It’s important to drink water. Over half our bodies are made up of water, and it’s necessary to keep us running. Whether you’re throwing back a bottle-full, or eating water-filled foods (ideally both), getting enough fluids in one way or another is essential for survival.
Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and assistant professor in nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University, tells SELF that the body does a pretty good job of maintaining fluid balance under normal circumstances. You pee when you have too much water, and get thirsty when you need more. But there are actually a handful of other ways your body says “I need hydration!” that you might not recognize.
The good news is that this mild dehydration is pretty easy to reverse if you just diligently drink more water. Here are some of the signs you may be dehydrated and need to drink more H2O ASAP.
- Your mouth and lips are dry.
When you’re dehydrated, saliva production decreases, leaving your mouth and lips feeling dry. Dry mouth can also make your breath stinky, because bacteria has the chance to linger longer when it’s not being washed away on the reg.
- Your pee is dark.
The color of your pee can tell you a lot about your health. Healthy, hydrated pee should be light yellow or clear, a sign that it’s properly diluted. If yours is medium yellow, dark yellow, or orange, it’s likely because your body isn’t getting enough water so your urine is more concentrated, Robert Korn, M.D., medical director of GoHealth Urgent Care in the New York area, tells SELF. Less water intake also means you’ll have to go less often, too.
- Your energy levels are low.
“The defense mechanism of the body in the face of dehydration is to shut down blood supply to ‘non-vital’ organs,” Korn explains. This means the rest of your body, and your muscles specifically, may start to operate at a slower pace, making you feel sluggish and sleepy.
- You have a headache.
The exact way dehydration causes a headache isn’t known. But experts believe that when hydration levels drop, so does blood volume, which leads to lower blood flow to the brain. This reduces the brain’s oxygen supply and causes the blood vessels to dilate, leading to headaches and even lightheadedness.
- You don’t have enough tears.
Similarly to saliva, the amount of tears you have can actually decrease if your body is using every last drop of water to support its basic functions. If your eyes are dry, or just not producing much liquid when you’re crying, it could mean you’re dehydrated.
- Your skin is dry.
Water is essential for plump, hydrated skin. When your body’s tank is low, and using all the water available for basic functions, your skin gets the short end of the stick. Over time, it can lead to dryness.
- You get muscle spasms or “Charley horses.”
You know those super painful muscle spasms that wake you up in the middle of the night after your whole calf seizes up? They typically occur when a muscle is overused, and exercising when your fluid levels are low can spark one.
- Your body is cramping.
There are lots of things that can cause cramping, and muscle fatigue is the most likely culprit. But another type of cramping has been connected to dehydration and a sodium deficit in the body. “Exertional heat cramping, or full body cramping, may be related to sodium depletion and fluid loss especially in individuals who are ‘salty sweaters,'” Pritchett says. In this case, sipping on an electrolyte sports drink can be helpful to restore the natural mineral balance in the body.
- You feel hungry even after you just ate.
Thirst and hunger cues come from the same part of the brain, so it’s easy to confuse the two. If you feel hungry even when you know you’ve eaten enough, there’s a good chance your body’s actually telling you it needs water, not food.
Important note: The following symptoms could be a sign of severe dehydration: rapid heartbeat or breathing, sunken eyes, fever, confusion, or delirium. If you experience any of these, go to the hospital.