Sober October 2019: The health benefits of going alcohol free for a month, or longer

Similarly to Dry January, Sober October is a month-long alcohol-free challenge which those taking part often use to donate to charity. Macmillan’s website calls for sober heroes to give up the booze for a month in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Anyone can participate in MacMillan’s challenge, and in 2017, £5million was raised for the charity.

Going alcohol-free can be difficult, as many of us find having a drink after work, popping to the pub with friends and enjoying a booze-fuelled night out are good ways to unwind or relax.

However, founder of One Year No Beer – an organisation which challenges people to go alcohol-free for 28, 90 or 365 days – Ruari Fairbairns told of his experience giving up alcohol for 90 days.

Mr Fairbairns said: “I took a break. And on that 90 days, I was completely blown away with how much life improves.


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“I started to get so much faster, I wanted to go to the gym, I want to exercise I was happy, I was better at my job was more focused on time with my kids, I was more present with my wife.

“There’s absolutely no downside to only benefits. And it was like, the polar opposite of what I thought it would be.

“My vision of not drinking was was that you would have to lock yourself away via social, you know, social recharge because nobody likes non-drinkers.

“And so there was all that fear. But it was actually completely the opposite.”

If you are struggling with the thought of going alcohol-free for a whole month, Macmillan’s Sober October challenge offers something called a “golden ticket” which for a £15 donation, allows you to skip a day.

This is perfect if you have a special occasion planned in October, such as a wedding, Halloween or birthday party.

But what exactly can the health benefits of giving up alcohol be?

Fitness instructor and Nutritionist Cassandra Barns told three benefits of going alcohol-free.


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1. Better sleep

“Having a few drinks may seem to improve your sleep, or at least send you to sleep faster.

“But it’s actually bad news for your sleep quality.

“You’re more likely to wake up or have disrupted sleep in the second half of the night; and time spent in REM sleep – the phase of sleep most associated with dreaming – may reduce too.

“So even if you sleep for a good number of hours, the sleep you get can be less restorative, leaving you feeling unrefreshed and groggy when you wake up, even if you don’t have any other hangover symptoms.”

2. More energy

“Alcohol can kill your energy in a variety of ways.

“Firstly, by causing a hangover: who has the energy to go out for a run or play with the kids when they’re feeling unwell?

“Secondly, poor sleep can obviously lead to tiredness during the day – especially after several days of accumulated poor sleep.

“And thirdly, alcohol can deplete your body of vital vitamins and minerals, including those required for energy, such as vitamin B1 and magnesium.

“So even if you don’t have hangovers, you’ll probably start to lack “get up and go” after a while.

“Cutting the booze can help bring back your natural energy and vitality.”

3. Better mood

“Drinking alcohol can also have a negative effect on your mood, both in the short and long term.

“A drink can give you an initial boost, caused by an increase in serotonin – the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.

“But this is often followed by a dip that leaves you feeling miserable, especially the following day.

“Longer-term, alcohol may also deplete your levels of nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin B6 that your body requires for making mood neurotransmitters including serotonin.

“This can make you want to drink even more in order to feel that buzz again.

“After a few weeks of abstaining, you’ll probably find that you naturally feel better without the need for alcohol.”

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