Wine and your Circadian Rhythm

February 10, 2023

By Elaine Goldhammer MD

Elaine Goldhammer is a medical doctor who has practiced western medicine for 24 years. In  2018, she created Inner Freedom Therapy to help clients in a deeper and more meaningful way.  She is now the leading Hypnotherapist and Life Coach in West Chester, PA. 

“Happy hour” has become not so happy for many of you.

Why does 5 or 6 pm drinking feel so beyond your control? 

I have been there. A few years ago, I was in the routine of drinking a glass (or three) a night.
After a long day of work at the hospital, the one thing I looked forward to was wine o’clock as I got dinner started.

The common thread of thought is, “I deserve this.”
But, of course, there are some consequences once it becomes a habit.

Like many of you, I was not too fond of the weight gain, the foggy head, and the morning blah.

To add more fuel to this fire of wanting to break this habit, the NYT on January 13th posted an article stating that the medical media overstated the benefits of a glass a day while understating the risks of cancer and other diseases.

Recent research suggested that even small or moderate amounts of alcohol increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. (Bummer, I know) 

Many of you want to stop this daily drink (or three) but are finding it hard.

The good news is that if you are finding cutting back difficult does NOT mean you are an alcoholic.

It just means that breaking old habits and creating new ones are rarely easy, especially with alcohol.  



First, your brain loves to seek pleasure, avoid discomfort, and repeat itself, and this is the “motivational triad” from Brooke Castillo and how your primitive brain works.

Alcohol is pleasurable, helps you avoid the discomfort of restlessness, boredom, and anxiety, and creates the dopamine that fuels the brain to repeat this cycle.  



So why is 5 or 6 pm so difficult to navigate?

Setting up a healthy morning routine that serves us well seems easier.

But when 5 pm rolls around, we are tired and hungry, and our brains tell us that we deserve a treat at that hour.

First of all, our brains are lying to us.

Some brilliant marketers labeled it “happy hour.”

So our brains hear that and translate that to “you are not happy until you have a drink in your hand.”  

Happy hour, people laughing and drinking
Second, we exhaust ourselves with all we do each day.

As a result, we have decision fatigue, emotional fatigue, and physiological fatigue.   

If you think you need the willpower to overcome that evening drink, and there is no willpower left at that hour.

Willpower is never the answer.

Training your brain to think differently is always a more effective way to change habits.  

For the science geeks out there, there is a genuine reason for our fatigue beyond having a long workday.

Our circadian rhythm dips in energy level mid-afternoon. If you work until 6 or 7 pm, we often push past this exhaustion, not doing ourselves any favors. 

Did you know that in 2017 the Nobel prize went to scientists that showed the circadian rhythm at a cellular level in fruit flies (surprisingly similar to human cells)?

Each night, our cells’ genes put out a protein called PERIOD (I am not making this up).

The PERIOD protein collects in each cell and then breaks down as the day progresses, creating normal energy highs in the morning, lows sometime after lunch, and then another surge after 7 pm.

So, our circadian rhythm is built into our cellular genome! Which is cool.

We have this internal clock at a cellular level!

Now, they did not have a fruit fly happy hour (although summer drinking can attract a fly in the glass), but I like these scientific factoids because it takes all of the self-judgment out of the conversation when we are trying to change a habit.

If you feel tired and drained at 5 30 pm, There is nothing “wrong” with you.

You simply have a genetic makeup, the human condition, with waves of energy and focus throughout the day.  



Okay, enough time nerding out.  

So how do you stop drinking at 5 30 pm?

First, stop calling happy hour.

Drinking wine or a cocktail is not “happy.”

It is a neutral circumstance, and you can think whatever you want.

I suggest trying on thoughts like, “I am caring for my body today.”

“Alcohol is poison for my brain and liver.”

and “Drinking or not drinking is a choice, not a need.” 

Second, decide what type of drinker you want to be.

A social drinker? Only at weddings? Only on Friday nights? Only at restaurants?

The good news is that you get to decide.

Once you decide what the parameters are, then write them down. Writing your parameters down is essential because you want to use your executive brain to determine this ahead of time.

Then stick to the plan, have your own back, and notice how good you feel in your body when you are not drinking.  

Third, just as you likely have a morning routine, create a realistic evening routine.

If you are a fruit fly and ran out of circadian “protein” at 3 pm or later, honor that.

Things that help when you run out of “juice” include napping, walking, and drinking tea or coffee.

Accepting that you have a human body and are not built to run, run, run all day is very freeing and helps you make smarter choices with your precious time.  

take a break

Finally, let me make a plug for hypnotherapy.   

Hypnotherapy helps settle the restless brain, creates new messages in your brain that you need to hear to believe them, and makes creating a new evening routine an easy process.

We do this by talking directly to our subconscious, where our brain holds onto deeper beliefs and patterns.  

Interested in guidance with all these tools and customized hypnotherapy sessions?

Come talk to me. I am here to help you.
Book a free consultation below.

How can Inner Freedom Therapy help?

If you would like to discuss this click to book a free consultation. 

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