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Are You Dehydrated? It Could be Causing Sleepless Nights and Weight Gain

“Ninety-five percent of women over 40 are dehydrated,” says Howard Murad, MD, author of The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger ($12.09, Amazon). “As we age, stress, poor diet, and environmental toxins damage the body’s cell membranes, weakening their ability to hold water.” Why that’s a problem: “This damage leads to subclinical dehydration and the exhaustion, brain fog, and weight gain that follow.”

Sleeping fewer than six hours raises the risk of dehydration by 60 percent, say scientists at Penn State University. “The hormone vasopressin, which regulates the body’s water balance, is released in greater amounts after six hours of sleep,” says Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, author of 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast! ($14.94, Amazon). “So if you’re sleeping six hours or less, your vasopressin levels drop, worsening dehydration — and fatigue.”

“Unless you’re dangerously dehydrated, it often goes undetected,” says integrative medicine specialist Dana Cohen, MD, author of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration ($23.40, Amazon). Her advice: Drink half your weight (in ounces) of water daily. And try the steps below to help your body better absorb water.

Add lemon, lime, or cucumber to water, suggests Dr. Schoffro Cook. “This changes water’s surface tension so it can better penetrate cells and hydrate.”

Also enjoy healthy fats: Saturated fats harden cell membranes, so cells can’t absorb water, says Dr. Cohen. But good fats (olive oil, avocados, flaxseed and fatty fish) keep membranes permeable to improve cells’ water absorption.

Finally, practice micro-movements: “We need to move to push fluid into our tissues,” says Cohen. “Micro-movements, like squeezing your muscles while in the car or at your desk, will move water through your fascia, the connective tissue responsible for hydrating your body.”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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