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Many people are now trying the one-month, alcohol-free challenge called Dry January. Some do it as their New Year’s resolution. Others stop drinking to detox from too much alcohol consumed over the holidays.
Dry January started as a public health campaign in the U.K. in 2014. The recent one had 6.5 million participants.1
The movement has also become popular in other countries, particularly in the U.S.
In a survey of 15,000 Americans from December 2020, 15% said they would participate in the 2021 Dry January. This figure is higher than the 10% from the previous year.2
Participating in Dry January has many benefits, including:
In a survey that involved 2,200 Americans in January 2021, 79% said the desire to be healthier was their reason for going sober.2
It’s uncertain whether joining Dry January can lead to long-term health problems. However, there is evidence that an entire month of abstinence provides benefits, at least in the short-term.
Among 800 participants who took part in the U.K.’s Dry January in 2018:4
In a 2018 study, 94 moderate-to-heavy drinkers saw improvements in blood pressure, liver function tests, and other health markers after abstaining for a month.5
In a smaller study involving ten people:6
Alcohol is a depressant that can slow down brain activity. It can make you relaxed and drowsy.
However, alcohol can also disrupt sleep quality and duration. Moderate-to-heavy drinking decreases the “restorative” part of sleeping. As a result, drinkers may feel sluggish the next day.7
People with alcohol use disorders often have insomnia. Staying up late at night to drink disrupts a person’s sleeping routine.
Alcohol use can also worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.8
Seventy-one percent of surveyed Dry January participants in 2018 said they slept better.4
Immunity rises first when a healthy person goes on a binge-drinking session. However, it drops 2 to 5 hours later, making the person an easy target for infection.10
Chronic drinkers are also more prone to severe diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who don’t drink too much.3
Ditching alcohol could decrease your caloric intake. Alcoholic drinks contain around 7 calories per gram, which is equivalent to a gram of fat.9
Drinking can also cause you to pick unhealthy foods that go nicely with alcohol. You can even eat beyond the point of fullness.
Fifty-eight percent of surveyed Dry January participants in 2018 reported that they lost weight.4
Eighty percent of surveyed Dry January participants in 2018 feel that they are more in control of their drinking.
Many participants were still drinking less by August, as supported by the following statistics:4, 11
Another interesting fact is that people who drank a lot before Dry January saw a more significant decline in the amount and frequency. This means the one-month hiatus from alcohol provides more benefits to heavy drinkers.
Alcohol is a diuretic. It will cause you to urinate more, making it harder for your body to hydrate itself. Insufficient hydration is one reason for dry skin.
Alcohol can also increase blood sugar and certain hormones, which both can cause acne. Alcoholic toxins also speed up the skin’s aging process.
Fifty-four percent of surveyed Dry January participants in 2018 said their skin got better.4
Whether people choose to drink again or stay sober, Dry January provides them a great way to reflect on their drinking behavior.
Among the surveyed participants of the 2018 Dry January:4
Ensuring a successful Dry January is not easy. There are a lot of temptations, and it’s easier to give up. If you’re taking part in this challenge, here are some tips to help you stick to it:
Total abstinence is not the only goal available for participants. You can choose to limit your drinks to certain days or gradually decrease the amount that you drink.
Having a plan in place will help you reach your goal and enjoy the experience.
Ask people close to you for support. They will hold you accountable. You can also ask them to join you.
There are times, places, and situations that you auto-associate with drinking, for example, Friday nights. Understand what triggers you to drink so you can avoid them.
If you caved into temptation and had a drink in the middle of January, you may feel guilty and think you failed. You might think of abandoning the challenge and drinking again.
Don’t be held by a single setback. You need to bounce back if you failed one time. Reducing your alcohol use is better than not trying at all.
If you’re a heavy drinker and you decide to quit drinking, seek professional help first. Speak with an addiction specialist about your options.
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