By now, we’ve all heard of the seemingly endless health benefits of drinking water. It helps provide a balance of body fluids, keeps your skin looking healthy, assists your kidney health, and helps maintain normal bowel function. But were you aware that drinking water can make you smarter? While the research is still in its early stages, the human brain is made up of more than 70% water, so the potential benefits are numerous.
Dehydration has been shown to have a negative impact on cognition, mood, short-term memory, and attention, and one of its symptoms is shrinkage in brain tissue. Water plays an essential role in the function of our cells, tissues, and organs, including the brain. Every system in the human body counts on water to function. Water transports oxygen to your brain, allowing it to communicate with the rest of your body, and even the slightest lack of hydration can reduce your concentration and cognitive skills, impairing your ability to think clearly and critically and reach maximum performance.
This was proven in a study conducted in 2014, which examined the effect of increased water intake on cognition of school-age children. The subjects were asked to drink an additional liter of water over the course of the day in comparison to children who did not drink any additional water. By the end of the study, the children who consumed the additional liter of water reported increased vigor, mood, and scored better on short-term memory, motor skills, attention, and visual search examinations.
Additionally, in a study presented in April 2012 at the British Psychological Society annual meeting, undergrads who brought water with them to exams outperformed those who did not. The researchers took past grades into account, proving that water did in fact affect cognitive functioning. There are at least three plausible explanations for how drinking water could improve test scores.
One possibility is that drinking water may have a direct physiological impact on cognitive function. Water is essential for every cell, tissue, and organ in the body, and the brain is not an exception. As predicted, research has shown that mental performance can significantly decrease when dehydration is caused by extreme heat or exercise. Under more common circumstances, studies in adults suggest that restricting fluids enough to lose just 1% of body weight can decrease concentration and alertness. Furthermore, a few small studies in schoolchildren, who are more prone to dehydration than adults, indicate that access to extra water can improve attention and memory, therefore it is possible that water could have subtle cognitive benefits for grown-up students.
For those who experience anxiety, there could be benefits as well. Sipping water during an exam is sometimes suggested as a strategy for easing test anxiety, because by offering a momentary distraction, it can break a chain of anxious thoughts and free the mind to focus on the task, leading to better performance. Drinking water can also aid concentration the same way a sugar pill can ease pain – by activating the placebo effect. If people believe that sipping water helps the brain work more efficiently, that expectation alone could be enough to boost brainpower.
In addition to reduced anxiety, attention, concentration and memory, drinking water can also eliminate headaches and migraines. Your brain won’t be solving any advanced physics problems if it’s yelling at you in pain, and even if your work is a bit less complicated, a headache will significantly reduce any amount of productivity. Studies have shown that drinking water not only helps keep the headaches at bay but serves as an effective cure. It is also important to note that headaches are often one of the first symtoms of dehydration, and often just a little water will do the trick.
What’s more, water can improve energy levels. Feeling tired is obe of the first signs of dehydration and filling back up on H2O could reduce sleepiness. Measures of intelligence differ but everyone agrees motivation and drive are imperative to any successful accomplishment, whatever it might be. Lastly, staying hydrated is a proven regulator of mood and studies have proven that even a small amount of dehydration can negatively impact your state of mind. Mood is linked with energy as well as motivation, two key factors in determining your disposition to work.
In summary, water does in fact affect cognitive functions, and since our brains do not possess the ability to store water, it’s important to drink plenty of it throughout the day to maintain optimal brain function. But just how much water should we drink? To keep our brains functioning at full steam, doctors and nutritionists recommend drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you should be consuming at least 60 ounces of water per day. Consider bringing a water bottle along with your No. 2 pencil next time you take a test, and if you don’t have a habit of drinking water regularly, this is the time to start doing so. You’ll thank yourself later!