dehydration and cognitive function

In short – yes. Our bodies are made up to 60% entirely of water, with our lungs alone made of 80% water. It’s no secret that we need water to even function, and every gym teacher and sports coach will tell you have if you’re physically active, you need to hydrate more to increase your performance.  

But what about our mental performance? If we don’t plan to be athletes, do we really need to pay attention to how much liquids we consume? As long as we drink “enough,” we should be fine, right? 

In truth, water is just as important for our mind as it is for our body. Also, “enough water” is a different thing for different people. Here’s how staying hydrated reflects on your entire wellbeing and what you can do to improve your hydration levels. 

Declining cognitive function and concentration

In a study that did tests on dehydrated adults, scientists found that their brains showed increased neuronal activation when performing certain tasks. Basically, it turned out that their brains had to work harder to think and solve puzzles, while brains of properly hydrated adults could complete the same tasks with less effort. 

Not drinking enough liquids will impact your concentration. You won’t be able to focus on simple tasks, and you’ll feel more tired during the day. If you’re young, this problem can easily be solved by simply pouring yourself a few glasses of water. However, if you are constantly dehydrated, your cognitive function will start to decline, especially as you age. Our brains simply can’t deal with that much mental strain, and instead of remaining sharp, they slowly become weaker as the years go by. 

dehydration and cognitive function

Bad mood

In addition to the lack of focus, you’ll also experience a drop in your mood. It’s not difficult to figure out why – dehydration is uncomfortable for your body, and being constantly uncomfortable doesn’t exactly make anyone happy. Even if you’re only a little under-hydrated and aren’t fully aware of it, your body will rebel and you’ll feel bad. If you’ve been feeling tired and cranky lately and you aren’t sure why, this could be the cause. 

Symptoms of dehydration

Thirst is usually the only obvious sign of dehydration. However, there are a lot of other symptoms that go unnoticed because people don’t expect them to be related to lack of water in your system. Here are some of them: dry mouth, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fatigue, and dry skin. If you have any of these symptoms, it wouldn’t hurt to pour yourself a glass and see if you feel better in a few hours. Here’s another important symptom of dehydration: hunger. If you’re constantly hungry no matter how much you eat, it’s entirely possible that your body is misinterpreting the signals that your brain is sending. To resolve this, drink a tall glass of water before every meal. 

dehydration and cognitive function

How much do you really need?

It can be anywhere between 2-4 liters a day, but it really depends. There’s no one right equation for everyone because how much you need to drink depends on things like your age, gender, level of physical activity, and how many liquids besides water you drink during the day. To figure out how much do you really need, here’s a calculator

Still or sparkling?

Good news – sparkling water can hydrate just as well as still water. If you have a hard time drinking water because you don’t particularly enjoy the taste, then try spring water. Sipping on quality spring water (regardless of whether it’s still or sparkling) will keep you hydrated throughout the day and it will taste much better than regular tap water. 

Spring water can aid digestion and keep your brain well-oxygenated, in addition to supplying you with some important nutrients. Your drinks don’t have to taste bad to be healthy. 

dehydration and cognitive function

Taking sips throughout the day

You don’t actually have to chug down a gallon of water in one go. In fact, sipping water slowly through the day is a much better idea because it won’t overwhelm your system. To make it easier to remember, keep a water bottle next to you at all times, and consider using a straw. It sounds silly, but drinking through a straw can actually help you be more mindful about this. Go for a reusable straw so you wouldn’t harm the environment with plastic waste. 

Starting your morning strong

Drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up has some great benefits. It helps rehydrate your body after a long night, and it kicks your day off in the right manner. To make it even healthier, you could put in a few cucumbers and a few drops of lemon juice. That way you’ll be ingesting plenty of vitamins as soon as you wake up, and this will give your body energy to keep you going through the day. 

Drinking water has clear mental and physical benefits for our wellbeing. Create a habit of drinking enough of it, and you’ll be doing a great thing for your overall health.