of dehydration. It’s usually fatigue, headaches, lack of strength and inability to focus.4

Keeping your liquid intake up ensures your body thrives. Reaching for a glass of water instead of a wine or beer can help you hydrate and in turn boost your energy.

3. More money

One of the unexpected bonuses of drinking less is saving money.5

In fact, based on what you drink, how much, and how often, the savings can be significant.

In 2020, the average Australian household spent around $1,900 a year on alcohol ($32 per week).6

You may also find that you’re saving money in other areas such as reducing Ubers and taxis, online purchases while intoxicated, and food on the way home.7

4. Improved memory

Alcohol affects brain functioning, so reducing the amount you drink can help improve memory.

Even drinking moderate amounts can cause shrinkage of the part of the brain (hippocampus) that controls memory and learning.8

The good news is this starts to reverse within six weeks of cutting out alcohol .The brain fog lifts and is replaced with better focus, attention, learning and memory.9

5. Better immunity

Reducing your alcohol intake is a great way to boost your immunity.

Alcohol reduces various immune responses including white blood cell production which the body needs to fight bacteria and germs.10 It’s also associated with increased risk of getting bacterial and viral lung infections.11

So, by giving up alcohol you’re also supporting your body’s natural defence against infections and viruses. And, this can assist recovery from infections, wounds or injuries.12

6. Improved overall physical and mental health

Drinking less or quitting alcohol isn’t always easy, but you’re likely to see improvements to your physical and mental health.

We’ve touched on a few of the benefits that start to kick in in the first days, weeks and months of reducing or stopping drinking.

There are plenty of longer-term benefits as well, including reducing your risk of stroke, heart attack, liver disease and cancer.

And if you’re pregnant or planning on getting pregnant you can reduce the risk of serious health problems for your newborn too.

By reducing your drinking you might see improvements in your skin.13 You may also find it easier to lose weight, if that’s a personal goal of yours.14, 15

With better sleep, improved energy and clearer thinking, your mental health can get a boost when you give up alcohol. Giving up can also improve negative emotions such as anxiety, and reduce the symptoms of common mental health conditions6.

Getting help to cut back on alcohol

If you’re concerned about how much you drink, or would like help to cut back or stop your drinking:

  1. de Visser RO, Piper R. Short- and Longer-Term Benefits of Temporary Alcohol Abstinence During 'Dry January' Are Not Also Observed Among Adult Drinkers in the General Population: Prospective Cohort Study. Alcohol Alcohol. 2020;55(4):433-8.
  2. Park SY, Oh MK, Lee BS, Kim HG, Lee WJ, Lee JH, et al. The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean J Fam Med. 2015;36(6):294-9.
  3. Harvard Health. Alcohol and Fatigue - Sedative effects of drinking can also initiate other physical responses in the body [Accessed 30 November 2021].
  4. MedlinePlus. Dehydration [Accessed 30 November 2021].
  5. DrinkAware. Alcohol and aggression [Accessed 7 December 2021].
  6. Jiann BP. Effect of Alcohol Consumption on the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction. Urological Science. 2010;21(4):163-8.
  7. Kling JM, Sidhu K, Rullo J, Mara KC, Frohmader Hilsaca KS, Kapoor E, et al. Association Between Alcohol Use and Female Sexual Dysfunction From the Data Registry on Experiences of Aging, Menopause, and Sexuality (DREAMS). Sexual Medicine. 2019;7(2):162-8.
  8. Al-Jefri K, Newbury-Birch D, Muirhead CR, Gilvarry E, Araújo-Soares V, Reynolds NJ, et al. High prevalence of alcohol use disorders in patients with inflammatory skin diseases. Br J Dermatol. 2017;177(3):837-44.
  9. Goodman GD, Kaufman J, Day D, Weiss R, Kawata AK, Garcia JK, et al. Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(8):28-39.
  10. Sumi M, Hisamatsu T, Fujiyoshi A, Kadota A, Miyagawa N, Kondo K, et al. Association of Alcohol Consumption With Fat Deposition in a Community-Based Sample of Japanese Men: The Shiga Epidemiological Study of Subclinical Atherosclerosis (SESSA). J Epidemiol. 2019;29(6):205-12.
  11. Schrieks IC, Stafleu A, Griffioen-Roose S, de Graaf C, Witkamp RF, Boerrigter-Rijneveld R, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption stimulates food intake and food reward of savoury foods. Appetite. 2015;89:77-83.
  12. Manton E. Alcohol and Obesity: A systematic review scoping study. Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education; 2013.
  13. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Canberra: AIHW; 2021.
  14. Topiwala A, Allan CL, Valkanova V, Zsoldos E, Filippini N, Sexton C, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 2017;357:j2353.
  15. Ridley NJ, Draper B, Withall A. Alcohol-related dementia: an update of the evidence. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy. 2013;5(1):3.
  16. Brand RM, Stottlemyer JM, Cline RA, Donahue C, Behari J, Falo LD, Jr. Skin Immunization Obviates Alcohol-Related Immune Dysfunction. Biomolecules. 2015;5(4):3009-28.
  17. Testino G. Are Patients With Alcohol Use Disorders at Increased Risk for Covid-19 Infection? Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2020;55(4):344-6.
  18. Sarkar D, Jung MK, Wang HJ. Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):153-5.
  19. Health AIo, Welfare. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Canberra: AIHW; 2021.

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