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Drinking Habits

Why Is Day Drinking Dangerous?

October 15, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
October 15, 2023
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
October 15, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
October 15, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
October 15, 2023
18 min read

A mimosa at brunch, a poolside margarita, an ice cold beer at a barbecue — for many people, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cold drink on a warm day. Indeed, day drinking has been glamorized in popular culture as a way to kick back, relax, and have some fun. But is it really just harmless fun?

In this post, we’ll explore how day drinking affects our body and why it can be so dangerous. We’ll also provide tips about day drinking responsibly. Let’s dive in!

What Risks Are Associated With Day Drinking?

We know: day drinking seems like innocent fun. How much harm can a mimosa at brunch or a beer at a ballgame cause? But, as enticing as it may be, day drinking can lead to serious consequences. Alcohol at any time of day brings its own set of risks, but day drinking in particular can be dangerous. It’s not that our body processes alcohol differently depending on the time of day. Rather, the effects of alcohol that we feel can vary at different times of the day. 

Let’s look at 5 risks associated with day drinking:

1. Leads to excessive drinking

Day drinking often revolves around social situations and food, whether that means brunch with friends or a family barbeque. As such, we’re less likely to be drinking on an empty stomach. This is actually a good thing, because food slows the absorption of alcohol and decreases its effects. On the other hand, however, this might mean we end up drinking more to achieve the desired effect. Or we end up drinking more simply because we’re at an event — a brunch, festival, or game — that goes on for hours. Either way, day drinking can lead to excessive consumption of alcohol, putting us at greater risk for intoxication. Sugary drinks (like a margarita or daiquiri) can be particularly dangerous, as sugar slows the absorption of alcohol in our bloodstream. This might cause us to drink more — and more quickly — to get that tipsy feeling.

2. Leads to poor sleep

Ever conked out on the couch after a boozy brunch? It’s early afternoon! You can thank alcohol’s sedative effects. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows brain activity and can make us feel sleepy. This might seem like a good thing when it comes to sleep, but alcohol actually disrupts our sleep and reduces our overall sleep quality. When it comes to day drinking, this can be particularly problematic. If we consume large quantities during the day and it’s still in our system when we go to bed, it can disrupt our nighttime sleep. Furthermore, if we sleep it off by taking a nap after drinking, we’ll likely have a harder time getting good sleep at night. 

3. Negatively impacts our mood

It’s easy to ride the high of day drinking — that is, until you stop drinking, return home, and suddenly experience a crash. It doesn’t feel like it when we start drinking, but alcohol is a depressant. It gives us that initial high because it floods our brain with the “feel good” chemical dopamine, but that euphoria is short-lived. As alcohol’s effects wear off, dopamine levels plummet, frequently falling below normal levels. This abrupt dopamine dip might leave us feeling gloomy or depressed, especially in contrast to the exhilaration we felt while drinking. This effect can last into the next day and contribute to that terrible feeling of hangxiety

4. Increases risk of dehydration

Between BBQs, pool parties, and beach vacations, day drinking and summer seem to go hand in hand. Day drinking can also put us at risk for dehydration — particularly if we’re drinking on a hot summer day. While a cold beer can seem refreshing, drinking in the heat can quickly make us dehydrated. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it promotes water loss through urine. Alcohol has this effect regardless of the temperature or time of day we drink. But dehydration can be amplified by drinking in the sun and heat, as we sweat out important electrolytes and minerals like potassium and magnesium. This can worsen our hangover the next day, as dehydration is responsible for many hangover symptoms, like those pounding headaches. Plus, alcohol metabolizes into the compound acetaldehyde, which may cause our body to be more susceptible to UV rays, essentially increasing our risk of getting a sunburn

5. Increases risk of accidents and injuries

Some people mistakenly assume that they’re more alert or less drunk just because the sun is out and it’s daytime. But no matter what time it is, alcohol still impacts our cognition! It slows down our brain processes, affecting everything from our judgment to our motor skills. And the more we drink, the greater the effect. Interestingly, as drinking rates tend to rise in the summer, accidents also increase as well. For instance, people are more likely to get burns from the grill, cuts from dropping knives, or lifting objects that are too heavy. Furthermore, it can be particularly dangerous if we assume we’re sober enough to drive later on in the day. Even if we don’t feel as intoxicated as we were, our system is still processing the alcohol.

Is Day Drinking a Sign of Alcohol Misuse?

So, apart from the risks above, is day drinking a sign of alcohol misuse? Certainly not! Since day drinking has become an embedded part of our culture, indulging in the occasional beverage at a brunch, BBQ, or ball game is not an indication of alcohol misuse. 

However, just because day drinking is glamorized in popular culture doesn’t mean it’s a healthy practice. And if we find ourselves regularly day drinking — whether during the week at lunches or during the weekends — that might be a sign we’re misusing alcohol. We may not have a physical dependence, but perhaps alcohol has become an unhealthy coping mechanism. 

