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Dehydration and Insomnia

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 28 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
Dehydration Insomnia Fluid Water Thirsty

Although it may manifest as a complex problem, insomnia often has quite simple causes. One of these can be dehydration. Most people in Britain don't drink as much fluid as they need for optimum health. Although, over time, they may inadvertently train themselves not to feel thirsty, the suppressed desire to drink can result in restlessness and a host of minor problems that make sleep difficulties worse.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration can affect sleep in a variety of ways. Chronic dehydration can disrupt the body's natural rhythms so that you don't feel tired when you should, and it can also create the kind of fatigue that triggers exhaustion yet leaves you unable to sleep. This is because your body is unable to flush out toxins that build up in your blood.

Dehydration also commonly results in skin, eye and mouth problems. When these bodily surfaces stop receiving adequate lubrication, you'll often feel sore or itchy and you'll be more vulnerable to minor infections, all factors that can lead to sleep trouble. As membranes around the brain become too dry, you may also experience headaches.

Finally, dehydration can lead to melatonin deficiency, another leading cause of insomnia.

An easy way to tell if you might be dehydrated is to examine the colour of your urine. If it is very pale yellow or colourless, you are probably alright. If it is very dark in colour (throughout the day), you may need to consume significantly more fluid.

How to Drink what you Need

If you're dehydrated, you should drink more, right? That's a useful rule of thumb, but the situation is often more complicated.

Most insomniacs know that alcohol and caffeine are bad for them and can make them feel worse. Among other things, both these drugs cause the body to expel water. The problem is that alcoholic and caffeinated drinks also represent the bulk of most people's daily fluid consumption. Just ceasing to drink as many of them will have limited benefits unless they are replaced by something else.

Drinking more water is the simplest cure for dehydration - ideally, the average person should consume about two litres (three and a half pints) per day. If you suddenly increase your water intake, though, you may find that you suffer other heath problems as essential vitamins and minerals are flushed out of your system.

For this reason, increasing your water intake should be combined with increasing your intake of nutrients. A good way to do this is to drink fruit juice. This will have the added benefit of making you feel more alert when you are flagging because of your sleep problems. Try to spread your fluid intake out across the day, and if you suffer from dizziness, add a small pinch of sea salt to your food - this will help to ensure a healthy electrolyte balance.

If you are exercising regularly, your water intake should increase accordingly. Try to drink immediately after you finish exercising and stop only when you are no longer thirsty.

Water and the Sleep Cycle

Staying properly hydrated through regular consumption of water or fruit juice can also help to regulate your sleep cycle. Avoid fizzy drinks with lots of sugar, which can boost your energy levels only to drop them later. Try to get into a healthy pattern.

Even if you feel thirsty, drinking right before you go to bed can cause sleep problems when you wake up needing to empty your bladder. If you drink half a pint to a pint of water about an hour before you're ready for bed, most of it should pass through you before you go to sleep, and your body will have what it needs to run natural processes as you sleep. Drinking immediately after getting up in the morning will enable it to learn that more supplies will arrive when needed.

Supporting and training your body in this way can help you to manage dehydration-related insomnia and enjoy much more satisfying sleep.

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[Add a Comment]
I suffer from pulmonary aspiration and can only handle about a cup of liquids per day. I have been chronically dehydrated since March, but I do not have difficulty falling asleep. I do take sleeping pills, but I have been taking them for about a year now for unrelated issues. I can still fall asleep easily and sleep throughout the night but do suffer from nightmares as a side effect of not taking my pill. I have other health problems so could this be why I get to sleep without much problem at night? I have difficulty eating too as I have gastric problems.
Lizzy Lu - 28-Jul-17 @ 6:54 AM
Being dehydrated makes me feel exhausted so I usually drink water when I'm at that point. I drink 40-60 oz a day and have had a hard time sleeping more than an hour at a clip. I can fall back to sleep quickly but don't get solid uninterrupted sleep. I've been going to an insomnia specialist and things were getting better. I had a couple nights that I slept 7 hours, 3 solid hours. I'm going to try the minimum 3 liters a day and see if it helps.
Joiseyg - 10-Sep-16 @ 2:48 AM
I have been without much water for 3 days now. And now I can't sleep very well. I am able to fall asleep but wake up dozens of times a night. So, yeah, I believe sleep is affected by dehydration.
sucker - 12-Jun-16 @ 10:38 AM
i have suffered insomnia for years , only a few days drinkig like 3lts water and gatorade and sleep like a baby.
dave - 20-May-15 @ 4:24 AM
@cuck - have you paid a visit to your GP. I suggest you do that in the first instance, especially if you are dehydrated. Also, I'm afraid we can't give medical advice online. I hope this helps.
Insomniacs - 9-Feb-15 @ 2:16 PM
I have been having trouble falling asleep at night, I lay there for HOURS unable to simply fall asleep. I have tried numerous sleep aids to no avail and am so extremely frustrated about the situation that it is now really having negative effects on my day to day life. My job is unbelievably physical so I am so exhausted at night though it seems my mind wont shut off. I litterally sweat a gallon a day and drink maybe one or two bottles of water. I am now really wondering if dehydration could be my problem....
cuck - 7-Feb-15 @ 5:43 AM
I have been experiencing distrubed sleep due to what feels like many tiny electrical explosions in the calves of my legs at night. I also found myself waking up around 3:00 am unable to return to sleep. It came to me that I was not drinking enough water before I went to bed so I started drinking an 8 ounce glass before turning in and for the last 3 nights I have slept a full 7 hours with only needing to get up once to go to the bathroom but being able to return immediately back to sleep. It probably has not been tested long enough to know for sure if this is the cause of my sleeplessness. Can dehydration cause these symptoms? I have always been able to sleep soundly at night but this has been bothering me for about 3 or 4 months.
Nellie - 19-Jun-14 @ 10:16 AM
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