This article has been medically approved by Superintendent Pharmacist Phil Day, MRPharmS (IPresc). - GPhC Reg No: 2043558
Are you taking part in the Sober October challenge this year? Not only is it a great way to reassess your relationship with alcohol, but you’ll also experience some significant health benefits. In this article, we’ll take a look at what health benefits you can expect from going sober for a month.
1. No hangovers
It seems like an obvious one, but giving up drinking means that you’ll stop waking up with a hangover. You can kiss goodbye to alcohol-related nausea, headaches, or tiredness in the morning.
2. Better mood
Although a drink might make us feel good when we’re having a great time with friends, alcohol is a depressant. This means it can severely impact your mental health because alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
3. Improved cognitive function
Alcohol harms brain function. Research has shown that having five or more drinks in one session can affect cognitive function for up to 3 days afterwards.  Long term, heavy drinking can shrink the brain’s frontal lobe, which impairs your thinking skills. Long-term drinking can also prevent the brain from repairing itself. [2, 3, 4] What’s more, alcohol can affect the functioning of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in forming new memories. [5, 6]
4. Better sleep
Giving up alcohol can lead to an improvement in the quality of your sleep. This because alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle. Some people may find that drinking helps them fall into a deep sleep more quickly. However, as the night goes on, you spend less time in deep, restful sleep and more time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.  REM sleep is less restful, meaning you can feel tired the next day no matter how long you stay in bed.
When you stop drinking, you should start sleeping better and find it easier to wake up in the morning, leading to improved overall energy levels.
5. Improved hydration
We go to the toilet so much after drinking alcohol because it is a diuretic. This means it makes your body expel fluids more frequently, which can lead to dehydration. This is one of the most easily identifiable symptoms of a hangover. It is the cause of dry mouth, dull skin, and cracked lips. Low hydration can also impact your concentration and energy levels.
6. Better skin
From dehydrated skin to falling asleep without washing your face, alcohol can have a significant impact on your complexion.
It causes your blood vessels to dilate, which in turn can cause your skin to look red and blotchy for days afterwards. Fluid leaking from the blood vessels can also cause your face to become puffy.
Because your skin can become dry due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol, it can cause your skin to look dull. As your skin tries to counteract this dryness, it produces more oils, which may cause a breakout.
When you stop drinking, your skin will begin to regain its plumpness, fine lines may soften, and your skin and eyes will look brighter.
7. Weight loss
Thanks to the process and ingredients used to create wine, beer, cider, spirits, and many more of your favourite drinks, alcohol contains a lot of calories. In fact, it has seven calories per gram, which is almost as much as a gram of fat.  That’s without adding in the additional calories in mixers like cola or tonic. These calories are known as ‘empty calories’ because your body doesn’t get any nutritional value from alcohol.
Alcohol also slows down metabolism, meaning your body burns less fat for energy.
When you cut out alcohol, your calorie intake will decrease. If you are overweight and regularly drink alcohol, you should find that you lose weight throughout the month.
8. Improved gut health
Alcohol irritates the digestive system, which causes the stomach to increase acid production. This can cause indigestion and diarrhoea. Heavy drinking can worsen IBS symptoms and is a risk factor for bowel cancer. 
9. Better absorption of essential nutrients
When you drink, alcohol kills the cells in your stomach lining and intestines. These cells help your body to absorb nutrients. Alcohol can also inhibit the transportation of nutrients into your bloodstream, and therefore deplete your body’s store of vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. This can lead to complications like anaemia. 
10. Boost your immune system
Just one night of binge drinking can have an impact on your immune system, and this can be observed within just 20 minutes of ingesting alcohol. These adverse effects can last several days after drinking because a heavy night can inhibit the function of your monocytes, the white blood cells which fight infection. This makes you more susceptible to winter colds and viruses. 
11. A healthier liver
As you’re probably aware, drinking is harmful to your liver. Giving up alcohol for a month reduces the amount of fat in your liver by 15%.  Your liver is one of your body’s most essential organs, which is why it’s vital that it stays in good shape.
12. Reduces your risk of some cancers and alcohol-related diseases
Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer, including breast cancer and mouth cancer.  Drinking also puts you at a higher risk of liver disease, liver cirrhosis, strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sexual dysfunction. [14, 15, 16, 17, 18] Therefore, the less you drink, the less risk there is to your long-term health.
13. Better sex
Alcohol can help you feel relaxed and lower your inhibitions, which can enhance your libido. However, alcohol can also dull your sensitivity. Temporary impotence is a common problem that men can experience after drinking. Women can experience vaginal dryness due to the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
14. Save money
Not all of the benefits of stopping drinking are physical. The cost of frequent alcohol consumption, or even a particularly heavy night of binge drinking, can add up quickly. At the end of the month, why not use the money you’ve saved to celebrate your achievement – with a mocktail?