The dangers of water intoxication
So, we all know that staying healthy means staying hydrated (both for humans and for pets), but what about when we drink too much water? Dehydration can lead to a multitude of afflictions such as fatigue, headaches and heat stroke, but overhydration actually poses its own set of problems. Water intoxication (otherwise known as hyponatremia) can occur when overhydration disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, which in extreme cases can impair brain function and even cause death. While most fatal incidences of water intoxication were the result of water drinking contests or consuming excessively large amounts of water due to prolonged exercise, water intoxication can occur in more mundane circumstances too.
In addition to the more serious health issues, consuming too much water in the evening can wreak havoc on your sleeping pattern. While you’re asleep the water will still be working your way through your system and eventually you will have to wake up to urinate. This might make falling back asleep more difficult which can make you more tired, less productive at work and more likely to indulge in caffeinated drinks to stay awake – which will only exacerbate the problem! To prevent sleep disruption from occurring, it is ideal to consume no liquids for up to 3 hours before you fall asleep.
How much water is enough?
As a general rule of thumb, if you think you might be drinking too much water, listen to what your body is telling you. If you are thirsty, then drink, if you aren’t, then don’t. However, certain circumstances can make this assessment difficult, hence why marathon runners and endurance athletes have been known to suffer from hyponatremia as they consume enormous quantities of water to make up for what they’ve lost while exercising.
Tips for keeping your body at optimal hydration levels
In addition to listening to your thirst, it helps to weigh yourself on a daily basis (early in the morning after urinating but before consuming any liquids is the ideal time). Extreme fluctuations from day to day may be the result of either hyponatremia or dehydration. The colour of your urine also provides an indicator of your hydration levels. If it is too dark then it is likely that you are dehydrated, whereas if it is completely clear then it may be an indicator that you are drinking too much water. Ideally, your urine should be a light yellow colour.
Remember, a proportion from your daily water intake will come from food, particularly fruits and vegetables, so don’t be too alarmed if you aren’t thirsty but your water intake doesn’t meet the recommended levels that you’ve read would be appropriate (eight cups tends to be the most commonly quoted figure). While fluids can be consumed from a variety of sources such as milk, fruit juice and water (with added natural ingredients if you like), it is best to stay away from fizzy drinks as these are often loaded with sugar which may damage your teeth and cause you to gain weight in the long-term (in addition to a number of other issues you will want to avoid). Ultimately, going by your level of thirst is the best way to ensure that your body stays hydrated throughout the day.