Alcohol has a way of sneaking up on you. A glass of wine easily turns into two, and once a week can turn into a nightly habit if you stick words like “moderation” and “social” on it. And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that! But…have you ever considered what it might look like to drink less alcohol? Or cut it out altogether?
You might have wondered if you would eat healthier were you not under the influence of alcohol several nights a week. Maybe you’ve thought you’d be more productive with a clearer mind at night – perhaps you could read or pursue a new hobby if your brain didn’t feel so fuzzy.
I decided to research exactly what happens when you drink less alcohol and frankly, my mind was pretty blown. One of the benefits even made me consider cutting out alcohol altogether! (See if you can tell which one…I’ll share at the end!)
You’ll sleep better when you drink less alcohol.
While alcohol might help you to fall asleep initially, it will also ensure your sleep is spotty at best. That’s because, according to Jason Ellis, Director of Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, alcohol disrupts two very important components of your sleep cycle – slow-wave sleep, which is responsible for making you feel physically refreshed, and REM sleep, which is responsible for your mental restoration. And as if that wasn’t enough, alcohol also increases your chances of waking up throughout the night, as well as having a more difficult time falling back asleep.
You’ll have more energy when you drink less alcohol.
And it’s not just a better night’s sleep that will lead to increased energy the next day. Without alcohol’s negative effects on your mood or interference with your immune system function, you’ll notice you have more of a pep in your step without it.
You’ll get sick less often when you drink less alcohol.
Just one instance of over-drinking can weaken your immune system for up to 24 hours, starting just 20 minutes after you take your first drink. Add up those effects over time and you can blunt immune system function, as well as your body’s ability to repair itself.
You’ll have a happier tummy when you drink less alcohol.
Alcohol causes your stomach to increase acid production. This leads to a whole host of issues, including inflammation, indigestion, and diarrhea. It can worsen symptoms for those suffering from IBS and is one of the leading causes of bowel cancer!
You’ll have a healthier liver when you drink less alcohol.
Alcohol is one of the many toxins your liver works to filter. Heavy drinking (15+ drinks a week for men, 8+ for women) exhausts your liver and can lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and more.
The good news is that you can help to reverse this damage! Studies show going dry for just one month can decrease the amount of fat in your liver by as much as 15%.
You’ll improve skin health and appearance when you drink less alcohol.
Between interfering with a solid night’s sleep (Hello, under-eye bags!), damaging collagen in our skin, and dehydrating us, you’d think alcohol would have done enough damage. But wait, there’s more!
Alcohol also increases blood flow and blood vessel dilation. This can leave your skin looking puffy, red, and blotchy even days after drinking!
You’ll experience improved health and longevity when you drink less alcohol.
Here’s a scary statistic! According to the National Cancer Institute, having even one drink a day (or seven drinks a week) increases your risk of developing breast, esophageal, and oral cancers. Keep in mind that’s one serving, not the big glasses we tend to pour ourselves. Drinking less will reduce your risk of developing cancer and heart and liver diseases.
Bonus: it could help to lower your blood pressure too! And that all leads to a longer life expectancy.
You’ll avoid weight gain when you drink less alcohol.
Not only does alcohol offer empty calories at around 120-150 calories per serving, but it also slows down your metabolism and ramps up your appetite. Add that to the fact you have less impulse control when you’re drinking, and you’ll likely find yourself adding some additional calories in the form of late-night munchies.
You’ll experience improved mental health when you drink less alcohol.
While many people drink to deal with feelings of stress or anxiety, alcohol tends to have the opposite effect. Excessive alcohol interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brain and lowers levels of serotonin responsible for regulating our mood. That means drinking can make you feel worse in the moment and contribute to mental health issues down the road.
You’ll experience clearer thinking when you drink less alcohol.
Alcohol negatively affects your concentration and ability to work efficiently. It also makes thinking clearly and remembering things more challenging due to its effect on your hippocampus, the part of the brain largely responsible for learning and memory.
I know what you’re thinking – of course, no one can think clearly after a few drinks! But actually, research shows having five or more drinks in one night affects your cognitive function for up to three days later. Drink regularly for long enough, and you’ll even experience issues perceiving distances and volumes and reading other people’s emotions.
You’ll save money when you drink less alcohol.
Let’s not forget that alcohol costs money, maybe even lots of money depending on what and how much you drink. Want to put it in perspective? Figure out how much you’re spending on alcohol per week, then multiply that number times 52 to find your yearly investment. Even if you’re only spending $10 a week on a bottle of wine, that’s $520 every year!
Some people consider alcohol the cost of entertainment and I can see that to an extent. But seeing that you have that much money a year, would you rather spend it on alcohol? Or maybe something more fun or rewarding?
Could you tell which benefit made me consider cutting out alcohol altogether? If you guessed that just one drink a night increases your risk of developing cancer, you’re right!
When you drink less alcohol, you’ll experience countless physical, mental, and even financial benefits. Ready to start cutting back? Be sure to check out our post How to Cut Down on Alcohol | 11 Tricks to Limiting Your Intake Without Limiting Your Fun for some practical tips!
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