You are undoubtedly familiar with the feeling of thirst: the parched feeling at the back of your throat and the need to drench that dryness with cool and refreshing water. Especially on humid and physically demanding days, it is severely tempting to guzzle water.
What Makes Us Thirsty?
Thirst is a natural reaction when your body needs to refill on liquids. Once your brain triggers that kind of feeling, drinking water helps your organs transport nutrients, excrete waste and lubricate your joints.
However, what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty? Is there a scientific cause for this?
Many people are used to having a cup of warm tea or a glass of milk before bed. Some people even have a habit of leaving a glass of water on their nightstand for moments they would wake up in the middle of the night.
While this may be a force of habit, bedtime thirst is more than a routine. It is also a biological need.
In one study, a team of scientists observed lab rats that did not have access to water before their sleep. On instinct, rats would drink water before they went to sleep, so they stay hydrated throughout their bedtime. Barring the rats from any fluid intake they showed signs of dehydration by the time they wake up.
Taking insight from this study, many scientists now believe that people's bedtime thirst can be related to their internal circadian rhythms. Most people might think that their internal body clock system only controls their sleepiness, body temperature and heart rate when it's almost time for sleep.
However, you may also feel thirsty.
With that, waking up thirsty in the middle of the night is a normal reaction, as well. While it can be an annoyance, your body only wakes you up when it needs something important. These signals require your full attention.
Why Am I Thirsty in the Middle of the Night?
Here are the possible reasons why you wake up thirsty in the middle of the night.
- Medications or Medical Conditions
One of the most common reasons for midnight thirst is prescribed medication. Corticosteroids, SGLT2 inhibitors, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and anticholinergics are some of the medicines that can cause you to head straight for the tap in the middle of the night.
One of the side effects of some of these medications is excessive urination. When this happens, you're more likely to become thirsty. Sometimes, your mouth can also dry and, later on, trigger your thirst.
When taking SGLT2 inhibitors for diabetes, your body will release glucose from the blood and into your urine to balance out your blood sugar levels. On the other hand, steroids raise your sugar levels. In both instances, your body is trying to rid excess glucose and increase urination and thirst levels.
While waking up thirsty can be disconcerting, we highly recommend that you continue taking prescribed medications without the approval of your healthcare provider.
Many medicines come with a specific prescription: how long you need to take them and how many you need to take. As you are trying to deal with a specific health issue, you may see your doctor to see if you can try an alternative that won't cause excessive thirst at nighttime.
- Dry Air or Dry Mouth
Dry air is bothersome, not only because it dries up your throat but also because it makes your skin and eyes itchy. When you're asleep, this can become more bothersome.
In a previous blog, we talked about a room's ambient temperature and how it can improve your sleep at night. Because of this, we recommend keeping your room cooler so that you can stay asleep and wake up fully rested. However, it's not enough that your room is cool.
We also recommend looking at the humidity levels to prevent the air from becoming dry. Open your windows or use a humidifier to retain your room's humidity between 30% and 50%. A cheaper solution would be to drape a damp towel or blanket on your radiator, especially during the winter months.
While dry air can also cause your skin to dry, a dry mouth can also be caused by a condition called xerostomia. This happens when your saliva glands don't produce enough saliva at night, normally caused by different kinds of medicine, hormonal changes, and aging.
Drinking water before bed is a good way to hydrate your mouth, throat, and gums. Aside from this, we also recommend seeing your doctor to see if they can prescribe stimulants that can boost your saliva production.
You might have heard doctors say: "Drink eight glasses of water every day." However, this can vary from person to person.
If you tend to have a more active lifestyle or have physically demanding jobs, you tend to lose water and electrolytes during the day more than people who tend to sit in their office chairs for eight hours. This is caused by a term called overheating.
When you exercise, your muscles generate heat. Your body gets rid of this heat in the form of sweat. As your sweat evaporates, your tissues cool down.
In your body's most optimal state of hydration, you will have enough electrolytes and fluids to perform your daily activities. When you're dehydrated, your body will send you signals to encourage you to drink a glass of water. Sometimes illnesses that have symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can cause excessive water loss. Medications like antidepressants, on the other hand, can cause excessive thirst.
