Every now and then, you might have the impulse to take a little break from drinking. Perhaps you've been going out a lot and want to cool it, or you're recovering from a particularly social holiday season, or hey, maybe you're just tired of the taste. Whatever it is, you might be surprised to find that there are unexpected things that happen to your body when you stop drinking for a week that might make you more inclined to work a dry week or two into your regular routine from time to time.
“Alcohol is a toxin, and subsequently our body is built to break down these toxins and dispense of them,” addiction specialist Aaron Sternlicht, tells Bustle. Meaning that drinking has real impacts on all your bodily systems, no matter how frequently or infrequently we do it.
While one week of not drinking is a short period of time to notice any significant or long-term changes, he says, there are definitely positive things you might notice in both body and mood right away. Even if you are someone who only drinks a few times a week, observing the way your body feels differently when you do and don’t drink can be eye opening and helpful in the long-term.
Take a look at some of the ways your body might feel when you forego the spritzer for a Shirley Temple for just a short while.
1. You Will Feel Better Rested
You know how sometimes even a glass of wine or two can make you feel groggy in the morning and causes you to toss and turn the night before? Well that can go away pretty quickly when you cut out drinking even for a few days.
Yes, while alcohol helps people “pass out,” the quality of sleep when you’ve had something to drink is not so great, Sternlicht says. “As such, individuals will likely feel well rested when not drinking.”
Counselor Travis McNulty tells Bustle that after the initial relaxation alcohol might provide, you can later get kicked out of deep REM as you metabolize the alcohol, and you definitely don't wake up feeling refreshed.
If you feel your rest is disrupted by too many late nights or that extra cocktail, taking a break can be really beneficial, and might help you to recognize the ways in which drinking impacts your particular sleep cycle.
2. Your Mood Might Improve
One thing you might notice, even in the short-term, is that you feel an improvement in your mood and overall level of happiness. “Since alcohol is a depressant,” Sternlicht says, meaning that it slows down the processes in your brain, “you may notice more control over your emotions, and have fewer feelings of sadness or depression when you stop drinking.”
If you do notice a serious improvement in your moods, how much, what types of alcohol, and what time you normally drink can be important things to consider when you go back to your usual habits. After all, an improved mood is a really great thing.
3. You Might Feel Less Hungry
Ever had a few beers and all of a sudden you a want a burger, a cupcake, and all the fries? Nutritionist Laura McKowen tells Bustle that less drinking might help you focus on getting your nutrients from more potent sources.
“Alcohol often displaces the other nutrients, which the body needs for basic metabolic functioning and tissue building,” she says, meaning that it interrupts how those processes function. In general, drinking is much less satisfying than getting our nutrients from food, she says, and it actually makes us hungrier.
And there have been studies to prove this, too. One study in particular, published in the journal Nature Communications showed that alcohol basically elicits a “starvation” response in the brains of rats, and researchers believe the same is true in humans. Crazy, right?
4. Your Skin Might Look Better
Can you imagine waking up in the morning with clear skin that isn’t red or puffy? It’s kind of a dream. But since alcohol is a diuretic which dries out our skin, McKowen says, it can cause or exacerbate skin issues. You just may start to notice a brighter, glowing face after a few days of not drinking.
5. You Might Feel An Increase In Energy
Sometimes waking up after a night of not drinking allows you to feel clear-headed and energized for the day ahead. Surgeon Dr. John Cory tells Bustle that this is because habitual drinking can decrease your energy, focus, and even your muscle power when it comes to exercise. This again has to do with the dehydrating impacts of alcohol.
Your body needs water to do pretty much everything, so anything that depletes that can deplete your energy, as well. The boost could show up after just a few days of not drinking, too, and it might cause you to consider drinking less or not at all on days you know you need to be in top mental and physical form.
6. You Also Could Feel Worse
Especially if you are a habitual drinker, your body might experience some more unpleasant symptoms if you stop drinking for awhile, since it’s so used to processing alcohol each day.
As Dr. Indra Cidambi, Psychiatrist M.D, tells Bustle, some people can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, and symptoms like sweating, nausea, vomiting, or headache might show up. Anxiety, depression, and confusion might be present, too.
If you have any concern that your drinking habits might be unhealthy in anyway, reaching out to a professional or trusted friend for help is a great first step to looking into the issue more thoroughly.
7. You Might Recognize You Get Hangovers More Often Than You Think
You might notice your slight stomach aches, mild headaches, and tiredness are a thing of the past for that week of not drinking, and begin to realize that you might have hangovers more than you think! Dr. Cory says that hangovers show up sometimes in subtle ways, too, they aren’t always totally debilitating.
More subtle signs of hangovers are things like a scratchy throat, headaches, stomach issues, light sensitivity, and mood issues. A lot of these symptoms, he points out, are because of dehydration and the disruption to sleep that alcohol can cause. A little break can do a lot of good!
However you slice it, taking a little break from drinking every now and then might feel like a good idea. Not to mention, it might make that cold beer after work taste particularly special when you get back into your normal routine, too.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).