Can Dehydration Affect Your Sleep?

What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up?  Is it how you don’t want to get out of bed, because you’re tired and would just rather put your head back under the pillow?  Maybe it’s that you’re feeling a little thirsty, and are ready to head downstairs and flick on the kettle for a large bucket of coffee?  For most of us, it’s connected with either of the above, and both can be linked with a lack of hydration overnight.

If your first thought of the day is about drinking copious amounts of coffee or tea or other caffeinated beverages, then you could be doing your sleep habits no good at all.  You don’t need to forfeit the early morning pick-me-up completely, but maybe think about starting off with some water first just so that you’re not overloading on diuretics.

It could seem like a vicious circle that you can’t get out of, but the less sleep you have, the more likely you are to be dehydrated.  The more tired you feel, the more coffee you might want to consume in order to combat that tiredness, which as a knock on effect will dehydrate you more quickly.

There is also a scientific explanation for dehydration during sleep (or lack of it) – our brains produce a hormone called vasopressin which basically signals the kidneys to conserve enough water to prevent dehydration.  The less we sleep, the lower the level of vasopressin that’s produced. The lower the level, the less we sleep.  There’s that vicious circle.

The easiest way to stay on top is to make sure you compensate for your body’s water deficit.  Drink less caffeine and more water.  Simple.  Electrolytes also help with hydration and fluid regulation so if you’re looking for a little less of a plain liquid to drink, then you could switch to coconut water which is packed with them.  Vegetable and fruit juices are also electrolyte rich so long as they’re freshly made, and not of the pasteurised and added sugar variety.

 

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7 Simple Tips to Make You Drink More Water

As if by magic we’ve reached September!  After the heatwave of a fortnight ago, it’s strange to realise that the weather is starting to have that autumnal feel too – the mornings are decidedly cool compared to those of last month.

During the hot weather, we obviously tend to drink a little more than normal as dehydration sets in quicker when we’re all hot and bothered.  We shouldn’t reduce the amount we drink though just because it’s cooling down a bit.

Water is the aid for many a health issue, and we already know that staying hydrated can improve digestion, complexion and immune system health.  Challenge yourself – drink 1-2 litres of water per day for the next 2 weeks and see how much better you feel.  And if you’re not sure how you’ll manage it, below are some simple tips to help you.

  1. Drink a glass as soon as you get out of bed in the morning. If you can, ditch the coffee in favour of some water, hot if you like, with a squeeze of lemon juice.  If you really can’t do without the caffeine boost, drink some water first, then have your usual rocket fuel.
  2. During your working day, each time you have a loo break, have some water afterwards. Think of it as the perfect ‘wash’ cycle for your insides – wash, rinse, repeat!
  3. Drinking spring water almost feels like a luxury! You may be lucky enough to have a water cooler at work, but not many of us have them at home. A good quality water filter is a close second and will sit neatly on your kitchen counter to remind you to drink.
  4. Water dense foods are a great way to drink what you eat! Fruit and vegetables are a fabulous way to hydrate.
  5. Sparkling mineral water is perfect if you love fizzy drinks. Add a splash of cordial if you need a sweet fix.
  6. Eating spicy food is a sure fire way to make sure you consume a bit more water. Cooling your mouth down may seem like the primary goal, but the more water you need to douse those flames, the better for you!
  7. Dilute your other drinking habits. By this we don’t literally mean add water to your other drinks, but be mindful that coffee and tea are diuretic so need counterbalancing. If you’re partial to a night on the town, drinking one for one will reduce the chances of a bad hangover too!

Why Do We Need To Drink More Water?

Most of us can say that we’re healthy.  We feel ready for the day when we get out of bed in the morning, and thankfully get through the day without incident! Most of us.

But even those of us that don’t have any illness, chronic or otherwise, could be neglecting our bodies without realising it.  And it can all start with mild dehydration.

There is an almond sized gland in our brains called the hypothalamus which controls certain metabolic processes and other activities of the nervous system; for example hunger, body temperature, sleep, fatigue and thirst.  When there’s not enough fluid in our body, this gland detects dehydration and releases certain hormones which control the kidneys and stops them from releasing more water.  Urination is reduced which then signals the brain to crave more water in order to return hydration levels to normal.

If you ignore your body’s signals for more water, chronic dehydration and other potential illnesses and infections could be only hours away.

It would be unrealistic to drink water 24/7, without any other drinks included in our diets.  If like us you need a strong coffee to get going in the morning, do try and balance it out with a glass of water afterwards.  Coffee and tea are diuretic which increase blood flow to the kidneys, forcing urination whether we need it or not!

