Yes, I know. We’re all so tired of being told to drink lots of water. And there’s plenty of evidence out there that the whole thing has been somewhat overblown. The original standard of eight glasses of water a day came from a paper written back in the 1940’s, and references to that study usually don’t include its caveat that much of the needed water comes from food. Also, other liquids besides water count. So if you drink orange juice (which you shouldn’t be doing, as it’s just sugar water, but never mind), or coffee, tea, or other beverages, all of those count as water. (Contrary to a very silly idea that circulated for awhile, coffee doesn’t cause you to excrete more water than was in the coffee to begin with.) The current state of medical advice is that your body will tell you if you need water, because guess what? You’ll feel thirsty.
However, for some of us, this thirst indicator doesn’t work very well. I’ve been realizing more and more of late that some of my health issues, most commonly insomnia and fatigue, may be caused at least partly by dehydration. For example, when I get into a cooking/baking frenzy, particularly when I’m preparing for a big event, I will often go most of a day without eating. When I’m cooking I’m not hungry, strange to say. But I will also tend to go without drinking. That’s a problem. My utter exhaustion at these times has, I think, often stemmed from lack of water and not from lack of inherent energy. And I’m finding that if I don’t make sure to drink lots of water during the day I have a hard time sleeping, even with my melatonin/GABA/sleeping pill routine. Then I’ll be reminded of reading somewhere that even mild dehydration can cause insomnia. I’ve recently been having this issue of waking up at 3:00 AM and not being able to go back to sleep, which is a royal pain. I’m too tired to just get up. I don’t want to get up! I want to go back to sleep! But yesterday I made sure to drink plenty of water, and last night I slept very well. I don’t remember waking up until around 6:00. So I have to remind myself every day to do this small, simple act, or series of acts. I’ve had a habit for some time of drinking a big mug of water when I first get up and take my blood pressure medication. Then I have a big mug of coffee and breakfast. But after breakfast I need to fill up my beloved insulated water bottle with ice and water and keep sipping from it as I sit and work at the computer. That’s what I’m doing right now. (I hate room-temperature water.) As soon as I empty it I need to refill it and keep sipping.
I had a recent post about some books by the French woman, Mireille Giuliano, and she is an absolute fanatic about drinking water. So is my friend Ronnie. Both of them are pretty energetic! So I’m going to attempt to do better in this area myself. It’s a small, small thing among the larger issues of life, but it seems, at least for me, to make a significant difference in how I deal with those larger issues. No one does well when he/she hasn’t slept well or just feels draggy. It’s not a matter of money, as I don’t buy bottled water. It’s a matter of remembering to fill up my bottle, to drink from it, and to keep refilling it during the day. It’s about the formation of a good habit. All about the habits, folks!
(I wonder sometimes about how people in the past dealt with all this need for hydration. When we visited Mesa Verde several years ago we were constantly urged by the tour guide to drink water because of the heat and the low humidity. I asked her, “How did the Mesa Verde inhabitants drink enough water? They didn’t have water bottles, and their water source wasn’t very convenient.” She didn’t really have an answer beyond saying that they “probably adapted to it.” Hmmm. Also, as I was writing this post I remembered that my mother’s doctor told her at some point that she had a tendency to retain water, and that one way to help relieve that problem was for her to drink more. She was confused–how would that help? The doctor said that if you don’t drink enough water your body thinks you’re in the middle of the desert and so it holds on to the water it has. But if you’re drinking plenty, your body is reassured and lets the water circulate out. Isn’t that interesting?)
Like so many other useful activities, you have to be consistent–to keep on a-sippin’. The water I drank yesterday won’t help me today, or at least not much. I won’t belabor the point here, as I’m sure you can see for yourself how this idea applies.
What small habit could you incorporate into your daily life that would make a big positive difference?
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