A sound night’s sleep. Brighter skin. More time and energy. Cutting back on alcohol can have some positive effects on the way you look and feel – often within just a few days. And while you enjoy them, you’ll be reducing your longer term risk of some serious illnesses such as cancer and liver and heart disease.
If you’ve decided to cut back, here are some benefits to look out for:
Some people find it helps them drop off, but alcohol affects the quality of your sleep. When you drink too much, you spend less of the night in a deep, restorative slumber. You’re also more likely to wake early and find it hard to drop off again. Now that you’re cutting back, you should notice your sleep improving. That can have a knock-on benefit for everything from your mood to your ability to concentrate.
If you’re already feeling sad or anxious, alcohol is likely to make it much worse. The day after you've been drinking heavily you are likely to feel pretty low. This is because drinking too much interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains, so alcohol can affect your mental health. Drinking less can mean that you feel happier, more of the time1. Try keeping a mood diary to see if you notice the difference.
Alcohol can interfere with your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. And with its negative effects on your sleep and mood, drinking too much can make you feel tired, sluggish and generally a bit under the weather. Drink less and it shouldn’t take too long before you notice that you have more energy2.
You don’t have to have a headache and be feeling sick for alcohol to start affecting you at work, regularly drinking above the alcohol unit guidelines (no more than 14 units per week for men and women) will affect your concentration and ability to work. Now that you’re cutting back, you may spot you work that little bit smarter, which can do wonders for your stress levels – and your career.
Alcohol dehydrates your skin making it appear dull and grey. Add some dark circles and bags under your eyes from a lack of decent sleep and you’ll look less than your best. Thankfully, skin is quick to react to changes so it could be looking better after just a couple of days of drinking less.
Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and can be seriously fattening. Cut out just one pint a day for a week and you’ll have consumed close to 1,500 less calories. It won’t be long before your jeans start feeling a bit looser.
By drinking less you could get rid of complaints such as diarrhoea and indigestion. This is because alcohol irritates the stomach and makes it produce more acid than usual, which can in turn cause gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining).
If you tend to drink in the same place, or at the same time, or with the same people, cutting back may mean you change your routine. By doing something different with your time you could discover other interests and meet new people. Keep a note of the money you save on alcohol and use it to treat yourself.
Cutting down on alcohol will reduce your risk of developing cancer, liver or heart disease and could lower your blood pressure. You may not be able to see the difference you’re making, but by drinking within the government's low risk unit guidelines, you can be confident you’re doing your body a massive favour.
(1) & (2) NHS Choices website. Benefits of drinking less alcohol. Information Standard member organisation. Last reviewed: not known. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/benefits-drinking-less-alcohol.aspx