Who’d have thought that just a fortnight without booze could have a measurable impact on sleep and heart health.
Over two weeks into Dry January and my clients are regaling me with stories of weight lost, money saved and energetic weekends. At least some of them are. Others are lamenting that they haven’t noticed any life-changing benefits at all. Sleep eludes them, work is still hard and they’re wondering what all the fuss is about. If this is you, take heart. Literally.
Hands up if you got a Fitbit for Christmas? I gave one to my husband (have you met him yet? He’s the handsome chap in the Dry January vlog). He was delighted! As a middle-aged cyclist with a few pounds to lose and a distance race looming in a couple of months, he diligently downloaded the app and set about accomplishing his daily minutes of exercise and hourly steps goals. Annoyingly, this means him leaping up from the sofa every half hour or so to pace round the living room for five minutes. Plus side – he’s easily persuadable to go and make a cup of tea if it will bring him a few steps closer to his target.
But I digress. Like some of my Dry January clients, he’s noticed something interesting. His resting heart rate has reduced. There’s an impressive graph on his app showing a steady decrease over the last couple of weeks. A lower RHR generally means your heart is working more efficiently and can indicate cardiovascular fitness. Top athletes, for example can have RHRs in the low 40s, whilst we mere mortals can be content with something in the 60 – 80 range.
This is not something you would normally notice without a heart monitor. Let’s face it - most of us don’t regularly check our pulse for a minute just to keep an eye on the whole RHR thing. But the increase in personal fitness monitors means we can do just that. I’ve had reports of client’s resting heart rates reducing by up to 20 beats per minute, an astounding outcome in just two weeks. The results of just fourteen days without a drink speak for themselves.
When I say speak, I mean whisper quietly, because this is not one of the reasons given by, well, anyone, when asked why they’re doing Dry January. It’s not visible on the outside and, it won’t necessarily make you feel any better on the inside. But it is doing you good in a really important way.
Another effect that some of my clients have monitored with their devices is increased REM sleep. That’s the bit that nourishes you - your dream sleep. Whilst they report taking a while to drop off to sleep, their fitness trackers reveal that they wake fewer times during the night and have a better quality of sleep. For clients who are still trying to find their natural sleep rhythm after years of using alcohol to drop off instantly, this is good to know and inspires them to stick with it.
These aren’t the tangible, high impact results that most of us are looking for when we take a month off booze but they’re a nice bonus and important for our health and wellbeing. Each Dry January we learn more and more about the benefits of a break from alcohol and it’s great to be able to track those benefits on the inside as well as what’s visible on the outside.