man declining alcohol
At A Glance:
  • 75% of surveyed U.S. adults say they have — or have at least thought about — giving up alcohol for the month of January. 61% of those say they sleep better when they don’t drink.
  • About 40% say they notice alcohol’s impact on their sleep after 3-4 drinks.
  • 53% have taken a break from alcohol for better health, 49% to save money, and 36% for better sleep, making them the top motivations.
  • 37% say they sleep somewhat better when taking a break from alcohol, 21% say they sleep much better.
  • Of those that sleep better, 50% say they sleep more soundly, 48% feel more refreshed when waking, 42% feel less tired during the day.

Celebrating the end of the year with champagne and other alcoholic beverages can sabotage our sleep. New Year’s Eve stands out as one of the top occasions we love to pop a cork and one when we can lose significant sleep. 

Tackling New Year’s resolutions in January may sound exhausting, but one in particular may ultimately help us catch up on some much-needed rest. It’s called Dry January. 

This will mark the fifth year that Woo Bradley, a 33-year-old Atlanta resident and project manager, participates in Dry January. The goal? Not a single drop of alcohol for a whole month, which Bradley chooses to start at midnight on January 2, once New Year’s Day festivities  have ended.

Bradley isn’t the only one who takes part in Dry January. According to a December 2023 survey by, 75% of adults say they have — or have at least thought about — giving up alcohol for the month of January. More than 60% say they sleep better when they do. Over 80% report trying to abstain from alcohol for a different month or period of time.

“Taking breaks from things that aren’t benefiting [your body] is always a positive,” Bradley says. He personally notices mood changes and feels more alert and focused. While he has always been a sound sleeper, he doesn’t wake up as much throughout the night when he isn’t drinking.

A Recipe for Restless Sleep

Everyone experiences the effects of alcohol a bit differently. As with anything related to health, it all varies by person due to factors like lifestyle and genetics . After an occasion of drinking, nearly half of survey respondents say they’ve experienced headaches, dehydration, and feeling tired the next day. About one-third say they sleep poorly.

“Any sleep promoting effect that alcohol has goes away between three and six nights of drinking. So, it’s not a very reliable sleep aid.”
Mary Beth Miller, Ph.D.
clinical psychologist and associate professor, University of Missouri

Additionally, how much and when you consume alcohol is something to consider. Almost one-quarter of respondents say they sleep better if they stop drinking 3-4 hours before bedtime, and 23% say the same if they stop drinking 1-2 hours before bed. About 40% say they notice an impact on their sleep after 3-4 drinks.

That’s something Akshay Bhavsar, a 34-year-old resident of Irvine, California, notices. Even after a moderate number of drinks, the pharmaceutical project manager says he would wake 4-5 times per night, sometimes struggling to go back to sleep.

“In the past, I have attempted to reduce my drinking and I would be successful for short periods of time, but would always fall back to [it to] manage stress,” he says. “Over time, I realized that alcohol does not actually reduce my stress, but is a short-term fix which actually exacerbates my anxiety and depression.” 

This sentiment is in line with what Mary Beth Miller, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Missouri, sees in her research on the interaction of sleep and substance use. She notes that when alcohol is used to promote sleep in times of stress — it does actually reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. But that doesn’t last very long. 

“Any sleep-promoting effect that alcohol has goes away between three and six nights of drinking,” notes Miller. “So, it’s not a very reliable sleep aid.”

While not every night you drink results in the worst night of sleep, 32% of adults report they’ve sometimes lost sleep after drinking alcohol in the past year, and 15% say they often or always have. While one-third say they fall asleep faster after drinking, they note it is restless overall. It turns out they aren’t imagining things. Miller notes this is consistent with research.

“What we see in healthy adults usually is [that] a heavy dose of alcohol in the hour or so before you go to bed — 3-6 drinks – does tend to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep,” she acknowledges. “But then it also tends to increase the amount of time you spend awake, particularly in the second half of the night, [as] it changes the way your sleep is structured and the brain waves that happen through your sleep.”

Why a Dry January?