If you're experiencing dehydration, you may develop a headache and experience dry skin, extreme thirst, and low blood pressure. When this continues, you may feel dizzy and lightheaded. Extreme cases of dehydration sometimes lead to seizures, kidney failure, shock, and coma.
When you wake up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty and lightheaded, we recommend drinking enough water before bed and avoiding heavy meals during the evening. Tracking how much water you drink throughout the day can also help you judge when it's time to drink water. Aside from just drinking water, we also recommend eating more fruits, vegetables, and other water-rich foods and drinking sports drinks that are packed with electrolytes.
- Alcohol Consumption and Hangovers
Excessive alcohol consumption, especially before bed, can cause dehydration. Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes people to urinate more often and lose fluid. Many people also mix their alcohol with other drinks to mask the effects of alcohol, only feeling the consequences once they're too drunk. If you wake up thirsty at night, this can mean that you had too many glasses. Drinking too much alcohol can also cause some people to vomit, another reason why they become dehydrated.
When you've had too much to drink, you may also become hungover. As your body releases a chemical called acetaldehyde, your thirst is triggered. Apart from the physical feeling of being thirsty, the chemical also contributes to the symptoms of a hangover. Instead of heading straight to bed, we recommend replenishing your electrolytes and fluids first by drinking water or herbal tea. You might have seen movies where the characters drink coffee to offset their hangover. However, this is a mere Hollywood myth as coffee is also a diuretic. You're not replenishing your fluids but worsening your dehydration symptoms.
If you're out with friends and trying to have fun, we also recommend drinking water after taking a shot of alcohol. This is a better way to avoid the detrimental effects of a hangover. If you feel, however, that your alcohol consumption is out of control, we recommend seeing a professional. Maybe abstinence and a lifestyle change can help you avoid drinking in excess.
Aside from drinking, tobacco intake and excessive smoking can also lead to excessive thirst even at night. Smoking changes the way your salivary glands produce saliva, making it thicker than normal. Because of this, your mouth is not hydrated properly and your metabolism is sped up. It is also important to note that experts have pointed out that smoking weed can cause you to feel more dehydrated than tobacco.
When you have the habit of smoking, your salivary glands will rest at night and cause your mouth to dry up. Because this is one of the biggest addictions in the world, we recommend practicing abstinence first before rehydrating with water. As nicotine is also considered a stimulant, reducing smoking before bed can also reduce the times you wake up in the middle of the night not only from thirst but also from brain stimulation.
However, if you find it challenging to deal with it on your own, we recommend seeing a doctor about medications and alternatives that can help you stop smoking.
- Sodium-rich Foods and Sweets
Fast foods like chips and fried chicken are rich in saturated fats and sodium. You may notice that you feel more bloated or puffy when eating salty foods. This happens because your kidneys are maintaining a sodium-to-water ratio to compensate for the excess sodium in your body. Another way your body encourages you to correct your body's sodium levels is by causing your mouth to feel dry and increase your thirst. You're more likely to increase your fluid intake and, therefore, your urination.
Some people drink sweet tea or soda to cut through the spice or the oil but don't realize that these kinds of drinks don't satisfy your thirst. Especially before sleep, this can only increase your chances to wake up in the night feeling thirsty.
According to experts, sugary foods can also suck the water from your body's cells. As your body is trying to maintain balance by drawing water from your cells, it is also making you feel thirsty within five to ten minutes of eating ice cream or drinking root beer. This combination of foods can only increase your chances of waking up.
While we have recommended avoiding heavy meals before you sleep, we also encourage you to eat more protein and vitamin-rich foods that will help your body absorb the necessary fluids from them. While fruits like strawberries and apples are good for hydration, they also help boost your energy and are best eaten during the day. For bed, however, we recommend eating kiwis and bananas. Eating less salt and spices can also help you regulate future meals.
