With Christmas on the horizon and the excess of summer almost a distant memory, it’s little wonder that so many people choose to “reset” their bodies by taking part in “Sober October” – the national fundraising initiative that encourages people to ditch the booze and help raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
But for many, “Sober October” is not just a test of willpower; it’s a remarkable opportunity to reap the benefits of being alcohol-free. Besides avoiding the weekend hangovers, a key benefit to staying off the sauce is significantly improved sleep.
When you cut out alcohol, your body can follow its natural sleep rhythms, leading to deeper, more restful sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, energised, and ready to face the day with a clear mind and vibrant spirit.
James Higgins, sleep specialist and CEO of Ethical Bedding, the UK’s only BCorp-accredited sustainable bedding company, delves into the positive factors of quitting alcohol – and why you should keep up the good habits after October ends.
Improved sleep quality
Drinking alcohol can significantly impact your sleep quality as it interferes with your sleep cycle, particularly the rapid eye movement (REM) and deep sleep stages.
Firstly, alcohol can suppress REM sleep early at night, disrupting sleep in the latter half as your body tries to compensate. Staying sober allows your body to naturally cycle through the amount of REM sleep it needs, which is crucial for improved memory, learning, and mood regulation.
Alcohol can also interrupt deep sleep (stages three and four), the most restorative stage of sleep that helps improve your physical well-being and immune system. So, you’re more likely to wake up feeling achy and sore after a night of drinking – and not just from a headache!
Drinking alcohol can also mess up your sleep patterns for several reasons. Firstly, you’ll most probably need a trip to the toilet more often in the night. Your body may also lose the ability to regulate its temperature, leading to night sweats and overheating. Abstaining from alcohol will ensure that your sleep is restful and regulated.
Alcohol is a diuretic, leading to frequent waking up at night to go to the bathroom, disrupting your sleep. Avoiding alcohol helps prevent these nighttime awakenings.
Reduced sleep apnoea and snoring
Alcohol causes the muscles in your throat to relax, which can worsen symptoms of sleep apnoea, a severe sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
This relaxed state of throat muscles, induced by alcohol, also contributes to more common conditions like snoring. The vibration of respiratory structures triggers snoring due to obstructed air movement, which worsens when the throat muscles are relaxed.
Enhanced mental health
A good night’s kip is a critical factor for mental well-being as it aids in processing emotions, managing stress, and maintaining emotional balance.
Alcohol can upset the balance of chemicals in the brain that send messages between nerve cells. It can make some chemicals less active, leading to tiredness and low mood, while making others more active, causing calmness. This imbalance can lead to feelings of depression.
Additionally, sobriety enhances cognitive function, which is your ability to think, learn, remember, and solve problems. Quitting the booze can support improved decision-making, memory, and attention spans, improving overall mental health.
Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
Have you ever had the dreaded beer-fear? Sobriety can play a huge role in boosting your self-esteem and self-confidence by reducing your reliance on alcohol, which, in turn, will enhance your overall well-being, helping you rest without worries at night. This includes improved relationships, personal development, and physical and mental health.