Sober October: 4 major benefits of ditching alcohol for a month

From healthier skin to a better night’s sleep

Joanna Whitehead
Monday 03 October 2022 09:18 BST
Dry January: Kate Garraway suggests Brits have a problem with alcohol after giving up drinking for month

If you’re still drying out after a summer of swigging Aperol Spritz, Sober October is a great incentive to take a break from booze.

Similarly to Dry January, Sober October aims to encourage people to reduce or completely abstain from alcohol for 31 days, often raising money for charity in the process.

Established in 2014 by Macmillan Cancer Support, “soberheroes” have raised over £33m for the charity, with more than 10,000 people signing up for this year’s challenge.

But what are the benefits of cutting out booze for a month? We’ve spoken to the experts to find out.

A better night’s sleep

Traditionally, a nightcap of something strong was believed to help you sleep more soundly, but now science has found that alcohol can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. “Alcohol may have an initial sedative effect but sustained drinking is a major disruptor for circadian rhythms,” says Samantha Bloom, registered functional medicine nutritionist.

“It suppresses REM which regulates our circadian rhythms (rapid eye movement) and is associated with creativity, dreaming and memory, and worsens disorders like sleep apnea.” So, while it may take you a little longer to drop off on a dry night, rest assured that the quality of your nap time is likely to be significantly better.

Healthier skin

Alcohol is believed to be the second biggest cause of skin ageing after sun damage, says Dr Hasia Al Khubra, GP specialising in skin and aesthetics and founder of Doctors Dose. “Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have significant implications when it comes to the skin,” she says. “It increases the inflammation and changes the hormonal milieu in the skin which in turn can exacerbate inflammatory conditions such as acne and rosacea. It causes blood vessels to dilate which can make the complexion appear red.”

As alcohol is a diuretic, it can make rehydration more of a challenge. Drinking alcohol, therefore, will, “... leave you with dry, flaky skin, fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible, and skin will often appear dull. The high sugar level in many alcoholic drinks will result in increased breakouts as well as less plump, supple cells and a dull complexion,” she adds.

After a month of sobriety, expect to see a more hydrated complexion looking back at you in the mirror.

More money

As the days start to shorten, many people are understandably very concerned about the cost of living crisis and how to make the most of their finances at a time of spiking energy prices, staffing, production and commodities costs. Like many other food stuffs, the price of beer, wine and spirits are all expected to rise, meaning abstaining from alcohol can not only help your physical health, but your financial health too.

A healthier gut

The importance of the gut in our overall health has become more well known in recent years, with scientists identifying a link between gut health and mental health.

According to Anna Mapson, registered nutritional therapist and owner of Goodness Me Nutrition, microbes that live in our gut are essential to health. “Excess alcohol can increase inflammation in the gut and increase permeability (leaky gut) as well as damage to the tissues in the intestines,” she says. “Leakiness in the gut has been associated with changes in mood, anxiety, and depression. This means excess alcohol can contribute to your digestive symptoms, as well as other wider issues around the body.”

A happier you

While alcohol can feel like plenty of fun at the time, it’s actually a depressant that can have a significant impact on your mood and mental health. “Drinking alcohol reduces your serotonin production - a key neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy - so taking part in Sober October can boost your energy, mental health and mood while also making your head feel less foggy,” says Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist of digital pharmacy Medino.

Drinking less can also help avoid hangxiety - the feeling of anxiety that often accompanies a night on the sauce. “Skipping both the hangover and the nervous feeling of wondering about the night before by going sober can be good for your mental health, and help you to replace spending your mornings recovering in the sheets with healthy hobbies instead,” adds Guerrini.

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