Generally, most people tend to prefer drinking in the evening. However, when considering a few particular factors, this has always seemed strange to me (reasons for which I’ll get to in a minute), although there are obvious reasons for it. For instance, most people work jobs early in the day, since “business hours” generally fall between 9AM and 5PM. Thus, the only part of the day most people are left any time to imbibe is in the evenings. This provides rational as to why most (but not all) roadblocks and license check points occur at night; there are statistically a greater number of people consuming alcohol later in the day, and especially after dark.
Of course, it is advised that if you consume alcoholic beverages, you should abstain from driving at all, lest the routine license check points you may encounter result in penalties that could include loss of your driver’s license. This is one primary reason I prefer having a drink earlier in the day; although I’m not suggesting here that people can avoid consequences of drinking and driving by simply doing it at an earlier hour. Instead, I’ve found that, as a full time journalist, when I can work it into my schedule to break for a nice cocktail while in town running errands (often limited to pedestrian travel while in the city anyway), the relaxing, refreshing quality of a single, well-prepared mixed drink is far more enjoyable in the daytime anyway. But why is this?
Over the years, I’ve heard many express the same sentiments. Will Arledge, a good friend of mine and one of the men behind the 2009 documentary film Beer Ya’ll, once told me “I don’t see why, even on the weekends, drinking at night is what people want to do. I say drink earlier in the day. It gives you a much different kind of outlook on things during daylight hours.” I agree, and countless times I’ve had others express this sentiment, almost to the point that it seems that alcohol’s “buzz” affects us differently in the daytime. However, the question remains as to how this could be; fortunately, by digging around a bit one can easily discover (as we are about to do) that there are indeed biological process that govern reasons that alcohol has a greater affect on us in the daytime.
Amanda Ursell of the British Times Online says, “We make less of the alcohol-breaking enzymes during the day compared with the evening, which helps to explain why having a drink at lunch time has more effect on us than when we imbibe at 8pm, the time of the day when production of alcohol dehydrogenase is at its peak.” Alcohol dehydrogenase, specifically the protein ADH5 (pictured above) allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages in humans; however, its evolutionary purpose was likely intended for breaking down alcohols naturally contained in foods we eat, or even those produced by bacteria in the human digestive tract. Whatever its intended purpose, our bodies are actually producing more ADH5 in the evenings, which coincides with the time most people are drinking alcohol.
This almost begs the question as to whether human tendencies toward drinking at night may extend further into the remnants of ancient cultures than we realize, lending to a notion that proteins used to break down alcohol we consume might be produced in greater concentration at night due to a biological, learned necessity for it (take, for instance, rituals performed by native cultures, many of which are traditionally carried out by night). However, in all likelihood, the very presence of daylight is the more logical factor in stifling production of ADH5, as is the case with the production of the sleep-inducing tryptamine melatonin, the production of which is hindered by exposure to light… but I digress. Whatever the circumstances, the reasons why most people opt to imbibe in the evenings are already obvious, and have more to do with our present culture and societal structure. Regardless, at least I’ll know next time I sit enjoying a nice beverage on a sunny afternoon, that there is a bit more to the physiology behind my delightful drinking experience, and its heightened effects in the daylight.