You've probably heard of Dry January, when (after a holiday season full of indulging) people abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year. The hashtag #dryjanuary has 116,000 posts on Instagram alone — and millions of people have participated in the challenge.
And it just so happens that taking a break from booze not only gives your health a boost, it can give your career a boost too, according to experts.
One of the many effects of drinking alcohol is next-day fatigue, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) director George F. Koob Ph.D. and senior scientific adviser to the NIAA director, Aaron White, Ph.D. That's because alcohol reduces deep sleep and increases awakenings throughout the night. Next-day tiredness can lead to a myriad of work woes, like impaired attention and decision-making.
"Fatigue, impaired attention and coordination, mood changes, and reduced alertness could all compromise performance depending on the nature of the job," Koob and White tell CNBC Make It. "Research suggests the ability to perform a wide range of tasks is impaired the day after a night of heavy drinking, including complicated tasks like flying a plane, performing surgery, driving a car, or riding a bike, but potentially any task that requires sustained attention, memory, and fast mental processing."
In fact, Koob and White cite a 2014 study in which 857 British men and women participated in Dry January. As a result, 82 percent felt a sense of achievement, 62 percent had better sleep and 62 percent had more energy. (Bonus: 79 percent of participants reported saving money and 49 percent even lost weight.) Koob and White recommend quitting alcohol under the supervision of a medical professional if you're a heavy drinker.
Individuals are not the only ones who could benefit from Dry January; businesses can too: Koob and White point out that the Center for Disease Control estimates that alcohol misuse costs the U.S. around $249 billion a year, largely due to a loss in workplace productivity.
Petros Levounis, MD and professor and chair of department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, also acknowledges the benefits that abstaining from alcohol can have on overall energy and productivity levels in the workplace. However, he points out another positive effect that can be overlooked, but has a profound impact on work performance: irritability.
"Milder hangovers can make you irritable," Levounis says. "Being at work and being, even if it is mildly so, irritable and edgy is not good for the morale of the workspace. It's not good for teamwork, it's not good for people playing well with one another in the sandbox."
Of course, Levounis emphasizes the number of medical benefits that abstaining from alcohol has aside from the boost it can give you at work, such as positive effects on your heart, liver, esophagus, your weight and your immune system. It's a challenge worth considering taking on, he says.
"It's a lovely experiment that you can make in the context of other people doing the same experiment," Levounis says. "You don't feel alone, it's something that's somewhat socially-sanctioned, so it's a good opportunity to try it out."
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