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Hydration and How It Affects Mental Performance

29 April 2021

It is common to hear people say hydrate, drink water for clear skin. However, it is also a fact that hydrating your body can be greatly beneficial to focus when needed and  to keep mental performance at its peak. Since the human body is 60% water and 75% of our brain is also made of water, hydration is of utmost necessity for daily function and survival. Thus, it is also worth concluding that how much water intake is done also affects our cognitive abilities. Cognitive ability or cognition is the capacity of our brain to acquire new information, gain understanding through perception, awareness, discernment and retention of knowledge. Cognition is also attributed to controlling one's emotion at bay when needed and our overall mental state. Thus hydration affects two main aspects of cognition: the cognitive function and the mood state.

There are two separate researches that tackle the effects of dehydration to human cognitive abilities. One studied the effect of severe dehydration which constitutes 2% or more body mass loss. And the other is mild dehydration that is less than 2% body mass loss. The study involved soldiers and athletes in extreme conditions. Their conditions were brought about by intense physical exertion, extreme heat combined with fluid deprivation. 

According to a study in 1988 conducted with 11 soldiers aged between 20-25, dehydration above 2% body mass loss resulted in reduced mathematical ability, short term memory, speed in movement and span of attention. The cognitive functions that were affected are coordination, processing of new information and executive function which includes: self monitoring, understanding point of views, regulating emotions, focus on starting and ending tasks, organizing, planning and prioritizing. There are also mood swings recorded as an after effect of severe dehydration. Fatigue and perceived exertion, along with anger, confusion, tension, and an emotional state was noted in the study. 

As for the research involving mild cases of induced dehydration, there were some notable differences in gender. These following results are the effects of  less than 2% body mass loss brought about by dehydration. Temperature, weather and movement affect the human water balance during the day. That is why it is worth noting that mild dehydration might happen in everyday life. With this research, two different sets of tests were involved. One experiment was dehydration brought about by fluid restriction. The next one is a combination dehydration brought about by perspiration due to exercise and fluid deprivation.

The research done regarding this was held in 2009 in cooperation with 31 athletes, specifically 16 male athletes and 15 female athletes around the age of 20. The athletes were tasked to do one hour intense rowing followed by a series of battery tests on cognitive function and mood along with assessment of the level of thirst. In this particular set of tests, no difference in mood was noted in both genders but there was a difference in their visual vigilance and reaction time. Another two more recent studies were conducted that took hyperthermia or high body heat as a factor in mood alteration due to dehydration. 

This research consisted of three varying conditions: exercise induced mild dehydration with diuretics, another one with a placebo and the last one is exercise induced dehydration with maintained hydration. In this study, the participants were asked to do a 40 minute treadmill walk in a 27.7 degree Celsius environment. The studies resulted in more than 1% body mass loss and an increase of urination. But here is the part where a disparity in genders was found. For the male counterparts, mild dehydration resulted in 1.6 body mass loss which led to a spike in the perception of fatigue and anxiety. It also resulted in a drop in memory and visual vigilance. On the part of women, there was a 1.4% body mass loss due to mild dehydration. Due to this, there were fatigue, loss of vigor, mood swings, inability to focus and complete cognitive tasks and difficulty in focusing noted in the female participants. Apart from that, mild headaches were also observed. With that said, we can conclude that mild dehydration affects the cognitive performance in males but in women, it has less impact on cognition but more on mood disturbance. 

The European Food Safety Authority or EFSA recommends around two liters of water per day to hydrate for adults. But it could be up to 2.7 liters per day for men depending on the activities of the day. It also varies if a woman is pregnant or lactating. For pregnant women, it is preferred to have at least 2.3 liters of water intake, which includes water from food and water from liquid drinks. It also goes up to 2.7 liters per day for lactating women.

With that said, it is important to be hydrated while working or gaming as there is a lot of thinking, organizing and multi-skilling involved in this. The good news is that FlexiSpot offers products that would conveniently help you keep hydrated and also safeguard your computer and other office equipment from liquid damage. Like the Ergonomic Gaming Desk with Mouse Pad- 63” W which is spacious for multiple monitors and speaker systems for your computer. It has a flexible height adjustment so that it would conform to your height and visual needs.

Cable management is easy and  prevents tripping from cables and other accidents. It also comes with a headphone hook so you can keep it organized and keep it working well for a very long time. It comes with a stable cup holder so you can hydrate all day or have your coffee perk you up on the start of a work or game day. It is designed to be conveniently at an arm's length but also not in the way of your movements and work. Great things happen when you keep your mind and body at tip top shape so you can only expect peak performance. That in mind, it's good to choose products that make it easier or promote the lifestyle that you want to have. FlexiSpot has these wonderful  products.