So how can we tell if we’re misusing alcohol? We might exhibit some or all of the following symptoms: 

  • Drinking more alcohol over a longer period of time than intended
  • Wanting to cut back on drinking but being unable to do so
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, consuming it, and then recovering
  • Inability to function normally in important areas of our life due to alcohol
  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Giving up important activities because of alcohol use
  • Using alcohol in situations that may be dangerous or risky
  • Continuing alcohol consumption despite negative consequences
  • Increased tolerance (i.e., needing to drink more to experience the same effects)
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol use is reduced or stopped

Furthermore, many people who misuse alcohol regularly binge drink, which is defined as having five or more drinks in two hours for men, and four or more drinks in two hours for women. Binge drinking can be extremely dangerous, increasing our chance of alcohol poisoning, accidents, and injuries. 

Again, the occasional day drinking doesn’t indicate we have a problem with alcohol. But when day drinking is a frequent occurrence, that may be a sign we’re misusing alcohol and should talk to a medical professional.

6 Tips for Combating Day Drinking

You’re about to enjoy a day at the beach, an afternoon barbecue, or an outdoor festival, and you’re planning to drink — what can you do to manage the risks associated with day drinking? 

Here are 6 tips for drinking responsibly and making sure your day drinking doesn’t go awry:

1. Plan ahead

It’s easy for day drinking to quickly get out of hand. What starts as casually enjoying one drink can quickly lead into a binge. Try setting limits beforehand — then stick to them! You can even consider setting a reminder or alarm on your phone to moderate your consumption, or to just check in with yourself. For instance, maybe you aim to limit yourself to one drink per hour. Set an alarm for one hour on your phone, and don’t consume another drink before it goes off. 

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

As we’ve learned, alcohol can dehydrate us, but day drinking in the sun can put us at an even greater risk. Hydration is important for every bodily system, so we should be prioritizing it regardless. For every alcoholic drink you have, try consuming a full glass of water. This helps us stay hydrated, and it limits the amount of alcohol we consume by keeping us fuller and keeping our hands full. It also gives our liver time to break down the alcohol. Even moderate levels of alcohol cause dehydration, but drinking water can slow this effect.

3. Count your drinks

It’s easy to lose track of the amount of alcohol we consume when we’re day drinking. Try using a notepad app in your phone to document every drink you have — whether at a BBQ, ballgame, or festival. This can help you become more aware of how much you’re consuming. It can also help you assess your consumption the next day.

4. Sip slowly

Make it a practice to truly savor each drink, taking slow sips and noticing the textures, aromas, and flavors. Mindful drinking can be particularly helpful, as it not only enhances our drinking experience, but helps us drink less — reducing the risk of a hangover. It can help to stick to drinks that take time to finish, such as beer (as opposed to shots or mixed drinks, which are easy to gulp down).

5. Don’t mix drinks

Mixing different types of alcohol drinks can rapidly bring up BAC levels and make us feel and appear intoxicated much more quickly than if we stick to one kind only. Mixing drinks may also cause us to consume a larger amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Opt for drinks with a lower alcohol content to help pace yourself throughout the day, such as light beers or spritzers. Watch out for those sugary drinks!

6. Eat something

A lot of day drinking occasions already involve eating, but it’s important never to drink on an empty stomach. It can be helpful to eat before drinking or snack while drinking. Having food in our stomach slows the absorption of alcohol. Plus, eating can help us drink at a slower rate, since we’re doing something instead of solely drinking. 

Keep in mind that, in general, limiting our alcohol consumption or eliminating it entirely can do wonders for our physical health and mental well-being. However, if we do choose to drink, following these tips can be very helpful. 

The Bottom Line

Even though it’s normalized in our culture, day drinking still brings with it a set of risks — from over consumption to dehydration. While occasionally enjoying a beverage or two during the day isn’t harmful, if day drinking becomes a regular part of our routine or if we’re overindulging every time, that could be a sign we’re misusing alcohol. 

If you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits. 

Summary FAQs

1. Why is day drinking dangerous?

Drinking alcohol at any time carries its own set of risks, but day drinking in particular can be dangerous because it can lead to excessive consumption, mood changes, poor sleep quality, dehydration, and an increased risk for injury.

2. Is day drinking a sign of alcohol misuse?

Occasionally enjoying a drink or two during a special day likely isn’t harmful. However, if day drinking is a frequent occurrence, that may be a sign we’re misusing alcohol and should talk to a medical professional. 

3. What are the other signs of alcohol misuse? 

There are many different symptoms of alcohol misuse, such as drinking in larger amounts and over a longer period than intended, continuing alcohol consumption despite negative consequences, giving up important activities because of alcohol use, and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol use is reduced or stopped.

4. What are some tips for day drinking safely?

If we choose to engage in day drinking, it’s best to plan ahead by setting limits on the number of drinks we consume, staying hydrated, keeping track of the number of drinks we’ve consumed, intentionally savoring each drink, not mixing drinks, and eating before or during drinking.

Develop Healthier Drinking Habits With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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