Imagine if you could improve your mood, sleep and energy with one little lifestyle tweak. Well, you can. The catch? You’ll have to forgo wine time. Abstaining for a month can seem daunting, but it’s a great chance to reassess your relationship with alcohol, notice how it affects your body and put some healthier habits in place. And if you take part in a fundraising challenge, such as Dry July, you’ll have real motivation to stick to your goal. Here are some of the benefits you’ll get if you give it a go.

Better sleep

You might think a nightcap helps you sleep soundly, but that’s fake news. While drinking before bed can help you nod off faster, “it disrupts your sleep physiology through the night so you’re more likely to wake up [during the night] and not have as much good-quality sleep,” explains Professor Tanya Chikritzhs from the National Drug Research Institute.
Giving alcohol a rest equals more rest for you. In a VicHealth survey of FebFast participants, 40 per cent said their sleep improved during their teetotal month.

Happier moods

In the long term, drinking can dampen levels of the brain’s happy chemicals, such as serotonin, and exacerbate depression and anxiety. Cut back on booze and you may find you’re less irritable and nicer to be around, says Professor Chikritzhs. “When you function better, you feel more energetic and so you’re more likely to exercise, and that’s going to have a flow on effect on your mood,” she explains.

Smoother digestion

Tummy trouble? Abstaining could help. “The gastrointestinal tract is one of the main systems affected by alcohol – it affects your ability to absorb nutrients, all the way up to increasing your likelihood of cancers across the digestive tract,”
says Professor Chikritzhs. “And we know the gut is central for immunity, so giving your gut a break is going to improve your immune system as well.”

A slimmer waist

In the FebFast study, 38 per cent of people said they lost weight in their month off alcohol. The slimming effect may relate not only to the lack of kJ-heavy bevvies (one small glass of wine has 460kJ), but also to steering clear of habits that go alongside drinking, such as snacking.

Sharper memory

Here’s a sobering thought: moderate drinking can shrink your brain and also damage the hippocampus, which plays a major role in learning and memory. So, can an alcohol-free month make you sharper? Anecdotal reports suggest an uptick in memory, focus and productivity, and Professor Chikritzhs agrees it’s likely, but adds that more research is needed.

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