Ensuring hydration throughout the day will support overall cellular health, it will kick start your metabolism, decrease swelling in joints, reduce the chances of fatigue, muscle cramps and dizziness, as well as keeping your kidneys and other organs in good working order.

Our brains are the driving force behind all of our body’s organs, functions and responses to those functions – we really shouldn’t trick them, just hydrate them!

Top Signs That We’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Water serves a number of important functions to keep us healthy, but dehydration is one of the most common problems in adults, and one of the easiest to combat.  If left unchecked, dehydration could lead to kidney problems, constipation, pain in the back and joints, and problems with digestion.  It’s also a common misconception that when we think we’re hungry, we could actually just be thirsty.

There are some easy to spot signs that we could be dehydrated (and some not so easy ones too).  Here are out top picks:

  • Headaches

This is caused by brain shrinkage.  Literally.  When we don’t take enough water on board, the cells in our bodies start to dehydrate, and shrink through lack of water.  It can feel rather like a hangover, which as some of us know is not a great way to start the day!  Of course pain killers may help, but the easiest and most natural way to alleviate the pain of this kind of headache is to fill up with water!

  • Dizziness

As well as headaches and lethargy, you might feel dizzy from time to time when you’re dehydrated.  It is important to refuel, but many of us reach for a calorie dense, high energy snack, when the first thing we should really do is drink some water to rehydrate.  A healthy snack will help to balance out your blood sugar levels in a much kinder way than junk food.

  • Concentrated Urine

Dark is bad!  You may notice that your urine is darker in colour and stronger in smell first thing in the morning; this is because we don’t generally drink anything while we’re asleep.  Throughout the day, when we’re drinking more, our trips to the toilet are more frequent, and our urine is paler in colour.  If however your urine stays dark in colour, it’s a sure sign of dehydration. Drink more water!

  • Dry skin and lips

Our skin is the biggest organ of our bodies. It literally is the thing that holds us together!  We should look after it.  With skin cancers and their associated problems being such a hot topic, we wouldn’t think of going out in the sun for prolonged amounts of time without our factor 30 on, but we don’t always think about the good hydration does for our skin.  Dehydrated skin can look older, with more visible wrinkles, our eyes can seem ‘baggy’, our noses and cheeks can have an unattractive redness and our lips can become dry and cracked.  Drink more water!

  • Fatigue and/or anxiety

If you’ve ever been hit with an overwhelming sense of sleepiness and a lethargic feeling, you may just need to drink some water.  Our muscles all need water to work properly and without it, we’ll literally feel weak at the knees!  We can also have a lack of focus, dryness in our mouths and shortness of breath, which can all lead to, or be signs of anxiety.  Drink more water!

If any of the above symptoms persist after adequate hydration, you should contact your doctor.

Healthy Effects of Drinking More Water

Our bodies are made up mostly of water, on average around 60%.  In order to keep those levels constant, we need to consume enough water to replace what is lost through normal bodily functions. Water helps to remove waste from the body, it carries nutrients to cells and it aids digestion.  If you live in a warmer climate, or exercise regularly you may need to drink more in order to stay hydrated.

There are many benefits to drinking plenty of water in normal everyday life which you may not have realised. Here are some:

Your Appetite

Drinking water before a meal can part fill your stomach making you feel fuller while you eat.  You can still enjoy your meal, but might not need to eat so much in order to feel satisfied.  Leaving an empty plate isn’t compulsory!  Stop eating when you feel full up.  Over time you’ll more than likely lose a few pounds which is great news for any weight watchers.  It goes to show that when we think we’re hungry, our brains can confuse the messages from our stomachs. Sometimes we just need a drink!

Your Oral Health

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep your mouth healthy and your teeth strong.  It’s not always convenient to brush your teeth after every meal, but rinsing your mouth shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  Drinking some water after food will help remove some of the plaque building acids and bacteria that damage the surface of the teeth.  Some waters contain fluoride which helps to protect tooth enamel, but even if your choice of water is fluoride free, flushing your mouth through will help, as small food particles will be washed away, helping keep your gums healthy, and your breath fresher too.

Your Digestion

Drinking water will help keep you regular! It helps lubricate the colon, by binding with soluble fibre to keep your bowels moving, whilst keeping intestinal mucous soft thus protecting your digestive tract.  If you don’t drink enough water your bowel movements will be less frequent, and you could have a hard time passing stools.

