Does Water Help With Mental Health?

How Drinking Water More Often Affects Your Mental Health 

Have you ever slogged through a long shift without stopping for a drink, or gone for a walk on a hot day and forgotten your water bottle? Then you’ve probably experienced the negative physical effects of dehydration, such as headaches, dry mouth, and fatigue. We all know that we need water to live, and that dehydration can be fatal, but did you know that drinking water affects mental health too?

In fact, chronic dehydration over a long period of time has recently been linked to several common mental health conditions. From anxiety to obesity, drinking water (or not drinking enough of it) could play a vital role in the regulation of our emotional and mental health. So, how much water should you drink in a day and how do you know when dehydration is affecting you? We look at some hydration facts to find out!

Why Is Drinking Water Important? 

On average, human bodies are made up of around 60% water. Our brains, meanwhile, are comprised of about 75% water. We constantly secrete water through processes such as breathing, sweating, and urinating, and need to refresh our fluid sources in order to function. 

Lack of water in the body can cause circulation to slow down, as the heart struggles to pump blood around the body. This leads to a shortage of oxygen reaching the organs and brain and gradually causes our physical and cognitive functions to shut down. Over time, dehydration can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and, ultimately, death in extreme cases. 

In societies where people have access to clean drinking water, and where there is enough to eat in a day, severe dehydration is rare. However, even mild dehydration can cause some alarming effects on health, mood, and mental awareness. If you feel like you should be hydrating more throughout the day, try drinking water every hour to build a healthier routine.

How Much Water Should You Drink in a Day? 

Current wisdom often advises that we should consume around 8 to 10 glasses of drinking water every day. This should be enough to keep up hydrated at all times. Although our body makes us feel thirsty to alert us to the fact that we need a drink, we should rarely actually reach this point. In fact, if you’re feeling parched, chances are you should be drinking water a lot more frequently than you are. 

Our need for water also goes up when we’re physically active or when the temperature rises. This is because we are more likely to sweat and need more water to ourselves cool. So, if it’s a scorcher outside and you’re experimenting with some new gym accessories, try drinking a glass of water when you’re done.

How Does Drinking Water Relate to Mental Health?

Studies suggest that many people in the developed world may be dehydrated without even realizing it. You could be suffering from dehydration if you have regular headaches or if you feel particularly sluggish in the mornings. Some studies have also concluded that dehydration destabilizes mood. This is because water is a necessity and, when we don’t have enough, our body tries desperately to tell us that something is wrong. 

People who are dehydrated may experience feelings of anxiety or panic, without understanding why. They may also feel that they cannot think clearly or struggle with rational decision making. Dehydration may also affect concentration and focus and can interfere with mental work. 

Failing to drink enough water can also increase your appetite. In fact, studies of obese individuals have shown that the brain often confuses hunger and thirst. Drinking water before eating, therefore, may help you lose weight as you will learn to differentiate between thirst and hunger signals. However, some experts advise against drinking water during meals as this can stretch your stomach more than necessary and potentially lead to overeating.

Health Benefits of Drinking Water

Just as not drinking enough water can have negative health consequences, upping your water intake can work wonders for your health. From promoting clearer skin to increasing mental alertness, there’s a whole host of reasons why you might want to drink more. Here are a few of the top contenders: 

  • Feel More Alert 

Drinking water in the morning can boost mental alertness throughout the day. Drinking water first thing also clears your mouth and throat and can ward off nausea and headaches. Having some water can also make you feel more awake if you haven’t slept well.

  • Clearer Skin 

Drinking more water can have benefits for your skin. Dehydration can lead to dry skin and the effects of premature aging. Increasing the amount of water, you drink can reduce breakouts and lead to clearer, brighter skin. 

  • Better Sleep

Waking up thirsty at night can be a sign of chronic dehydration, especially if your room is warm or the air in your sleeping environment is dry. Drinking water at night is a sign that you might not be getting enough water during the day. Drinking water before bed is not always the best solution for this as it may disrupt your sleep more. Disrupted sleep can also be a risk factor for poor mental health. 

Instead of waiting until late at night, try to up your water intake during the day. Easy ways to do this are to keep a glass of water or a water bottle beside you while you work. You could also make sure to take a water bottle when you’re out and about. Eating more water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables or clear soups, is also a good way to stay hydrated. You could also try drinking when you’re hungry (when it is not a mealtime) to ensure that your body is not sending your thirst signals disguised as hunger pangs. 

  • Increased Focus

If you’re preparing for a work meeting or studying for a big test, drinking more frequently could be the key to success. Staying hydrated can increase the length of time you feel you can focus on and improve mental facilities. Swap out coffee for water – it’s a great tip when you’re on a tight deadline.

Conclusion

Drinking water has a myriad of health benefits and is something you should definitely prioritize. From helping boost your mood to managing skin conditions, water is a magical, natural healer. It’s one quick change we can all make for better health.

How does drinking water affect your mood? Do you find that you are more focused or that you sleep better when you drink water throughout the day? How do you remind yourself to drink more?

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Author: Thomas Nemel
Thomas Nemel is a blogger, and health & fitness enthusiast based in Detroit. He tries to engage other people to live a healthy life and reach their lifestyle goals.
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