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Understanding thirst during sleep


Awakening to search for water in the middle of the night can be bothersome on so many levels. First, an interruption of the much-desired sleep. It’s even worse if you must halt an on-going dream_ definitely never to be completed.

Call it sleep thirst. Some have reported getting vivid dreams as a consequence and others, insomnia.

In this article, we’ll understand what causes this urge to drink when you should be sleeping and look at different ways to prevent it.

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What causes excessive thirst in the night?

Thirst is a fundamental inner feeling that is crucial for survival. An increase in serum osmolality above normal levels triggers the brain’s thirst centre thus eliciting emotional and behavioural responses in order to quench thirst.

In the night, processes such as breathing, snoring, result in loss of body fluids which in the long run increase osmolality of blood. 

For the body systems to function normally, the volume and composition of body fluids must be maintained within normal ranges.

Causes of waking up thirsty may stem from sleep hygiene, your hydration habits, certain medical conditions or even medications.

  • Sleep hygiene

A combination of environmental factors and behaviours that have an impact on sleep. Lifestyle behaviours like getting late night dinner, taking alcohol or caffeinated drinks in the night and engaging in vigorous physical activity just before bed time. 

These in addition to the sleep environment, particularly room temperature, contribute to your night time thirst.

  • Hydration habits

Through the course of the day, body water is lost through exhalation, sweating, urine and faeces.  All this lost water must be compensated and this is why an average adult requires at least 2 litres of fluids each day.

Failure to keep up with this causes a state of dehydration that lowers your body’s threshold for thirst.

  • Underlying medical conditions

Diseases such as diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus cause excessive thirst and not only in the night but during the day as well. 

Additionally, psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and psychotic depression cause excessive thirst. Elevated levels of dopamine stimulate the brain’s thirst centre.

  • Medication effects

Antipsychotic medications and diuretics have a side effect of causing excessive thirst. Therefore, if you have a condition and are currently using any of these, that might be the cause of your night time thirst.

It is important to talk to your doctor and get screened for any other underlying conditions.

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    How can you prevent night time thirst?

    Lifestyle modification whilst also finding ways to improve your overall health will be beneficial in this. Here are some efficient ways to finally get rid of that;

    • Keeping hydrated at all times

    You’ve likely heard of the saying that “water is life.” This is because its presence in the body is necessary for functioning of all body organs.

    By the time you feel a thirst sensation, your body is probably already suffering some consequences of dehydration. Therefore, normalising fluid intake to at least 2 litres daily for an average adult can help you stay hydrated.

    Dehydration can also affect melatonin (a sleep hormone). Improve your sleep quality by keeping your water game up!

    • Careful food selection

    By avoiding spicy foods or those that can easily stimulate thirst at least 3 hours before bedtime, you’re a step closer to bidding farewell to that persistent urge to drink in the night.

    Sweetened foods, very salty foods along with alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea also speed up your dehydration process by increasing your urine output.

    Safe to limit your intake of these, especially late in the evening.

    • Sleep environment

    Sleeping in a really hot room increases the likelihood of awakening due to thirst. Heat stimulates excessive sweating which might cause some dehydration. In an effort to compensate for the fluid losses, thirst comes in.

    You might want to consider leaving out heat generating appliances and utilising fans or occasionally leaving windows open to allow aeration.

     Alternatively, choosing loose fitting clothes with breathable fabrics to keep your body cool is effective. 

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      Efforts to improve sleep quality

      Does water relate to sleep quality? A study found that a lack of sleep contributed to dehydration. People that slept for fewer hours were found to have higher dehydration rates than those that slept for about 8 hours. 

      Good quality sleep might be just what you need to call it quits with night thirst.

      Alternatively, use of the best-known natural supplements for better sleep can definitely hit this target. Natural supplements particularly those containing melatonin help to balance your sleep-wake cycle, allowing you to catch and sustain sleep with ease.

      In the end, a healthy mind and body is sustained.

      Management of underlying health conditions.

      Make it a point to get thoroughly checked at your next doctor’s appointment. Careful management of any underlying illnesses will definitely make a difference. If your medications are causing this excessive nighttime thirst, your doctor will be sure to substitute these.




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