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Alcohol vs Sleep

Alcohol vs Sleep

The start of the year is often an opportunity to reflect on our habits and lifestyle choices. For many, that means taking part in “Dry January”, a month-long period of abstinence from alcohol. While abstaining from alcohol can be difficult, it can also provide us with a greater understanding of how alcohol affects our sleep and our overall health.

Whether you’re interested in resetting your relationship with alcohol or just looking to take a break, Dry January could be just what the doctor ordered. Not only will it give your body some much needed rest and recovery, but it can help to reset your sleep cycle and provide other benefits as well. Let’s dive into the details of what Dry January is and how it can help improve your overall health and wellbeing. 

Dry January is an annual event during which participants refrain from drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. It was originally created by Alcohol Change UK as a way to raise awareness about problematic drinking habits, but has since evolved into a larger movement that encourages people to take a break from drinking for their own personal reasons.


What Alcohol Does To Our Bodies And How It Is Digested

When you drink alcohol, it passes through your digestive system and enters your bloodstream. As it flows throughout the body, it has an effect on every organ. It stimulates dopamine production in the brain which causes feelings of pleasure or euphoria, slows down heart rate and can reduce inhibitions. This is why people sometimes experience impaired judgement when drinking. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, which impacts coordination, reaction time and reflexes - thus why drinking and driving is so dangerous!

Alcohol also dehydrates you due to its diuretic properties. This is why hangovers are so common after heavy drinking - as well as dizziness, nausea, headaches and fatigue due to extreme dehydration. Additionally, excessive amounts of alcohol can cause liver damage over time if consumed too frequently or in large doses.

Alcohol is metabolized in the body differently than other food or drinks because it does not need digestion; instead it gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines. Alcohol doesn’t have any nutritional value; instead, it acts as a diuretic which can lead to dehydration. As soon as it enters the bloodstream it affects brain chemistry which can lead to impaired judgment and coordination. It also puts strain on the organs responsible for metabolizing it including the liver, pancreas and kidneys - organs that are essential for keeping us healthy!

Alcohol is metabolized by enzymes produced in the liver. The rate that your body breaks down alcohol varies depending on individual factors such as age, sex, weight and genetics; however on average it takes about 1-2 hours for your body to break down one drink (1 standard glass of wine or beer). Once all traces of alcohol are out of your system then the effects will wear off; however this depends entirely on how much you drank - if you had a lot more than one drink then it could take up to 24 hours before you’re fully sober again!  

The liver breaks down most of the alcohol into acetaldehyde before metabolizing it further into water and carbon dioxide which then exits the bloodstream through sweat, breath or urine over time. Acetaldehyde is a much more potent toxin than ethanol, and at least a part of ethanol toxicity is due to ethanol's first metabolite acetaldehyde.

Some of the acetaldehyde enters your blood, damaging your membranes and possibly causing scar tissue. It also leads to a hangover, and can result in a faster heartbeat, a headache or an upset stomach. The brain is most affected by acetaldehyde poisoning. It causes problems with brain activity and can impair memory.

Heavy drinking over time has been linked with numerous health problems including an increased risk of developing certain forms of cancer or liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Drinking regularly over time can also cause nerve damage that manifests itself in numbness in fingers & toes along with memory problems due to nerve damage primarily caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency from chronic heavy drinking over time.


The Effects of Alcohol on Our Sleep

Alcohol can disrupt our sleep cycle in several ways. First, it reduces REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which helps us feel refreshed after a good night’s rest. While alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, it reduces REM  sleep—the most restorative stage of the cycle during which most dreaming occurs—and increases disturbances throughout the night. This means that even if you manage to fall asleep after having a few drinks, chances are you won’t be getting a full night's rest from it!  In addition to disrupting REM sleep, drinking alcohol before bedtime can also lead to frequent awakenings throughout the night due to its diuretic effects. This means that after drinking alcohol at night, you may find yourself waking up multiple times during the night in order to use the restroom. This disruption in your natural sleeping patterns can prevent you from experiencing deep restorative stages of sleep at night which can leave you feeling fatigued throughout the following day. 

Second, drinking alcohol before bedtime increases the risk of snoring and even sleep apnea. Furthermore, drinking too much increases your risk for developing insomnia, as well as other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and depression.

Furthermore, alcohol has been found to reduce melatonin levels in your body—a hormone responsible for regulating our natural sleeping patterns—which further contributes to poor quality sleep.

Finally, drinking before bed can lead to dehydration which contributes to poor quality sleep.


The Benefits of Going Alcohol-Free for a Month

There are numerous benefits associated with going alcohol-free for a month. For starters, taking a break from alcohol can reduce inflammation in the body, which can lead to improved sleep quality and better overall energy levels throughout the day. Additionally, dry January helps reset your body’s tolerance levels so that when you do drink again, you won’t need nearly as much alcohol to feel its effects, reducing the risk of overindulging. 

When you give up drinking for a month, you will likely experience improved mental clarity and better quality sleep. After all, alcohol disrupts your body’s natural production of melatonin (a hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm). Without regular consumption of alcohol, your body may be able to better regulate its melatonin levels and help you get more restful nights of sleep.  Additionally, giving up alcohol will reduce your exposure to toxic substances such as acetaldehyde (a byproduct of breaking down ethanol that is found in alcoholic beverages). This means that your liver will have an easier time processing toxins during dry January than it would during other months where you consume alcoholic beverages regularly.  


Participating in Dry January can have numerous benefits both physically and mentally — including improved sleep quality, reduced inflammation, increased energy levels throughout the day and improved judgement when consuming alcohol later on down the road. So why not give it a try? Reduce your intake this month and reap all of these amazing rewards! You may even decide that you want make this an annual tradition! Regardless of whether or not you choose to participate in dry January this year or next year — or at all — understanding what happens when we drink alcohol is key to making informed decisions about our health. 


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