The Flip Side

There are hardly any adverse effects from drinking water, but if you drink too much there can be one or two that are detrimental or even harmful to our bodies.  Although excessive intake of water is unlikely in the average healthy adult, some athletes who consume large amounts could be at risk, particularly in the endurance sports arena.  Too much water can dilute the blood which will result in low sodium levels, weakened muscles and even slow heart rhythm, and can cause loss of water soluble nutrients like vitamin B and C.  These vitamins can be flushed out of the body before they have time to adequately absorb.

How Important is it to Drink Water During Exercise?

Whilst we all know the importance of drinking enough water to maintain our general health, many don’t realise the effect dehydration can have on our bodies.  The same can be said – not just during exercise – but before and after too.

Many people who suffer with headaches, feeling tired, poor performance when exercising, breakouts or bad skin, insomnia or trouble sleeping, are often just a little dehydrated.  These same people can be the ones who go out for a run, or to the gym without a bottle of water.  As we are made up of mostly water, it’s vitally important to stay hydrated so that the normal functions of our body aren’t interrupted.

This is why we need to listen to our bodies, and more so when we exercise.  Don’t wait for the tell-tale signs though – drink water throughout the day and increase it during strenuous or physical activity.  In just one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than 25% of its water content.  This can lead to muscle fatigue and cramps and then loss of coordination.  If you are finding it hard to finish your exercise session, drink some water and you may find it’s all you need to get going again!

There is further good news for those of us wanting to lose a few pounds! Studies have shown that drinking 2 glasses of water before a meal can help dieters lose nearly half a stone in a year, and also to maintain that weight loss.  This combined with regular exercise will have us trim in no time!

Improve Your Exam Grades With One Simple Solution

Many students could do with a bit of a boost as exam season approaches, no matter their age, intelligence or ability.  It can be a stressful time as they cram for Finals, A Levels, GCSEs and even SATs.  So it stands to reason that any extra help is welcome at what can be one of the most momentous times in any student’s life. 

We can’t wave a magic wand and give everyone a photographic memory, but we do have a (virtually) free tool to give you the best chance of performing to your very best ability on that all important exam day. A tool that is available to every one of us. Water.

Science has proved that our brain function and activity is boosted just by drinking water.  When we think about dehydration, our minds often conjure up images of extreme cases where people are severely starved of water, but in reality dehydration can be swift, albeit initially mild. 

If we are even slightly dehydrated our bodies can develop a number of symptoms that we might confuse with other conditions.  Insufficient water intake can interrupt our memory and ability to focus properly, which can then lead to headaches and fatigue.  This added to irritability, insomnia or problems sleeping and even mild depression may have you thinking that you have a whole heap of stress on your shoulders, when in fact the solution could be a simple as drinking more water in order to correct your levels of hydration.  Of course, there could be elements of stress involved, and these are not to be taken lightly – water is not a cure all.  BUT… it just may help to alleviate some of the symptoms listed above.

Scientific studies have shown that students who are only 1% dehydrated could experience a 5% decrease in their cognitive functions.  If the level of dehydration increases further they may struggle to access their short term memory, and chronic dehydration will cause the brain cells to shrink in both size and mass.

Hydration levels should be at their peak throughout the lead up to exams, and during the exam sitting itself.  Take a water bottle in with you – you’d be surprised at the amount of students who don’t!  You want to give yourself every advantage – sipping water regularly is one of them!

The Benefits of Drinking Water in the Morning

Most of us love a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning.  As we wearily get out of bed, we’re almost on autopilot as we trudge to the kitchen, fill the kettle and flick it on to make our first cuppa of the day.

It’s a surprising fact that in some cultures, it’s practice to drink up to half a dozen glasses of water when you wake up, to aid overall wellbeing.  This is perhaps not a practice conducive for those of us that have a long commute into work!  But a good practice nonetheless.  Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • Drinking water balances the lymphatic system of our bodies.  The lymph glands help to strengthen the immune system which will ultimately help fight bugs and infections.
  • Getting a good amount of water into your system early will aid your concentration levels, setting you up for a good day at work.
  • Drinking plenty of water first thing will help purge toxins from the blood. You’ll also benefit from clearer skin.
  • It’ll kick start your metabolism, sometimes increasing it by up to 25%!
  • Drinking water early in the day will help your digestive cycle, and help keep constipation at bay.
  • It’ll rehydrate you after sleep.  Headaches, joint and back pain will be minimised.
  • You’ll have more energy.  Nutrients will absorb more easily with the help of water, making you feel energised and ready to combat the day!

