Be Savvy. Be Safe.

Facts About Drinking Alcohol

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Seasonal changes are on the way, and that means many college students will find opportunities to enjoy outdoor festivities where they may be serving alcohol. But, since 21 is the legal drinking age, it’s worthwhile to look at some alternatives to drinking alcohol that could be equally as enjoyable or more so.

First, let’s review a little about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful or smart. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • One (serving-sized) drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.)
  • Serving sizes: If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of these serving sizes:
    • Beer—12 ounces
    • Liquor—one ounce
    • Wine—five ounces.
  • Stay hydrated. In order to prevent dehydration, drink eight ounces of water per hour. (This will also help ward off a hangover the next day.)
  • Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  • Designate a driver. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation.

Some reasons to avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol damages liver tissue, sometimes permanently. Brain tissue is permanently damaged by drinking alcohol (something to “think” about, if you are a serious college student). It can also lower inhibitions and make you act in a way you would not normally act. Alcohol is a depressant, and so somebody who drinks alcohol regularly is more likely to develop mental health side effects, such as chronic depression. Alcoholic beverages are also highly caloric, with very little nutritional value. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk in return. It is not the best choice for an ambitious college student. Also, many young people these days are on prescription medication, which is contraindicative for drinking alcohol.

So, then, what are some alternatives to drinking that cold beer? There are countless resources online. (A few are listed at the end of this article.) Here are a few good ideas both for social events and when at home:

  • Sip a non-alcoholic beverage if attending a party where alcohol is served. For example, have orange juice, instead of a screwdriver. Drink ginger ale, instead of a Moscow Mule. Or, have a V8 instead of a Bloody Mary.
  • Drink something new to you, like herbal tea, or a Thai latte.
  • Invest in a blender, and learn to make fruit smoothies!
  • Nonalcoholic beer or sparkling grape juice is a good choice for those who do not want to draw attention.
  • Club soda, with a lemon twist, will satisfy your thirst and your taste buds simultaneously.
  • Be conscious of why you are drinking. Is it an oral fixation? Are you stressed out? Are you drowning your sorrows? Or, are you celebrating something? If you are drinking for the wrong reason, then find an alternative.
  • Think about calories. Sometimes considering calorie content is enough to change over to water. If you are trying to trim your waist for the summer, then less is more.
  • Alternate each drink with water. That way you will be drinking only half the alcohol, theoretically, as you would have been before.
  • Get involved with an active group of people, such as a group at com. Or find a campus group that interests you. Since we become like the people we hang around with, it makes sense to choose healthy people.

Finally, you’ll be glad you resisted the temptation to drink because:

  1. It’s much more fun to be in control.
  2. You won’t have a hangover when you need to study.
  3. You will not be suffering from the consequences of decisions made when under the influence.
  4. You will actually remember the fun you had and the memories you made.
  5. Your waistline, liver, brain, and overall health will thank you.
  6. Making the right choices will empower you and not depress you!

 

For more information on enjoying an alcohol-free holiday, visit these Web sites:

Alcohol facts and statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Fact sheet about alcohol and your health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Narconon.org
http://www.narconon.org/blog/sobriety/twenty-drug-free-sober-activities/

Treatmentsolutions.com
https://www.treatmentsolutions.com/31-things-to-do-instead-of-drinking-alcohol/

Related news story
USAToday.com
http://college.usatoday.com/2014/03/17/st-patricks-day-emphasizes-need-for-collegiate-alcohol-abuse-recovery-programs/

Getting Your Zzzs: The Importance of Sleep

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

sleepA recent email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep. According to the CDC, sleeping at least 7 hours each night is required “to promote optimal health and well-being.” Most health professionals recommend 7 to 9 hours.

Conversely, it states if you sleep less than 7 hours per night, you are at risk of developing a chronic condition, such as “obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.” Lack of sleep can also elevate stress hormones; and cause mood swings, slower response time, confusion, lack of focus, poor decision-making and unnecessary risk-taking. This can have hazardous side-effects and consequences in our everyday lives, such as poor performance on the job, in school, in our relationships, and also in driving or operating machinery.

By all conservative estimates, the number of sleep-deprived adults can be significantly higher in college communities. As the nurse in the Hilbert College Wellness Center, most of my sick patients are sleep-deprived, acquiring less than six hours per night. There are many excuses for this, such as living with a loud roommate, studying for a test, going out late at night, working at a night job, or just not being that motivated or self-controlled. Many students are unaware of how important sleep really is.

Sleep is important. Here are some reasons. While you sleep, your brain is forming pathways for learning and storing memories. Your body is building up its immune system and healing damage caused throughout the day. Hormones called cytokines, which are produced during the night, are crucial for your immune system to fight infection and inflammation. During the day, a compound called adenosine is built up, and it is only broken down again by getting enough sleep. If you miss a few nights of sound sleep, the adenosine will build up and cause sleepiness during the day. Another substance, a hormone called melatonin, makes you naturally feel sleepy at night, but that can be reversed to daytime sleepiness, if you don’t fulfill your nighttime sleep requirements.

Going to bed at the same time every night, say 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., allows your body to cycle through sleep stages, each with a specific purpose. The four stages must be experienced in chronological order for sleep to do its job. In addition, the beginning of the night presents longer stages than the end of the night. For example, non-REM deep sleep, considered the “restorative” stage of sleep occurs mostly in the first half of the night. Knowing this makes it clear that going to bed at the same time every night is crucial to maintaining good health.

If you know you have gotten off-track, here are some ways to improve your sleep habits:

  1. Use caffeine only in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will disrupt your sleep.
  2. Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol may help put you to “sleep” at the beginning of the night, but it has been shown to cause lighter, less fitful sleep, and it actually interrupts sleep halfway through the night, as well as causing dehydration. Nicotine (in cigarettes) is a stimulant that leads to lighter than normal sleep.
  3. Establish a “bedtime” again, and stick to it. Your parents were right to enforce this, and now you know why.
  4. Don’t take a nap longer than 20 minutes, or past 3:00 p.m. This may make it more difficult to wake up fully, and then to go to sleep at your predetermined time.
  5. Wind down at night by dimming lights, turning off the TV and electronics (including your cell phone!), and taking a hot shower or bath before bed. Have a comfortable bed and pillow, and keep the room temperature cool.
  6. Get enough exercise and fresh air during the day, so you are sleepy at the right time. Make sure this is not within two hours of your newly established bedtime, though.
  7. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door, if you live in a community that stays up late.
  8. Wear ear plugs, if necessary.
  9. For chronic insomnia, see a doctor who can help you determine the cause of your sleeplessness.
  10. Avoid sleeping pills. These are habit-forming, and should be used only as a last resort and only occasionally.
  11. Don’t rely on sleeping in on the weekends. This may erase some of your sleep debt, but not all of it. It will also make it much more difficult to get to sleep at the proper time on Sunday night.
  12. Eat healthfully. When you fuel your body properly, it just runs better overall. Also, don’t eat any large meals just before bed. Indigestion may wake you up!
  13. Learn how to manage time. Ultimately, going to bed at the right time, rather than studying for that test until the wee hours, will help you do better on your test the next day. It would be even better to schedule study time during the daytime.

Remember the words of Ben Franklin, “Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Sweet dreams!

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Guide to Healthy Sleep:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf