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.