The Importance of Drinking Water
After research and personal experimentation, it became clear that drinking water was one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep us healthy. We’ll share our personal results of a sleep-based hydration experiment and dive deeper into the science and biology of drinking water. After this, we’re sure it will convince you of THE IMPORTANCE OF DRINKING WATER.
the importance of drinking water
Alex and I are hydration freaks. Let’s just get that out there. It took a few years, but after researching and noting how we felt when we did (and didn’t) drink water, it became a no brainer.
The importance of drinking water as a concept first introduced to us through Alex’s bridal magazines. Every magazine proclaimed that drinking water would make for a fresher bride, with glossier hair and brighter skin.
Of course, we knew that drinking water was vaguely important. We had heard of the 8×8 rule (drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily), but couldn’t remember why or from whom. Mostly, I would remember hearing my mother’s voice in the back of my head always telling me to drink water.
So, my question now was, how different would I feel if I drank more water? Specifically, let’s look at one outcome: would I sleep better if I drank more water?
If I increase my water intake during the day, I will experience a higher quality of sleep.
If you’ve read my other articles before, you know that sleeping well is massively important to me. Ever since I experienced burnout and low testosterone at age 28. Alex and I had been living in Peru for 2 months already, but I hadn’t slept well through that whole time. While recognizing the other present variables, mainly the high altitude (Cusco is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level) and dealing with a misshapen mattress, I had a hunch that my worst nights of sleep occurred when I was most dehydrated. For me, low quality sleep means a night full of vivid dreams and waking up tired in the morning.
So, kicking my engineering background into high gear, I started an experiment. I monitored how I slept on days of drinking 2 liters vs. 4 liters of water (or 68 vs. 135 fluid ounces).
A rule of thumb for how much water you should drink is taking half your body weight in pounds and drinking that many fluid ounces. For example, a 200-pound person should drink 100 fl. oz. of water a day. Some people need more, while some need less, but it’s a good starting point.
- Ultimately, doubling my water intake reduced my vivid dreams.
- On average, I had 10% more REM sleep, measured with the Pillow App.
- After one week of testing, I didn’t feel tired in the mornings after waking up.
- Other perks: my increased water intake resulted in less back and neck pain from sleep, reduced dry skin, better breath (per my wife), and higher productivity.
- Hydration negatively effects sleep quality.
- To stay adequately hydrated during the day, I found you should go to the bathroom every 2-4 hours
- Oddly enough, it can be hard to stay hydrated. It’s very easy to forget. A best practice is to drink water first thing every day. I kept a full 25-ounce water bottle on my nightstand and I finished it before getting out of bed. It’s not possible to catch up on hydration when you fall behind during the day.
After my experiment, I was convinced that water and sleep quality were directly related. So, I did some additional research to see what other wonders water can offer. Here is what I learned.
the science of hydration
the crucial role of water
Nothing can happen in our bodies without water. Water is the vehicle that carries every nutrient, hormone, chemical messenger, enzyme, and electrolyte. Water is responsible for the following:
Breaking the chemical bonds (hydrolysis) of nutrients in food to make them bioavailable.
- Our blood is 92% water, keeping the plasma afloat so they can deliver nutrients, hormones, and proteins to the cells. Yes, our blood can get “dehydrated” too.
- When all of these compounds arrive at the cells, they can only enter through osmosis, which is a process that requires adequate water and cell hydration.
- Inside the cells, water is required to fuel up the mitochondria (aka the power plant of the cell). This process is like the spark in a combustion engine. Without it, the car (or your body) does nothing.
- The energy creation and metabolism processes that occur in the cells leave behind debris. Water washes away these debris and toxins out of your cells and body.
- Water is a component of every tissue, organ, blood, and bone. When they are deprived of water, our spinal discs take a beating. The cells that make up our organs stop receiving chemical messages and are more at risk of disease. Blood thickens and body responses slow down. To top it off, joints ache and risk of arthritis increases.
interesting facts learned about hydration
- The older we get the more water we need to drink. As a fetus, we are about 75% water and as an elderly person we are about 60% water.
- Dry skin from dehydration promotes aging and wrinkles.
- The brain (which is 85% water) monitors hydration, and it’s a worry wart. Therefore, when water levels get low, the brain hogs water and only sends thirsty signals when it starts running low. What this means is if your mouth is dry, you have probably been dehydrated for at least 24 hours already.
- The University of Connecticut Human Performance Laboratory found that mild dehydration caused worsened mood and made easy tasks feel difficult. When dehydrated, your body responds by slowing down. Therefore, when you’re tired mid-morning, and you want to reach for caffeine, reach for water instead.
- Our mental and emotional health depends on proper hydration. Research at Tuff University found that student-athletes who failed to drink enough water were more likely to report fatigue, depression, confusion, anger, and problems concentrating.
- Our body does nothing to store or replenish water. Hydration is 100% our responsibility. According to the Center for Disease Control, we are slacking. In the U.S., 7% of Americans drink 0 cups of water a day, 36% drink 1-3 cups, 35% drink 4-7 cups, and 22% drink 8 or more. That means 4 out or five people in the U.S. are not drinking enough water.
warning signs of dehydration
Your brain is stabilized by a fluid-filled sac. When dehydrated, the sac provides less padding for your brain, resulting in headaches.
Dehydration lowers your blood pressure.
Dry skin and lips
I noticed this big time in my self-experimentation. Water is a significant component of all internal and external tissues.
Saliva production slows down when you are becoming dehydrated.
Constipation or bloating
Your body is trying to ration what little water it has to work with. Digestion requires water to keep things moving. I have a story about hydration and digestion too.
Read more: Improving Your Poop Health 101>>
When dehydration kicks in, your brain can confuse hunger for thirst. If you’re hungry, but it’s not meal time, reach for a big glass of water instead.
how to hydrate better
First, let’s make one thing clear. Drink water only. No sports drinks, juice, or soda. Actually, if you are still drinking soda, you really need to quit.
Most of the fancy marketing for sports drinks is just that: fancy marketing. Electrolytes in those drinks are processed and contain particle sizes far too large to enter our cells through osmosis. Therefore, they are useless.
As for coffee, the myth that its diuretic side effects make us dehydrated is not valid. However, it’s still a great idea to drink in moderation to avoid caffeine addiction. Most everything else has loads of sugar and empty calories.
To hydrate better, you need to start by keeping a big glass of water on your nightstand for the morning. Start your day with a lot of water, and find a system to make drinking water accessible. That could be a full water bottle on your desk at all times, a case of water in your car while traveling for business, or a water bottle in your backpack so that you can refill at the airport. For Alex, she found it a lot easier to drink hot water in her cold office instead of drinking cool or room temperature water. Whichever way works for you, make sure you’re drinking enough.
Don’t like drinking water? Learn to. You can use your words to empower yourself in your new habit.
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- New Research Indicates Thirst is Not the Best Indicator of Hydration Level – Medical XPress – “Maintaining good hydration by drinking enough water during exercise is critical for optimal performance and body temperature regulation, according to Kavouras. Since different people have different sweating rates during exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all advice for hydration.”