You might not think that there’s any connection between your hydration and your sleep, but research suggests otherwise. The next time you’re having a sleepless night, consider how much water you drank and how you felt that day. You might be surprised!
It’s been determined that sleep and hydration is actually a two-way street, and that both dehydration and bad sleep patterns can in fact impact one another. With record-breaking heat waves affecting much of the United States this summer season, it’s important to know about the dangers of dehydration… including the danger it poses towards your sleep. This article will describe this relationship and offer some tips for avoiding hydration and an insufficient night’s rest.
Dehydration and What it Can Do to You
Most of us have experienced dehydration in some form at one point or another, and the effects are pretty well-known. Dehydration can mean a lack of concentration, increased irritability, and some serious migraines. Severe dehydration can cause dizziness and even fainting.
Another thing you might notice when you’re dehydrated, though, is how sluggish you feel throughout the day and how difficult it is to fall asleep when it’s all set and done.
Going to bed improperly hydrated, even if just slightly, can seriously disrupt your sleep. Dehydration dries out the nasal passageways and throat, increasing your chances of snoring throughout the night and waking up hoarse. This lack of fluids can also cause itchy skin, migraines, and even severe leg cramps that could prevent you from falling asleep and sleeping comfortably through the night.
Dehydration also affects the very basis of a good sleep; it disrupts the body’s natural sleeping patterns known as circadian rhythms, and in turn, the production of the hormone essential to healthy sleep: melatonin.
Overall, this results in a vicious cycle of cognitive impairment and improper function through the day, compounded by disrupted sleep through the night. It can be hard to tell where hydration levels and sleep quality meet and end, and which affects what. The point? It’s a recipe for disaster.
The Two-Way Street
While you could be going to bed perfectly hydrated, you might still encounter some problems. This is thanks to the fact that sleeping itself can lead to dehydration. How so? Just from breathing while we sleep, we lose about 1 liter of water nightly due to the humidity levels in our breath.
You could lose even more fluids and increase dehydration if you breathe through your mouth, snore, or suffer from sleep-disordered breathing such as obstructive sleep apnea.
Even the temperature of the room in which you sleep could play a role in how much fluid your body loses during sleep. A warm, stuffy bedroom could increase your loss of fluid.
And while sleep itself does cause us to lose a certain amount of fluids, research has shown that insufficient sleep could also cause dehydration. Insufficient sleep disrupts the production of vasopressin, a hormone vital in the workings of hydration, and even impacts kidney function, which also plays a role in hydration.
In addition, Penn State conducted a study looking at 20,000 relatively healthy adults across the United States and China. The subjects completed a survey and gave urine samples, which can indicate hydration levels, to be analyzed for the study. Results showed that short sleep duration was associated with an increased risk of dehydration; those who slept 6 hours or less a night were 16-59 percent more likely to be dehydrated than those who slept 8 or more hours a night.
What Can You Do?
So, there is no question that there is indeed a relationship between hydration and sleep… but what can you do about it? Here are a few things to be aware of regarding dehydration and what you can do to avoid it and maintain a good night’s rest:
- Sodium Levels
Research indicates that consuming too much sodium can negatively affect sleeping patterns. Highly processed and prepackaged foods tend to be very high in sodium content, so it’s best to limit your consumption of those types of foods. Also be mindful of what you eat before bed; dinner should be relatively low in sodium and avoid salty snacks before bed.
- Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol has a huge impact on hydration, believe it or not. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it promotes the process of urination. Thanks to this, drinking alcohol before bed can cause interrupted sleep because you need to use the restroom more frequently.
Consuming too much alcohol can also result in some uncomfortable side effects, such as dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness, all of which can keep you from sleeping comfortably. If you’re going to consume alcohol, watch the time at which you do so and avoid over-consuming.
- Caffeine Consumption
Since caffeine is a stimulating drug, the idea of cutting off consumption in the afternoon is pretty straightforward. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so having it too close to bed may disrupt sleep. Overall, it’s best to stay away from caffeine after 2 pm, and if you’re going to consume it, make sure to drink the same amount of water to combat dehydration.
- Sugar Levels
Sugar is another thing that can seriously disrupt sleep, not to mention all of the other ways sugar negatively affects your health. Foods and drinks high in sugar content can cause a loss of water in the body, leading to dehydration. For overall good health, it’s important that you limit sugar consumption, so stay away from those candy bars or sodas… especially before bed!
- Exercise Timing
Exercise is a stimulant. It releases endorphins that help boost your mood and feel energized. If you are interested in working out, it’s better to schedule it in the morning or afternoon. Exercising too close to bedtime could leave you feeling too hyped up to get to sleep at a decent hour.
Illness is another factor of dehydration. For example, a common cold or the flu, especially with a fever, means lots of sweating and loss of fluids.
Diarrhea is also incredibly dehydrating. If you have a stomach bug or a gastrointestinal condition such as irritable bowel syndrome, chances are you will struggle with diarrhea. It’s very important to drink more fluids during spells of diarrhea, as your body is ridding itself of more fluids than usual and dehydration risk is much greater.
Chronic illnesses can also impact both hydration and sleep. Issues like metabolic syndrome, obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even depression or anxiety can have a negative effect on hydration levels and the quality of your sleep.
If you’re struggling with an illness, whether temporary or chronic, make sure you understand all of the symptoms and follow treatment plans. It’s always beneficial to be aware of your water intake and sleeping patterns when dealing with an illness.
- Sleep Quantity
Since sleep, as you have learned, does cause dehydration, excessive sleep can increase your risk of dehydration and leave you feeling rather poor. There is a fine line between the right amount of sleep and having too much or too little.
Most adults benefit the most from sleeping 7-9 hours nightly. Sleeping less than this amount on a regular basis contributes to sleep deprivation, but unfortunately, sleeping too much is also a concern. Sleeping more than the recommended amount, usually 11 or more hours a night, will also leave you feeling groggy and dehydrated.
The best way to maximize sleep is to have a solid sleep routine, where you wake up and go to bed at about the same time every morning and night. Since you do wake up dehydrated, be sure to drink some water before having your morning cup of coffee.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends that men drink about 13 cups of water daily, while women should drink about 9 cups a day. While this may seem like a lot, keeping up with this proper hydration will greatly increase your quality of life. You’ll notice a difference in your concentration and focus, energy, and your sleep.
Of course, sometimes there are things out of your control that affect your sleep. Sleep-disordered breathing is one of the most common reasons for a lack of healthy and sufficient sleep. Problems like sleep apnea or chronic snoring can negatively impact both sleep quality and hydration.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of or are struggling with sleep-disordered breathing, Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia is here to help with a highly trained team of sleep specialists dedicated to your health. We make diagnosing and treating sleep-disordered breathing and snoring as easy as possible with at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal with which you can contact a professional at anytime.
Ready to get a better night’s sleep and reach your full potential? We’re here to support you! You can schedule an appointment online or call us today at (703) 689-2480 for a free consultation. Please keep in mind that you will be asked to use the app Snorlab to record data of your sleeping patterns prior to coming in for your appointment.