Sober October Is Here: Inside The Benefits Of Going Alcohol-Free

By Kelly Burch 10/07/19

A 2018 study found that heavy and moderate drinkers who abstained for a month saw their health improve.

healthy, sober,  fit woman holding a dumbell
Higher energy levels, weight loss, and even a stronger immune system © Citalliance |

Fall is in the air, but many people are passing on craft beers and warm spiked cider, opting instead to participate in Sober October. 

The idea started as a fundraiser for charities. However, taking a month of drinking can also have some real positive health effects. 

“I think in one sober month, there can be long-term effects,” Hillary Cecere, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told Refinery29. “One of the biggest effects is a better awareness of a person’s relationship with alcohol. There’s also a sense of accomplishment that [can lead to] lasting changes. More moderate or heavy drinkers may notice higher energy levels, weight loss, and even a stronger immune system.” 

Improved Sleep Quality, Lower Blood Pressure, Weight Reduction

Cecere said people doing Sober October will be better rested, and not just because they’re avoiding hangovers. 

“Drinking alcohol results in a low quality sleep. Without adequate sleep, decision making, memory, and learning abilities are impaired,” she said. So, staying sober for a month could help you rebalance your sleep patterns. 

A 2018 study found that heavy and moderate drinkers who abstained for a month saw their health improve. 

“These findings demonstrate that abstinence from alcohol in moderate–heavy drinkers improves insulin resistance, weight, [blood pressure] and cancer-related growth factors,” the study authors wrote.

Benefits Often Felt During Subsequent Months

Participating in a sober month can also change your drinking habits in the long term. For example, research has shown that people who do a “Dry January” drink less during the following year than people who don’t participate. 

“The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January,” Dr. Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said earlier this year. “Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize.”

Research from the University of Sussex found that people who completed a Dry January reduced their weekly drinking to three days, from four, on average. They drank less in a setting, and were less likely to get drunk, the report found. In fact, organizations like Alcohol Change UK started toting the long-term effects of a sober month to get people on board with starting the year off without drinking. 

“The good news is that Dry January is the perfect training ground for helping you cut down from February onwards,” the organization’s website says. “Cutting down permanently is, for many people, very hard, because habits are hard to break. Dry January is an excellent way of learning what your habits are and how to break them, enabling you to cut down longer-term. You can think of it as a bootcamp for drinking self-control.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.