In an era of detox cleanses, Dryuary -- or giving up alcohol for the entire month -- is a popular new year's resolution often inspired by excess drinking over the holidays. But does this month-long abstention really provide any health benefits -- besides the joy of posting on Twitter and Facebook about your dry spell?
Although a ton of media attention is paid to Dryuary, the science behind whether it's healthy is limited, but encouraging. It does appear that taking a break from drinking alcohol -- even if it's just for a couple of weeks -- has some health benefits, especially if you're regularly consuming more than the recommended daily limit. (By the way, that limit is generally defined as a drink a day for women and two a day for men.) Here's a look at how your body might benefit this Dryuary:
1. You will drink less in February and March.
People who join in alcohol abstinence challenges like Dryuary tend to drink less -- and have greater confidence in their ability to say no to alcohol -- once the month is over, according to a 2016 study published in Health Psychology. The researchers also found that a month-long hiatus from booze is unlikely to result in "rebound effects," or drinking more following the dry spell to "make up" for lost time.
2. You will sleep better.
All it takes is one drink to disrupt your quality of sleep, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Melbourne. Although that drink will help you get to sleep faster, it makes your brain more active at night, counteracting restful delta waves that recharge your brain and body. When you give up alcohol, you may toss and turn when you first hit the hay, but the sleep you get will likely leave you feeling more refreshed and invigorated the next day. So during Dryuary, you will most likely experience improved mood, concentration and mental performance -- all byproducts of better sleep.
3. You may eat less.
Drinking alcohol raises your risk for weight gain and obesity, according to a study published in the American Journal of Nutrition. Not only do beer, wine and cocktails contain a lot of excess calories, but feeling buzzed also encourages you to eat too much. That may be because alcohol increases our senses, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. In it, researchers found that some women who'd received an alcohol "infusion" equal to about two drinks ate 30 percent more food than those who'd received a saline solution. Another study found that men ate an additional 433 calories on the days they drank a moderate amount of alcohol. For women, it's 300 calories. If you cut alcohol out of your diet -- and don't replace it with high-calorie foods -- you'll most likely feel your pants loosen.
4. You may lower your risk of diabetes.
A small unpublished pilot study of 10 regular drinkers who cut out alcohol for five weeks showed that by eliminating booze, their liver health, as well as their blood glucose levels, improved. For the alcohol abstainers, liver fat (a preface to liver damage) fell by at least 15 percent and blood glucose levels (a key factor in determining diabetes risk) dropped by an average of 16 percent. (The four people who kept on drinking, on the other hand, didn't experience any such changes.) This pilot study gives no indication of how long the improvements persist, but it does lay the groundwork for larger studies.
While more evidence examining both the short- and long-term effects of Dryuary is needed, there are likely some positive health benefits to stopping drinking for a month. At the very least, you'll save money.
Heather A. Hausenblas, PhD, is a faculty member in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences at Jacksonville University. She is an internationally renowned physical activity and healthy aging expert, researcher and author. She is an award-winning researcher, an author and a regular contributor to both local and national media outlets. Her research focuses on the psychological effects of health behaviors across the lifespan. Dr. Hausenblas is the co-author of five scientific books, and she has published more than 90 scientific journal articles. Her most recent book is titled "The Truth about Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark side of Thinsperation." She is a mom to three young boys, and she enjoys exercising outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and coaching and watching her sons play sports. She resides in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband and boys.