If you drink regularly, you’ve probably grown accustomed to the way alcohol affects you physically and mentally. You likely have a sense of your tolerance level, your drinking patterns, and how you recover after you drink. Maybe things seem like they’re business as usual. But what if you’ve been missing signals that your body and mind are sending you saying it’s time to drink less? Maybe it’s time to stop and consider whether cutting back on alcohol could benefit your life. To help you make that determination, in this blog post we’ll be covering eight signs your body is telling you to drink less alcohol.

Sign #1 — Fatigue and Poor Sleep

Because alcohol has a sedative effect, it can make us feel tired and we might reach for a nightcap before bed. Unfortunately, alcohol gets in the way of us enjoying a good night’s sleep. It can help us get to sleep, but after that, it basically ruins our opportunity to rest since it disrupts our REM cycles. That means we aren’t getting the restorative effects that our brain and body so desperately need after a long day.

If you’re waking up to use the bathroom multiple times after drinking, then that could also be a sign that you should cut back. Furthermore, regular drinking — especially if it’s heavy — can really do a number on our natural sleep-wake rhythm, and as a result, we might feel tired during the day even if we got a full seven to eight hours of total sleep the night before. If any of these situations resonate with you, it could be a sign that you should consider drinking less.

Sign #2 — Digestion and Appetite Issues

Maybe you’ve noticed a change in your gut health, and alcohol could be the source of the problem. From pain in our stomach to bloating, from nausea to vomiting, there is a broad spectrum of issues in our digestive system which could be traced back to alcohol as a cause. Especially if you’ve had ongoing symptoms, you may want to consult with your doctor to rule out ulcers or gastritis.

Even if you haven’t had these more severe symptoms, just know that alcohol interrupts our natural digestive process because it gets in the way of vital nutrients being absorbed properly. It can also mess with our appetite, so if you’ve been eating less or more than usual during a period where you’re drinking, it could be due to the alcohol. If you’ve been having problems with your gut or appetite, pause to consider whether it’s your body telling you to cut back on alcohol.

Sign #3 — Mood Changes and Memory Loss

Maybe you’re experiencing bigger swings in your emotions than usual, and if so, alcohol could be the source of the back-and-forth. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, general irritability, or any other type of fluctuation in our moods, alcohol interferes with our brain’s neurotransmitters and this can really throw us for a loop emotionally and relationally.

Alcohol also affects our conscious and unconscious actions — if we’re drinking to the point of blacking out, for example, we’re going to be forgetting a great deal of what we’re doing and putting ourselves in danger of something serious happening. Over the long term, we can develop memory loss with prolonged and extensive use of alcohol. So, if you’re experiencing any of these issues with your moods or your memory, it might be time to cut back on drinking.

Sign #4 — Weight Gain

A standard alcoholic drink has at least 100 calories, and often more, but let’s use that as a round number to do some quick math. If you have an average of two drinks per day, that’s an extra 1400 calories per week and roughly 6000 calories per month. That equates to an additional 2-3 days’ worth of empty calories that our body isn’t using properly.

As we’ve previously discussed, alcohol processing is prioritized over everything else we ingest, so the actual nutrients we need are often stored as fat instead of being metabolized effectively. There’s also the issue of the questionable dietary decisions we make when we have too much to drink — late night meals and greasy-spoon mornings while nursing hangovers can really add on the unnecessary calories, which easily become fat if we aren’t careful. Therefore if you’ve been noticing that you’re putting on some pounds that you can’t explain otherwise, it very well might be the alcohol you’re drinking that’s to blame for the weight gain.

Sign #5 — Skin Issues

Alcohol dehydrates our body and disrupts the natural flow of nutrients to our cells, so it’s no wonder that it affects our largest organ — our skin. If you’ve noticed an unexplained outbreak of acne or you’re suffering from psoriasis, it could be due to drinking. Rosacea, or a reddish complexion to the skin along with swelling, is another common side effect of having too much alcohol. Beyond these issues, alcohol simply makes us look older by promoting wrinkles, age spots, and even puffiness.

Sign #6 — Muscle Aches

Alcohol dehydrates our body and disrupts the natural flow of nutrients to our cells, so it’s no wonder that it can affect our muscles, too. Because alcohol disrupts our body’s usual recovery processes, we don’t recover from workouts or difficult physical activities as quickly. Drinking can also lead to cramping because our body processes the alcohol before the lactic acid from our workout.  

Sign #7 — Heart Problems

Drinking can also have some important effects on our heart. One of the most common impacts of alcohol is a temporary increase in blood pressure, and over time, this can lead to chronically high blood pressure. If this is something you’ve been dealing with, it’s probably a good idea to ask your doctor if your alcohol consumption is contributing to the situation.

Drinking too much alcohol can unfortunately open the door for a whole host of even more serious problems ranging from heart disease, hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and damage to the heart muscle from cardiomyopathy, and even an increased risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death. Clearly the stakes are high when it comes to our heart health, so if you have any concerns whatsoever in this area, it could be your body’s way of asking you to drink less.

Sign #8 — Withdrawal Symptoms

Maybe you’ve been drinking less or you’ve tried to stop and you’ve felt some of the more serious effects like nausea, shaking, anxiety, sweating, or even depression. If so, this may very well be the time to continue reconsidering your current relationship with alcohol. In some cases, it can actually be unsafe to stop drinking altogether, so if you’ve been drinking heavily and consistently for a long time, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before you try to drink less or stop drinking.

Regardless of how much we drink, it’s essential that we consult our physician and mental health providers throughout our process of alcohol reevaluation. That way we’ll have the tailored medical and clinical advice we need for our unique situations. When in doubt, reach out to a professional provider who can answer your questions about your circumstances.

Reframe Is Here To Help!

No matter what your current situation looks like with alcohol, the Reframe app is here to support you as you ask the hard questions about what you’re drinking and why. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people to become mindful drinkers, or to stop drinking altogether.

Each person’s situation is different, and that’s why we don’t presume to tell you how to live your life — we simply present the neuroscientific facts in daily readings to help you sort out the impacts of alcohol’s presence in your life. When you join the Reframe family, you also gain access to our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in calls — we are a diverse and engaging community from across the world full of people who are asking the same questions you are, and wrestling with the same challenges.

Best of all, you can try Reframe free for 7 days, so there’s no risk and a whole lot of potential reward! Think about what it would feel like to drink less this week, and how that might turn into something you decide to continue for a month or even longer. We want you to live your best life, so if you feel your body telling you it’s time to drink less, you’ve come to the right place.

Drink less, live more with Reframe today! We look forward to seeing you in the app!