9 Facts About Dehydration That May Surprise You

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Mature male hand pouring a glass of water from tap in the kitchen sink

Do you wake up thirsty? If so, the reason may not be that you’re dehydrated from drinking too little water throughout the day. Your body also loses water while you sleep, simply through breathing and sweating. This is one of the lesser known causes of dehydration.

How Much Water Do I Need to Drink?

The widespread belief that you should drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day for good health is a myth. There is no scientific research behind it. There’s no standard amount of water you should drink daily – it varies person to person. Most people need about four to six cups. Certain health conditions and high levels of physical activity will increase the need.

Common Causes of Dehydration Include:

  • Poor sleep quality. You lose water as you sleep especially if you breathe through your mouth. A small study published in 2006 found that people who breathed through their mouth during sleep lost 42 percent more water than those who breathed through their nose.
  • Not enough sleep. Dehydration also can be influenced by how much sleep you get. A study in the medical journal Sleep found that people who slept six hours or less a night were more likely to be dehydrated than those who slept at least eight hours.
    The study involved about 20,000 adults in the United States and China. It found those who slept six hours or less had up to a 59 percent higher risk of dehydration compared to the other group.
    Researchers said the difference may be related to an anti-diuretic hormone, vasopressin, which plays a role on how much water the kidneys excrete. The brain releases the hormone at night so that we retain water while we sleep.
  • Drink choices. Caffeine doesn’t increase risk of dehydration, but drinking alcohol does. If you’re drinking beer and urinate frequently, it’s not just the beer being eliminated. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes excessive urination. And drinking on an empty stomach will contribute even more to dehydration, because the alcohol is absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream.
  • Childhood. Children are at higher risk of dehydration than adults. This is especially true of infants. That’s because a child body holds a smaller volume of water than an adult body. Kids can become dehydrated quickly. So, it’s important they get enough fluids, especially if they have diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Aging. An obvious sign you need water is thirst. But you should not rely on thirst as an indicator of fluid needs. The thirst sensation also weakens with age. Older adults are more susceptible to dehydration because of this. They also hold less water than younger people.

Other Hydration Facts to Remember

  • It’s possible to become overhydrated. Sometimes called water intoxication, excessive water intake dilutes sodium in the blood. Cells absorb excess water, which can cause swelling in the brain. Overhydration can lead to vomiting, seizures, confusion and headaches. It can be life-threatening.
  • The color of your urine is good indicator of dehydration. Pale is good. Darker yellow indicates you need to drink more water. Very dark indicates dehydration. Keep in mind, certain foods and medications can affect the color.
  • Seek medical attention in cases of vomiting, fever or lack of urination. Dehydration can cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, confusion and fainting. Moderate to severe dehydration calls for medical attention. Severe dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances, kidney problems, seizures, coma and death.
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