Whether you overdid it during lockdown or are just looking for any excuse to remain indoors, abstaining from alcohol for the month of October may seem like the right fix. Here's exactly what happens when you do.
While you can expect various aspects of your health to soar – including gut composition and skin health – during 30 days off the hard stuff, experts have revealed that even one week of sobriety can boast the world of good.
The extent of those changes, however, wholly depends on your average intake before Sober October — and to see real changes, you'll need to stay the course for the rest of the month.
According to Dr George Koob, PhD, president of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Some people may find that a week of sobriety affects their body," he tells Bustle.
Koob details that decreased stomach irritation, better sleep, and more exercise are common longer-term reactions to sobriety and that some people may experience them more quickly than others.
Sleep quality can also show a particularly marked improvement in just seven days.
According to research published in Handbook of Clinical Neurology in 2014, drinking alcohol before bed can significantly ravage one's sleep pattern by decreasing REM sleep and increasing your possibility of awaking in the night by shifting the electrical wavelengths in the brain.
For most of us, going to bed sober can roll back these effects pretty rapidly and restore a more natural sleep pattern.
Your liver, unsurprisingly, also benefits.
Just one hour after you stop drinking, your liver kicks into gear to remove any toxins from the body. Your pancreas also starts producing extra insulin, which causes intense carb cravings.
One study reports amelioration of elevated liver enzymes that are associated with drinking. These enzymes are signals that the liver is under oxidative stress as it tries to process alcohol, and when you're sober, they begin to reduce in number.
For very heavy drinkers, a week of sobriety likely won't produce much change in liver enzyme levels; for lighter drinkers, it might show more results.
Seven days into sobriety, your skin also begins to look dewier and more youthful as hydration restores. This then improves skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, and rosacea.
However, according to a study published in The International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the most significant improvement in your skin occurs at the four-week mark.
Heavier drinkers may also experience a more difficult side effect of Sober October in the first week of sobriety: the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
If, in the first week or two of going sober, you experience shaking, headaches, nausea, increased anxiety, or insomnia, it's possibly a signal that you were ingesting too much alcohol and your body is now struggling to adjust to life without it.
To get the full benefits of sobriety in Sober October — including a boosted immune system, a healthier gut, and clear skin — one week isn't really enough, but benefits definitely begin to kick in when drinking subsides.
For more information on how to stop drinking for good, check Drink Aware's website here.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline: 1800 459 459 or Samaritans on 116123 / or email: [email protected].
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