Of course, drinking water throughout the day is always recommended, as hydration is a fundamental part of our overall good health, but getting a couple of glasses in early is just the boost our bodies need to keep us ticking over.  Prevention is always preferable to cure!

Are You Drinking Enough Water? The Pee Test Can Tell You!

Statistics are telling us that some adults (around 7 million of us) are going through the day without a drink of water!  Imagine a whole 24 hours without even a sip of water.  Some don’t even have a glass beside the bed to sip if they wake during the night.

Knowing that our bodies are made up mainly of water, we know that it’s vitally important to stay hydrated.  The problems that arise if we don’t can include headaches and migraines, loss of concentration, water retention and swollen joints, and ultimately damage to our organs, including our skin.

Of course, the easiest indicator that we could be starting to dehydrate is thirst, but there is a ‘visual’ test that we can all take and it’s as easy as A, B, Pee!

Urine is the sterile by-product which flows from the kidneys through the bladder and is excreted via the urethra. It’s nature’s way of flushing our bodies of the toxins and chemicals that could be harmful if left unchecked. Next time you visit the toilet, have a look in the pan when you’ve finished. By rule of thumb, if your urine is dark in colour then the chances are that you’re already dehydrated.  To ensure that hydration is at its peak, then your urine should be pale in colour – the paler the better!  This means that you’re already drinking the correct amount to maintain hydration. But there is such a thing as over hydration, so if your pee is clear then that could be a sign that you’re drinking too much and you should hold back a little.

The safest way to make sure that you’re attaining the correct level of hydration is to drink the recommended 8 glasses per day. If you work in an office environment, suggest installing a water cooler to help reach your quota.  Not every drink has to be water – add some squash if you like.  Tea and coffee are both diuretics, and should still be enjoyed, maybe just in smaller quantities – just top up with some sips of water after each cup.

New Year, New You?

So we’ve entered the New Year in style, we’ve eaten our own bodyweight in chocolate and our credit cards have taken a battering over the festive period and subsequent sales.  For most of us, the only thing that is lighter, is our purse.

The TV and magazines are full of advertising for healthy eating and weight loss plans, and local gyms are falling over themselves to secure those membership numbers that will keep their coffers full for the next year (even though attendance will NEVER be at capacity because, let’s face it, we’ll go for a month or two, and then give up)!

But ask yourself this: do we ever think of those people who actually need to gain weight rather than lose it?  For some, the struggle is real.  In a time where it’s not PC to point out that someone is fat, the same courtesy isn’t often extended to the underweight. And believe it or not, they can struggle with similar kinds of body image issues as the overweight.

But there are ways to safely gain weight – and loading up on sugars and saturated fats isn’t the answer! We’ve picked out some of the heathiest foods and drinks that can help you put on a few pounds steadily and over time.  Here are our top 5!

  1. Homemade smoothies

Making your own smoothie is the sure fire way to make sure all you consume is healthy, and not loaded with added sugar like most of the shop bought varieties.  There are countless recipes online, and you can add protein powders, and swap out dairy for almond or coconut milk.  The more fruit and veg you can pack in the better, and blending in some ice will help to thicken it.

  1. Milk

Full of protein, milk is a natural muscle builder!  Whether you choose dairy, or a nut milk such as almond, you can’t go wrong with a glass of the white stuff!  It’s worth noting that almond milk will give you a vitamin D boost which you won’t get from cow’s milk.

  1. Pulses

Rice is a relatively cheap to buy carb which contains 190 calories in 1 cup.  Nuts and nut butters are also calorie dense and can be added to a variety of dishes and meals and even smoothies! Be careful when selecting nut butters to choose ones with no added sugars or extra oils.

  1. Avocados

Perfect as 1 of your 5-a-day! Avocados are loaded with healthy fats and containing an average of 300 calories per pear, could be a daily staple to help you store up on calories in a healthy way!

  1. Eggs

Although not particularly high in calories, eggs are perfect for building muscle mass.  Packed with proteins and healthy fats, you’ll be hard pushed to find a nutritious alternative.  In the past, eggs were thought to be linked with high cholesterol, but recent studies have proven this to be a myth. Eat as many as you like!

As with all eating plans, it’s really important to keep your organs ticking over by drinking plenty of water to flush out any toxins.  Whatever you choose to eat this New Year, stick to the rule of thumb, and try and drink 8 glasses.