How Does Dehydration Affect My Brain?

7 minutes to read
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“I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever noticed yourself sliding into brain fog when you become thirsty? It’s not just your perception that depletes from dehydration, but further consequences can happen to your brain health.

Most health-conscious individuals know that staying well-hydrated is essential for the body’s health. However, it is also critical for brain function.

Research has shown that dehydration has several adverse neurological and psychological effects. Knowing this should make proper hydration a daily priority.

In this article, we will discuss four ways dehydration affects the health and function of your brain. These will be the following:

  1. Dehydration affects your mood.
  2. Dehydration reduces your cognitive and motor skills.
  3. Dehydration makes you more sensitive to pain.
  4. Dehydration impacts your memory.

Four Ways Dehydration Affects Your Brain

1. Dehydration affects your mood

Several studies have identified a link between dehydration and mood disturbances.

In a 2012 study, researchers at the University of Connecticut induced dehydration in healthy young women through just exercise or exercise plus a diuretic. After doing this, they assessed the effects of their mood states.

The conclusion revealed that dehydration resulted in a measurable increase in “total mood disturbance.”

2. Dehydration reduces your cognitive and motor skills.

We all know not to drive under the influence of alcohol. According to a 2015 study conducted at Loughborough University, we should also avoid driving dehydrated.

When dehydrated, volunteers committed a significantly greater number of errors (such as lane drifting and late braking) in a two-hour driving simulation.

In fact, their performance was just as poor as those who completed similar tests while at the legal limit for blood alcohol content.

From this study, we can conclude that dehydration reduces concentration and reaction time.

3. Dehydration makes you more sensitive to pain.

As demonstrated in a 2014 study by Japanese researchers, one of the more surprising mental effects of dehydration is increased pain sensitivity.

Volunteers immersed one of their arms in cold water to test their pain sensitivity. During this, their brains were scanned (both in a hydrated and dehydrated state).

During the study, volunteers reported a lower pain threshold (they felt pain sooner) when they performed this test in a dehydrated state.

These subjective reports were accompanied by increased activity in the brain areas that are involved with the experience of pain.

4. Dehydration affects your memory

Dehydration has also been found to negatively impact memory.

In 2010, researchers at Ohio University measured hydration status in a group of 21 older women and had them complete tests of declarative and working memory.

A strong link between hydration status and memory skills was found. The most dehydrated subjects tended to perform the poorest on the tests. This effect was partly mediated by blood pressure.

Another study was done in 2015 by David Benton and his colleagues. They found evidence that being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks requiring attention, psychomotor, immediate memory, and working memory tasks.

What Can We Gather From All This?

The obvious next best step is to find a way to get the proper amount of water each day.

Getting the appropriate amount of water each day can be done through what you eat and, of course, by drinking plenty of water.

Get a Yeti or another container that gives you a clear visual goal each day to remind you to drink water. Begin the practice of proper hydration by filling up your water at the start of the day.

Look for our other article, How Much Water Should I Drink Per Day, to understand your daily goal.

Until then, be the person Ben Franklin fears the most!

Steve L. Adams

Steve L. Adams

Chief Executive Officer

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