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Not getting enough sleep? You could be dehydrated.

Many factors in our environment can affect how we sleep, from light, to noises, to our bedding or the temperature of our room. We also know that how we spend our day can influence the quality of rest we get at night, from the foods we eat, to whether or not we get sufficient physical activity. Yet, when considering how the choices we make during the day affect our sleep, many people overlook something as simple as water.

Drinking enough water is essential to your health. It’s vital to keeping your body and organs functioning properly. So it should come as no surprise that a lack of sufficient water throughout the day can also hinder your sleep. In this article, we take a look at the relationship between sleep and hydration and highlight how you can avoid dehydration and get better sleep.

What is the relationship between hydration and sleep?

Dehydration can cause you to feel tired, lethargic, or fatigued. It can lead to headaches, dry mouth, throat, and nasal passages, and even muscle cramps. The discomfort caused by these symptoms makes it much harder for you to get to sleep or enjoy quality sleep when you are asleep.

On the other hand, too much fluid through the day can cause nocturia — frequent urination at night. Making multiple trips to the bathroom during the night can become problematic, particularly for those who have trouble falling back to sleep after getting up.

Some studies have suggested that the relationship between sleep and hydration is a two way street, with disrupted sleep also possibly contributing to dehydration. During the latter sleep cycles, the body produces vasopressin, a hormone that promotes water retention. If we don’t get enough sleep, or we don’t cycle through the various stages of sleep, this natural process is disrupted and we don’t produce vasopressin, which may contribute to dehydration during the night.

How can you avoid dehydration during sleep?

Our bodies lose fluid through urination, breathing and perspiration, with fluid loss varying depending on whether a person breathes through their nose or mouth. Since we don’t drink water while we sleep, it’s normal that the body loses hydration over a night of sleep. The key is to make sure that you don’t lose so much fluid that you become dehydrated. The steps below will help you ensure you stay sufficiently hydrated through the night.

Make good sleep a priority

Aiming to get enough quality sleep every night will improve your chances of preventing dehydration. By getting sufficient sleep, you allow your body to go through all the natural processes and sleep cycles needed to rest and recover, including management of your body’s fluid levels.

Setting a consistent bedtime and wake up time is considered by sleep experts to be one of the most important strategies for improving your ability to get enough sleep regularly. Getting sufficient exposure to light during the day, limiting technology at night, getting enough exercise, and monitoring your food and caffeine intake all contribute to quality of sleep.

Keep your fluids up during the day

To prevent dehydration during the night, you need to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Do this by drinking plenty of water as you go about your day, sipping at regular intervals. Don’t just wait until you’re thirsty. You can even set a timer if you find that you don’t think of it — we all know what it’s like 

Choosing a nice jug or water bottle to keep by your desk or workspace also helps to keep track of your water intake and to make the process a little more enjoyable. Remember that caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can dehydrate you, so make water your primary drink and limit your intake of coffee, alcohol, and even juice and sodas. Including lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet also helps work towards a healthy level of hydration, as they naturally contain water.

Find the ideal bedroom temperature and humidity level

Aside from what you eat and drink throughout the day, there are external factors, such as temperature and humidity, that can also affect your hydration levels as you sleep. 

If your bedroom or bedding is too warm, your body will lose water through sweating. Keep the heating low, and make sure to use a duvet that’s appropriate for the season, switching to a cooler duvet in the warmer months. Bedding should also be breathable, allowing sufficient airflow to avoid overheating. You can also wear lighter, looser pyjamas and if you tend to run hot, consider a mattress, pillow, or duvet with a cooling effect on the surface. Maintaining a comfortable room and body temperature throughout the night will help prevent dehydration.

Humidity levels are also important. If your home or bedroom has low humidity, you’re at a higher risk of getting dehydrated as you sleep. You can easily adjust the humidity by using a humidifier, setting it at the ideal level before you get ready for bed.

Managing overhydration

Sometimes, the issue is not dehydration but overhydration. Follow these steps to ensure your sleep isn’t disrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom at night.

Urinate before bed

Get into the habit of going to the toilet before you get into bed. Incorporate it into your bedtime preparation routine. By urinating right before you go to bed, you reduce the likelihood of waking up to go during the night.

Put your legs up in the evening

This one may sound a little odd! When you lie down to go to sleep, your body reabsorbs water from your legs, which can cause you to need to go to the toilet, even if you went before bed. If you elevate your legs earlier in the evening, perhaps as you unwind with a good book, you can allow this process to happen before you’re in bed trying to sleep.

Reduce fluid consumption an hour before bed

Avoid drinking anything in the hour before you go to bed — particularly caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as they have a diuretic effect that can increase the urge to urinate. Large amounts of water too close to bedtime should also be avoided, though small sips can be okay.

Are your symptoms severe or affecting your day to day life?

If you have ongoing problems with sleep or dehydration, your symptoms are severe, or your nights are filled with back and forth trips between the bathroom and the bedroom, seek professional help from a doctor. Other medical conditions can also affect some symptoms, as well as how you should approach management of those symptoms, so it’s important to review your individual situation with a professional.

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