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Dehydration may lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression as well as other symptoms. Monitoring your water intake and other tips may help you stay hydrated.

Drinking lots of water improves your physical health in all sorts of ways.

A steady supply of water keeps your circulation flowing smoothly, aids with digestion and weight loss, eases joint movement, and helps your body absorb the nutrients in your food, just to name a few benefits.

Research also shows that water is important for maintaining your mental health. Dehydration may increase your risk of anxiety and depression, among other unhealthy mental states.

Read on to learn more about dehydration’s connection to anxiety, as well as symptoms of dehydration, and hydration strategies to help boost your water intake.

Multiple studies point to a link between dehydration and a higher risk of anxiety.

In most of these studies, the effect of dehydration on anxiety levels was mild but significant. More research is needed to better understand the effects of hydration on mood, mental health, and thinking abilities.

Lower risk of anxiety and depression

In one 2018 study of over 3,000 adults, those who drank more water had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who drank less water.

Though the connection between dehydration and depression was stronger, researchers found that anxiety was higher in those who didn’t drink enough water.

Mood improves with more water intake

In a smaller 2014 study, researchers explored how increasing or decreasing water intake affected mood in people with different water-drinking habits.

They found that people who usually drink lots of water felt less calm, less content, and more tense when their water intake dropped.

When researchers increased the participants’ water intake, people in the study felt more happiness, no matter how much water they normally drank.

Tension increases with dehydration

Researchers in a 2015 study tracked mood and total water intake among 120 healthy women. They found that lower water intake was associated with greater tension, depression, and confusion.

Researchers in a 2011 study found a similar connection between increased tension and dehydration in otherwise healthy men.

Water or water plus electrolytes?

If dehydration is affecting your mood, should you opt for plain water or water enhanced with electrolytes to regain a sense of calm?

In one 2019 study, researchers measured the effects of different drink combinations on anxiety and agreeableness.

The results? Water with electrolytes may prevent anxiety at best, but researchers noted that the placebo effect may explain this connection.

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Yes. The amount of water you drink can influence other aspects of your mood besides anxiety. Multiple studies have found a link between drinking water and these mental health states:

  • depression
  • confusion
  • fatigue

It’s also possible that your water intake could influence your sleep. Research on this subject is mixed, but at least one study involving Chinese and U.S. adults shows that dehydration is associated with less sleep.

Research has also shown that poor sleep can lead to more anxiety during your waking hours.

Got test anxiety?

A 2019 narrative review found that multiple studies confirmed a link between being well-hydrated and increases in your visual attention during cognitive tasks.

Researchers have noted that water has the same positive visual attention effect on children.

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Increased anxiety is one of many indications you’re not getting enough water. Here are some ways to tell if you’re dehydrated:

  • thirst
  • dry mouth
  • skin changes, including dryness, redness, or loss of turgor
  • dark yellow urine
  • constipation
  • higher blood pressure
  • fast heart rate
  • sleepiness or fatigue
  • headache or nausea

Signs of dehydration in children

When it comes to children, there are a few indications that dehydration may be severe. If you notice these symptoms in a child in your care, seek medical attention right away:

  • fussiness
  • lethargy
  • dry diapers
  • crying without tears

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has suggested that women drink around 9 cups of water daily and men around 12.5 cups a day.

These amounts vary depending on your age, your activity levels, and how much water you normally take in through foods like fruits and vegetables.

  • Keep water close. Taking your own water bottle with you to work, to the gym, or on errands is a steady reminder to drink up.
  • Set alarms. Using apps and alarms to remind yourself to drink water is an easy way to keep up with daily intake, especially if you’re working to develop the habit.
  • Monitor your intake. At key points throughout the day — maybe just before mealtimes — check your hydration benchmarks. Waiting until the end of the day to evaluate your intake may not leave enough time to correct a water imbalance.
  • Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables. Up to 20 percent of your daily water consumption could come through the foods you eat, so including fruits and vegetables that are high in water content could help keep you hydrated.
  • Aim to finish early. To avoid sleep-defeating bathroom trips, make sure you’ve met your water goals well before it’s time to turn in.

Keeping yourself hydrated may be one simple way to reduce anxiety in your life. Researchers have found a connection between anxiety and dehydration — though more research needs to be done to understand the relationship between the two.

To make sure you’re hydrated enough to prevent a decline in your mood, calculate how much water you should be drinking and keep track of how much you actually drink.

You can take water with you as you move through your day to make it easier to build that hydration habit.

Drinking plenty of water will help keep you in good physical and mental shape, which is why it’s important to make hydration part of your overall self-care commitment.

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