Water means survival

The human body consists of 60% – 70% water depending on age, sex, the amount of fat, and which body part. Every cell of our bodies depends on water to carry nutrients into cells and carry waste out of cells. These vital functions start to deteriorate quickly when even a small amount of water is missing. Healthy people who want to stay alive can’t go without water for more than 3 or 4 days. Dying people linger longer than that because their kidneys have already shut down.

It’s called being dehydrated.

You can survive for a long time with little or no food. Sleep is important but you won’t die if kept awake for 48 hours. Death due to dehydration can happen in a day or two in hot weather. No one normally lives more than about 5-6 days without water.

When the power goes out in the summer and old people don’t have air conditioning, many die from simple dehydration because they are not in the habit of drinking water. They get their water from food or juice. The normal sense of thirst is lost in some older people. They simply forget to drink water, become disoriented, then delirious, then dead.

We Exist because Water Exists

All known forms of life depend on water. It’s more than just a solvent that moves nutrients into cells and waste out of cells.

Plants use the sun’s energy to split the water molecule in half and combine the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make basic organic compounds like glucose.

Plants exist because water exists. We and other animals exist because plants exist.

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

From: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98

Water Balance in the Body

Water gives life when kept within physiological bounds. Obviously humans do not live under water but other animals thrive there. Their bodies have sophisticated systems to keep the water inside them in balance and keep the abundance of outside water out. They have all the water they need to carry nutrition into their cells and back out as waste products to be excreted into the water around them.

We as mammals have our own ways to keep water balanced but it first involves going out to look for it. Then we must consume it in an appropriate amount. Thirst is a sensation that usually prompts people to get the right amount of water. In fact abnormalities in the thirst sensation are a good sign that something is wrong.

Excessive thirst may be a sign of diabetes, dehydration, mental problems, or excessive bleeding. Lack of thirst may be from the decline of old age, liver disease, cancer, head injury or stroke. None of these is a good thing. Many are preventable.

Our water balance involves a combination of water taken in and water going out through the kidneys, evaporation from the lungs and skin, and water lost through excretion of feces. If too much is lost through evaporation or not enough is consumed, the kidneys try to regulate it by producing less urine.

The final water balance in humans should be a conscious awareness of potential dehydration. We should drink water even when we are not thirsty to compensate for events like heat exhaustion or diarrhea. Even if we don’t feel thirsty, we should take a sip of water when our mouth feels dry.

The best water balance strategy means keeping potable water readily available.

Water Balance and Sleep

Getting up in the middle of the night is so common that there is even a name for it: Nocturia. It’s so common that there is an International Continence Society (ICS) to study continence and tell the world about the problem. We should all have a feeling of great relief knowing that the ICS is watching out for problems with our pelvic floor!

There is also the National Association for Continence to help you hold your water. Undoubtedly there are other organizations both domestic and international. It’s obviously a big problem.

Normally urine production slows down at night to allow a restful 8 hours of sleep. But 1 in every 3 adults has to get up twice in the middle of the night to pee. So many people get up once at night that it’s now considered normal. Nevertheless it disrupts normal sleep.

There are so many people in the U.S. that have significant health problems that is is not surprising that they are manifest during sleep. Not having adequate sleep only makes these chronic health problems worse. So here are some tips to help have a restful sleep and slow urine production.

  • Have a set time to go to bed every night that allows 8 hours before you have to get up.
  • Don’t use caffeine within 12 hours of your bedtime.
  • Drink small amounts of water during the day to match your physical activity. Drink more if sweating. The total should be about 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight, more if working hard or sweating.
  • Don’t drink alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime. Alcohol can make you feel sleep but it really messes up your sleep.
  • Stop using TV, computers, and cell phones an hour before going to sleep. Avoid the blue end of the visible spectrum in ambient lighting too. Keep lighting intensity low. You can also wear glasses to filter out blue light.
  • Don’t use over the counter sleep aids. They only work for a few times. After that they interfere with healthful sleep.
  • Wear a comfortable eye shield to keep out spurious lights like night lights.
  • If you have to get up to use the bathroom, don’t turn on lights if possible and open only one eye to see. Some people use dark glasses.