The benefits of going dry in January


By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article publishedJan 7, 2021

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January comes after a month of indulging in sundowners and weekdays transformed into Friday festivities.

With the ban on the sale of alcohol, some people have decided to embrace the annual Dry January hashtag.

The idea behind Dry January is simple: stay sober in January.

The Dry January movement makes a plea to South Africans to quit drinking for a month as part of adopting healthy habits for the year or in an attempt to detox.

Excessive drinking can lead to a slew of health issues, so holding back on alcohol for 31 days could launch you into 2021 with the right footing.

“Dry January is a useful tool in telling to what extent we have become dependent on alcohol during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sharon Wilsnack, an expert on drinking behaviour in women and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of North Dakota, told TODAY.

“2020 was certainly a year of stress for nearly everyone, and many folks have increased their alcohol consumption,” added Dr James C Garbutt, a psychiatry professor at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina.

There are many health benefits of going alcohol-free. A 2020 study by Gautam Mehta of University College London, published in the British Medical Journal investigated the health gains from a month without alcohol.

Lead author Mehta observed moderate to heavy drinkers, all consuming more than the recommended daily allowance.

“The average intake was around 28 units (a week),” said Mehta, “but these were professional, working people without any history of alcohol-related health problems.”

After their month of sobriety, their insulin resistance ‒ a marker for diabetes ‒ improved by about 25%.

Blood pressure went down by “what you’d tend to expect if you take drugs to treat high blood pressure”, he said. The subjects also lost a little weight, just under 2kg on average.

Another study in 2015 from Sussex University enlisted more than 800 participants in Dry January and found that afterwards, their ability to confidently say no to alcoholic drinks improved.

Their consumption of alcohol went down, whether they had succeeded in quitting for the entire month or not.

Alcohol degrades sleep quality; drinking moderate or high amounts of alcohol decreases “restorative” sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation explains that levels of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine rise to help you doze off, but it then crashes, waking you up. Even if your body doesn’t try to rouse you for a middle-of-the-night party, it’s likely you’ll rise groggy anyway.

Watch: Here are benefits of Dry January.


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