- Breathing through your mouth
Another way for the body to naturally lose fluids and electrolytes is by snoring or breathing through your mouth during sleep. While you're sleeping your salivary glands reduce their saliva production to save up on energy. When you breathe through your mouth, the moisture in your mouth and nose will gradually evaporate and cause mild dehydration. You can wake up thirsty, especially as your throat dries up.
In this case, drinking water is not enough to solve your problem. You will need to identify the reason why you are unable to breathe through your nose or are unaware that you do. Sometimes, you're not used to breathing properly while you're sleeping. We recommend using the 4-7-8 breathing method. This breathing exercise is used during meditation and yoga practices to encourage relaxation and proper breathing techniques.
First, make sure that your abdomen, and not your diaphragm, expand while you're inhaling. This ensures that your ribcage and lungs are not strained during air intake. Inhale through your nose for four seconds and hold your breath for seven. Afterward, exhale through your mouth. After completing four repetitions, you can fall asleep faster and reduce your instances of mouth sleeping.
- Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is another plausible reason for waking up thirsty. People who suffer from sleep apnea are often mouth sleepers because they experience a blockage of airflow. Severe cases need to be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to get constant airflow. However, this device can also cause the throat to dry and increase thirst overnight.
We recommend seeing your doctor and discussing what kind of devices and techniques might help with your sleep apnea management without drying your mouth too much.
- Exercising Before Bed
Exercising during the day is a great way to keep your heart and respiratory system healthy and train your muscles to do strenuous activity. However, this no longer applies during the evening. Exercising makes your heart race, stimulating your metabolism and increasing your body temperature. Because of this, your body will need more water to replenish the lost fluid. If you're not the kind of person who drinks enough water before bedtime, your body may wake you in the middle of the night.
Aside from water loss, heavy exercise before bed can also delay your sleep, as your muscles may need more time to relax after a taxing activity. Even if you think you drank enough water, we recommend reserving your exercise in the morning. This will also help your circadian rhythm determine when it's time for bed because you're tired from the day's activities.
- Sleep Deprivation
From impairing your judgment and decreasing your alertness, to increasing your risk for obesity and heart issues, sleep deprivation negatively affects your health in various ways. More concerning, sleeplessness can also lead to kidney disease and premature death. As the kidneys play a big role in the body's hydration, drinking more water normally improves its health.
In 2018, a study led by Asher Rosinger, Ph.D. shows the connection between insufficient sleep and dehydration. During their research, they observed 20,000 healthy young adults who had to provide urine samples and answer questionnaires on their sleeping habits. Rosinger's team concluded that people who regularly slept for 6 hours or less were 16% to 59% more likely to be dehydrated than those who slept for 8 hours.
This could be explained by vasopressin, the antidiuretic hormone responsible for controlling your body's water balance throughout the day.
Have you ever experienced feeling the need to urinate in the morning? When you reach the 8-hour mark of your sleep, vasopressin is released into your body. If you were to wake up earlier, you are more likely to miss the time when vasopressin is released, disrupting your hydration levels. This can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night in search of water.
If you're experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms of sleep deprivation, we recommend creating a sleep ritual where you and your sleeping environment is prepared for bed. Part of this ritual is making sure you're 100% comfortable in bed and focused on sleep. Some people may have a difficult time sleeping for 7 to 9 hours because of a hectic schedule or sleeping problems.
One way to make your sleeping environment comfortable is to use an electric underblanket built with 4D Dynamic Warmth Flow technology. Underblankets have been shown to help with muscle relaxation and sleep quality.
Improving your quality of sleep
You can deal with your excessive thirst in different ways. Take a look at` your sleeping environment, lifestyle or medication. Sometimes, simple adjustments like drinking enough water can help you sleep undisturbed throughout the night. For those who have to regularly take medications or are trying to improve their sleep apnea, we encourage you to track your sleep habits in a sleep journal and report them to your doctor.
Creating a comfy sleep environment
At Wellcare, we believe in advocating spreading care to everyone around us. With the help of our innovative 4D DWF technology, we are on a mission to let each of our customers experience warmth the Wellcare way. If you're interested to learn how you can create your perfect sleeping environment, download our eBook here: