Since before humanity created so many choices for ferrying (meticulously filtered) water that they merited ranking, bodies have needed water. Not 64 ounces of it per day, necessarily, but a decent amount—and always. The human brain, which itself is about 75% water, can complicate anything, even its own basic needs, which has led to a lot of “knowledge” about water that isn’t. Here’s your stress-free guide to the whys and hows of water.
Without water, there’d be no rainbows, so this stuff isn’t just a basic need but basically magic. It covers 71% of the earth and shape shifts into gas and solid. What a wonder! As far as your body is concerned, water is a daily essential that performs a wealth of critical functions, like protecting your joints and keeping you regular.
Without water, you’d walk around with a dry mouth, which doesn’t just mean talking feels weird but that you’re not activating the enzymes that initially break down your food. Most headaches result from dehydration, which also can put a person in a foul mood and keep you from being able to focus.
So drink more, especially if you’d like to improve your diet. One study showed that even a 1% increase in water intake correlated with an 8% reduction in caloric intake, and a whole host of them have linked water to better nutrition, in part because staying hydrated means your body is better equipped to utilize, and discharge, the food you eat. Magic.
A powerful sleep aid
Timing is everything here, because nobody’s looking to wake up in the night to stumble to the bathroom, but drinking plenty of water not only heads off nighttime leg cramps and snoring caused by dried-out nasal passages but produces higher-quality, longer sleep. Staying hydrated just means your body works better, and so it’s equipped to purge toxins that inhibit vital processes, like melatonin production. Without adequate melatonin, your circadian rhythms get out of whack.
Incidentally, poor sleep also tends to produce dehydration, because sleep is connected to how your body releases a hormone that helps maintain water balance. Too little sleep means too little vasopressin, which means your body can’t hang onto water like it should. Being careful about your water intake can thwart this vicious cycle.
Hydrate toward a better mood
Human well-being is a rich tapestry, of course, and mood can be thrown or improved by a zillion physical and environmental factors (not to mention work, kids, other humans in general). Which makes water as mood-improver seem too simple to be true. As we’ve established, though, the stuff is magic, and there’s evidence that drinking more improves low moods and that drinking less of it hampers a good mood.
Making hydration happen
There’s no magic number of ounces you should drink every day. We don’t know whether you’re extremely tall or super-active or have physical conditions that require more water. What we can tell you is this: If your pee is dark, you aren’t getting enough. If you have headaches more often than not, you’re really not getting enough. Here’s how to fix that:
- Set goals. Try adding simple guidelines to your day, like “drink a glass of water before every meal” and “drink a glass for every cup of coffee or alcoholic beverage.”
- Make it more appealing. If you’re not naturally inclined toward drinking water, it can feel onerous. Sugary options aren’t the answer, but tea or calorie-free water flavorings might be. And, truly, a fancy water bottle or special cup can make plain, old, filtered tap water feel special.
- Eat more fruit. Not all water comes from a cup. You get about 20% of your water from food and upping your fruit intake can increase that substantially. The fiber boost isn’t bad, either.
- Enlist an app. Any reminder app can keep you focused, but of course there are specific habit-tracking apps that you can tailor to the water intake that helps you feel your best.
- Drink more whenever you work out more. Or when you’ve been doing yardwork in the sun. Or when it’s just hot outside. Or when you’ve been ill. Basically, any time you’ve sweat is an important time to drink a glass.
- Reward yourself. Better health and well-being are great rewards, but so is an extra hour of sleep or a movie night. Establish some rewards to correlate with this excellent water-intake goals you set so you’re more likely to stay on track.