6 signs you should drink more water

Drinking enough water can improve your skin, mental sharpness, and more.

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Drinking water every day is an important part of staying healthy. When you drink enough water, it means you are properly hydrated. Being dehydrated, on the other hand, means you don’t have enough water in your body. Dehydration can lead to a range of health issues. 

You might think that your body will tell you when you need to drink. But feeling thirsty isn’t always the best sign that you are dehydrated. What else can tell you it’s time to drink water? Learn these signs. 

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Brain fog

Do you feel foggy or confused? Dehydration could be the cause. A 2018 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that mild dehydration was linked to several mental symptoms. These included: 

  • Not thinking clearly 
  • Feeling uncoordinated or clumsy 
  • Trouble making decisions 
  • Lack of focus 
  • Not remembering things 
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Hunger you can’t satisfy

Being dehydrated can make you feel hungry. This might make you crave certain foods when you really just need to drink water.  

On the other hand, staying well hydrated can make you feel more full. It can help you manage your appetite. That means you won’t eat too much at mealtime. 

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Bad breath

Saliva (or spit) is the fluid that’s naturally found in your mouth. It keeps your mouth fresh by rinsing away germs and food particles. When you are dehydrated, germs and food can build up in your mouth. This can cause bad breath. 

You can help prevent bad breath by: 

  • Sipping water through the day 
  • Eating foods that contain lots of water. These include fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, watermelon, and carrots. 
  • Chewing sugar-free gum between meals. This helps your mouth create more saliva. 
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Dry, flaky, or oily skin

When you are dehydrated, your skin may not get the moisture it needs. This can make your skin look dull, wrinkled, and flaky. 

Your skin naturally contains oil. This helps keep your skin soft. But when you are dehydrated, your skin produces more oil to make up for the lack of moisture. This can lead to oily skin. Too much oil can cause breakouts.  

You can help keep your skin healthy by doing these things: 

  • Drink a large glass of water in the morning instead of coffee. 
  • Skip nicotine (from cigarettes), alcohol, and excess caffeine (from drinks like soda or coffee). 
  • Avoid long, hot showers and baths. These can wash away your natural oils and dry out your skin even more. 
  • Put moisturizer on your skin as soon as you get out of the shower. 
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Dehydration may cause your blood pressure to drop. Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels. Low blood pressure means less blood and less oxygen gets to your brain. When this happens, the blood vessels in your brain get wider to try to get more blood. This can cause migraine headaches. 

Dehydration can also cause a dull headache. The pain may increase when you move your head. You may feel pain anywhere around the head, just not in your face or the back of your neck. 

If you get a headache from dehydration, you should drink more water. It’s also good to avoid alcohol and caffeine and do less physical activity so you sweat less. Sweating makes you lose fluid from your body. 

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Urine color

The color of your urine (pee) can tell you if you are dehydrated. Several factors affect the color of your urine.  

Here’s what your urine color could tell you: 

  • Clear or pale yellow: You’re hydrated.  
  • Yellow or honey color: You may be mildly dehydrated. Sip some water. 
  • Dark yellow or orange (along with peeing less often): You’re more severely dehydrated. You might also have a condition that needs attention. Drink plenty of water and call your healthcare provider (HCP) if your urine stays dark. 
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How much water do you need in a day?

You may have heard that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day. The truth is, the amount of water you need depends on many factors. These include your age, health, activity level, and sex.  

It also depends on if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to drink more water than usual.  

Generally, people who are healthy should drink this much water: 

  • Men and people assigned male at birth: 13 cups (or 3 liters) of water a day 
  • Women and people assigned female at birth: 9 cups (or 2.2 liters) of water a day  

Everything you drink counts toward this total. That includes clear fluids like water, sports drinks, or tea. Food also provides about 20 percent of your total water needs. 

One word of warning: It is possible to drink too much water. If you have certain health conditions, ask your HCP about the right amount of water for you. These include heart disease or thyroid, kidney, or liver disease. 

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Riebl SK, Davy BM. The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013 Nov;17(6):21-28.
Cleveland Clinic. Dehydration. Reviewed February 16, 2021.
Wittbrodt MT, Millard-Stafford M. Dehydration Impairs Cognitive Performance: A Meta-analysis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. November 2018. 50(11): p2360-2368.
Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, et al. Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women, The Journal of Nutrition. February 2012. Volume 142, Issue 2, Pages 382–388.
Kaiser Permanente. 10 warning signs of dehydration. May 13, 2022.
PKD Foundation. Hunger vs. thirst: tips to tell the difference. Accessed November 17, 2022.
Corney RA, Sunderland C, James LJ. Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Mar;55(2):815-819.
Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Signs You are not Drinking Sufficient Water. March 2019.
American Dental Association. Chewing Gum. Updated May 4, 2023.
University of Utah Health. Hot Showers Can Dry Out Your Skin. February 10, 2021.
Better Health Channel (AUS). Halitosis or bad breath. Reviewed August 31, 2022.
Van der Sluijs E, Slot DE, et al. The effect of water on morning bad breath: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Dent Hyg. 2016 May;14(2):124-34. 
Mayo Clinic. Does drinking water cause hydrated skin? November 21, 2020.
American Skin Association. Dry Skin. Accessed November 17, 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. Dehydration Headache. Reviewed December 3, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. What The Color of Your Pee Says About You. November 8, 2021.
NSW Health. Urine Color Chart. April 7, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? October 12, 2022.
National Council on Aging. How to Stay Hydrated for Better Health. March 18, 2024.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How Much Water Do You Need. Reviewed June 2022.

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