While there are various reasons for participating in an alcohol-free month, the top motivators for respondents are better overall health (53%) and saving money (49%). Over one-third say they want improved mental health, more energy, and to lose weight. 

Some 36% are seeking better sleep – and they may have a good chance of success. One-third of respondents who stop drinking, even for a few weeks, notice their sleep is somewhat better, if not much better (22%). Of those, 50% say they sleep more soundly, 48% feel more refreshed when waking, and 42% feel less tired during the day.

Men report better sleep when abstaining from alcohol — 62% of men sleep better versus 54% of women who do — which could be explained by the fact that their bodies process alcohol differently

“Men and women process alcohol differently for [a few] different reasons, one being the amount of water in the body,” Miller says. The other is that women have less of the enzyme that helps metabolize alcohol, so they can’t process alcohol as efficiently as men.

Bhavsar first participated in Dry January in 2023 but has spent other months of the year without alcohol due to the positive experience. Not only was he hoping to improve his health, mental well-being, and sleep, but becoming a father was another motivating factor in his decision to begin to limit alcohol. 

“Over the last year, I have reduced my consumption to about 2-3 drinks per week — usually out at dinner with my wife — whereas before I was drinking 14 or more drinks a week,” he shares.

Taking the Stress Out of Dry January

Research suggests that tactics like Dry January make it easier to make longer-term changes in drinking habits . Over one-quarter of respondents say they’ve quit drinking for several months or more. Even for those who don’t make it a whole month without a drink, there are noted benefits to sleep quality. 

So, where do you start? Bradley says it helps to understand your motivation behind Dry January and making sure you “live, breathe, and eat that” once you’ve made the promise to yourself. You may find yourself in social situations where others are drinking. In that case, he recommends choosing a favorite drink to swap out for alcohol. 

Bradley’s substitute of choice is water, and 21% of respondents also say it is their go-to non-alcoholic drink. Other favorites include soda (26%) and coffee (24%). Mocktails are much less popular among respondents (4%) but are becoming more widely available at stores and are easy to order at bars. 

While you don’t have to avoid places and situations where you usually drink alcohol altogether, some people do prefer to do just that (42%). Others plan activities that don’t typically involve alcohol (44%) or just choose their favorite non-alcoholic drink to enjoy while socializing (36%).

“I find myself replacing my drinks with flavored soda water and diet soda mixed with zero-proof cordials,” Bhavsar says. “I also do this on nights out because I realized that often, it isn’t that I even desire alcohol. I simply desire any drink in my hand and to sip on something.”

Even if you don’t quit drinking long-term, you will still see benefits. Miller notes that everyone could benefit from just drinking less — and Dry January can be a wonderful jumping-off point for reducing intake, not only to prove to yourself you can do it but also to give yourself time to feel the beneficial effects. 

“These few months have led to an overall lifestyle change as well,” adds Bhavsar. “I have become excited and happy from feeling mentally and physically healthy over any excitement the feeling of alcohol gives me.”

And who knows? Once you experience the benefits of an alcohol-free January, maybe you’ll make it a dry February and beyond.


The survey commissioned by was conducted on the online survey platform Pollfish in December 2023. Results are from 1000 survey participants in the United States who were ages 21 and older at the time of the survey, and who drink alcohol. All respondents attested to answering the survey questions truthfully and accurately.

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5 Sources

  1. American Addiction Centers. (January 17, 2023) Booziest Holidays., Retrieved December 27, 2023 from
  2. Stanford Medicine. (n.d.) Understanding Alcohol’s Effects., Retrieved December 27, 2023 from
  3. MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US). (updated March 22, 2022) Alcohol., Retrieved December 27, 2023 from
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (October 17, 2022). Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Women’s Health. Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Retrieved December 14, 2023 from
  5. de Ternay, J., Leblanc, P., Michel, P., Benyamina, A., Naassila, M., & Rolland, B. (2022). One-month alcohol abstinence national campaigns: a scoping review of the harm reduction benefits. Harm reduction journal, 19(1), 24., Retrieved December 27, 2023 from

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