One week alcohol-free - what's happening in your body?

Lauren Booker | January 2019 | 6 minutes

You might be starting to see changes on the surface – no hangover, more energy, brighter skin – but what’s going on inside your body one week into your booze-free journey? We’re going to be publishing four blogs about what your body is doing after one, two, three and four weeks alcohol-free, so sit tight!

This text was adapted from Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze.

The first day

Assuming you don’t spend the night before you start your challenge trying to remove all booze from the house by drinking it, the first 24 hours will see your body eliminating alcohol from your system at the rate of one unit per hour (after the first half hour, when it’s just absorbing, not processing). You probably won’t feel any different. After all, most of us regularly manage a day without drinking.

Use the Dry January drink tracker app or the oh-so-much-fun AUDIT quiz to work out how many units you drink in a typical evening and you’ll be able to pinpoint pretty accurately when the booze has left the building.

Hello, grumpy!

For the first few days of your dry month you may feel a bit under the weather as dopamine, a mood-enhancing chemical produced in the brain, is still depleted and your body is replacing glycogen and minerals. If you’re feeling sluggish and low, and find yourself snapping at everyone, just remember that this will only last a few days at most and the good stuff is just around the corner.

Feeling sleepy?

You may find that it takes a while to drop off to sleep during the first week. Without the soporific effect of booze to knock us out, we don’t plummet into unconsciousness quite so quickly. It’s tempting to have a drink to get you off to sleep, but then you’d be back to square one. Make sure you’ve got a good sleep hygiene routine – try to go to bed at the same time each night. Don’t eat just before bedtime and limit screen time, going completely screen-free for the hour or so before bed. Milky drinks, warm baths, soothing music, reading Ulysses – you might need to try a few things before you hit on your best sleep aids.

The second half of the week

Hopefully you’re feeling much better by days 4-7. All of your body’s systems are back to their usual working levels. You may find that you have more energy and better concentration. Even if you toss and turn a bit at first, when you do drop off you’ll get better-quality sleep and probably wake feeling more refreshed the next day. You may notice that you’re not getting up for the 3 a.m. wee, too, which is a nice bonus.

Some people experience very vivid dreams around this time. This could be down to increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is the stage of sleep during which we dream. When we drink, REM sleep is suppressed, which is why we’re still so tired the next day, even after an eight-hour slumber. A few days off the booze and – hey presto! These dreams are nothing to worry about but some people do report that they’re the craziest, scariest or most outlandish and lucid dreams they’ve ever had. Popcorn, anyone?

Oi – where are my benefits?

Some people will experience these benefits at different times, or not at all. This can be down to how much you were drinking before, other lifestyle changes (if you’re ditching your nightcap for an espresso, you’re not likely to have better sleep) or just the quirks of your particular body. That doesn’t mean your month off isn’t doing you good, and it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better over the longer term – so don’t give up if you’re not experiencing these effects exactly as they’re laid out above. And keep an eye out for benefits I don’t mention!

If you liked what you read, you can buy Try Dry: the Official Guide to a Month Off Booze here.

Have you downloaded the Dry January app yet? Use it to track your month and stay motivated.

You might also like to read...