We’ll give you a hint: Your body is going to love giving up alcohol. Sure, drinking a glass of wine with your friends (even if it’s over a video call) is always a fun time, but drinking on a regular basis can take a toll on your body. This is probably no news to you—there are numerous ugly side effects of drinking alcohol regularly, and it’s common knowledge that drinking less can do your body—and your brain—some good. But what exactly are the side effects of giving up alcohol?
Whether you’ve decided to participate in Dry January, do an alcohol detox, or simply take a break for a while, we’ve done the research to find out what happens to your body when you stop drinking. And get this—it’s all positive. Are you surprised? We’re not! Here are the side effects of giving up alcohol, and for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
While a glass of wine (or two) seems like the right way to relax and get good sleep, in reality, alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep after you drink it. According to the Sleep Foundation, because of the way the alcohol metabolizes in your, the digestion of it can actually disrupt your sleep. That’s because digesting the alcohol can disrupt your REM cycle, causing your deep sleep cycles to only last 40 minutes long instead of 90 to 120 minutes long during a normal evening. This is why you likely feel groggy and tired when getting up in the morning after a few drinks.
By giving up alcohol, you’re allowing your body that good sleep it deserves. Plus, having a good night of sleep is closely tied to better health and weight loss—bad sleep reduces your ability to lose fat by 55%, according to a study published by Annals of Internal Medicine. Seems like a win, win.
Although some people drink alcohol in order to relax and feel better at the moment, as time ticks on, alcohol can actually worsen mental health issues people face including depression and anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association. That’s because alcohol is a depressant, meaning it’s a substance that will calm your nervous system and relax you instead of perking you up and improving your mood (which is called a stimulant, like caffeine).
According to a study published by Behaviour Research and Therapy, regularly consuming something that slows down your cognitive behavior and increases depression and anxiety won’t leave you feeling your best. By giving up alcohol for a while, you’ll notice your mood significantly increase because of it.
Add onto that good mood with these 50 Foods That Boost Your Mood.
Along with being a depressant, alcohol is an inflammatory substance, which means your body will experience swelling after you consume it. Having a “beer belly” is commonly thrown around as a joke, but there’s actually a lot of scientific truth behind it. According to Healthline, drinking regularly—especially wine coolers or cocktails that are loaded with added sugars—can cause uncomfortable gas and belly bloat.
So what happens when you decide you’re giving up alcohol for a while? Your body won’t be as bloated, which can cause a decrease in weight. When your body isn’t in a constant state of inflammation, your body won’t experience weight gain and can in fact lose any weight from being constantly inflamed.
It makes sense, right? By not consuming a regular depressant that can slow down your cognitive behavior, you’re giving your body and brain a chance to focus better on the tasks that need to get done. We know that alcohol can relax us and slow us down—like consuming any depressant would—so it’s common knowledge that you won’t be able to focus as clearly as you would without a drink.
On the other hand, you may be surprised to learn that the moments after drinking can actually cause impairments in your focus as well. Researches at the Swinburne University of Technology found in a study that people who have hangovers experienced reduced brain function. The bigger the hangover, the harder it was for a study participant to concentrate.
By clearing alcohol out of your system, you’re giving your brain a chance to really focus well. Even the slightest hangover can cause your brain function to decrease. Although a few glasses of wine on Sunday night sounds like a good idea, it may not do your brain any favors when you’re off to work on Monday morning.
One study published by BMC Public Health states that people who drink more are more likely to eat unhealthy snacks, like convenience foods and sugary beverages. This makes sense, right? After a few drinks, a snack from the convenience store or a plate of french fries does sound appealing. That’s because, along with cognitive impairment while you’re drinking, the neurons in the front of your brain that deal with hunger is activated when under the influence, according to a study published by Nature.
So by giving up alcohol, your body is less likely to crave those unhealthy snacks on a regular basis. Sure, you may have a sugar craving every now and then that a portioned bar of chocolate can easily fix. But by giving up alcohol (or consuming way less of it during the week), the science shows that you’re more likely to stay on track with your health goals for the long term.