If your mind’s wandering and you’re struggling to focus on your work, your procrastination may just be a matter of dehydration. After all, it’s not just our bodies that need water; our minds need it too. Proper hydration is linked to our sleep quality, cognition and mood, so when we don’t drink enough water throughout the day, tackling our usual workload can become a challenge.1 Dehydration can be an even bigger problem for kids and teens in school.
Learn how dehydration can impact your brain and what you can do to give yourself a boost when you need it:
How Does Dehydration Affect Your Brain?
Staying well-hydrated improves circulation, eases joint movements, regulates body temperature, aids digestion and is essential for all of our major organs.1 Naturally, hydration also has a huge impact on our brain! Research shows that even mild dehydration can cause headaches, irritability and reduced cognitive functioning.2 In addition to feeling the physical side effects of dehydration, you may notice that you’re more stressed and irritable than usual or you’re forgetting important information.3 Maintaining good hydration throughout your day may help you avoid these problems before they start, even if you’re working long hours.
How Does Dehydration Affect Kids in School?
According to Erica Kenney, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard Chan School, “[Dehydration] is an issue that could really be reducing the quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth.”2 Kids and teens in school are at higher risk for dehydration than adults are thanks to their faster metabolism, but in a study that looked at over 4,000 children and teens aged 6 to 19 years, a little more than half weren’t getting adequate hydration.2,4 Nearly a quarter of the children in the study reported drinking no plain water at all.2
Although youth sports, outdoor recesses and long class periods can make it difficult for students to easily access water when they need it, the study’s senior author Steven Gortmaker says:
“If we can focus on helping children drink more water — a low-cost, no-calorie beverage — we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school.”2
Encourage kids to keep up with their water intake using this handy printable water tracker:
Print a sheet for everyone in the family and make it a game to see who can meet their daily water goal first!
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Drinking enough water is clearly an important part of staying on task, but what “enough water” means varies from person to person. The exact amount of water you should drink can depend on the climate, your activity level, your diet and more factors.3,5,6 In general, though, you can follow these guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine:
- 13 cups (104 fl.oz.) a day for adult men
- 9 cups (72 fl.oz.) a day for adult women
- 10 cups (80 fl.oz.) for pregnant women
- 13 cups (104 fl.oz.) for breastfeeding women
- 5 cups (40 fl.oz.) for children ages 4 to 8
- 7-8 cups (56-64 fl.oz.) for children ages 9 to 13
- 8-11 cups (64-88 fl.oz.) for teens ages 14 to 18
- Increase your fluid intake whenever you participate in heavy exercise, are in the heat or are sick.6
Give Your Brain a Water Break
Whether you’re trying to stay focused while working from home, taking on a long to-do list, making sure your kids are getting the most out of their studies or some combination of all of the above, your brain needs frequent water breaks! Try these productivity tips to help you rehydrate, recharge and refocus:
- Always have a full water bottle on hand before you start anything mentally taxing.
- When your attention wanders, get up, stretch and take a long sip of water.
- Allow yourself regular 5 to 10 minute breaks every hour or so. Take this opportunity to refill your water bottle as needed!
- Reward yourself with coffee, tea or another special drink for completing a difficult task. Remember that a moderate amount of caffeine isn’t dehydrating and drinks like coffee and tea contribute to your daily fluid intake!
- Try infusing your water with energizing ingredients like mint, rosemary or lemon.
- Instead of juice or soft drinks, send kids to school with a fun and personalized reusable water bottle.
- Snacking is encouraged! As long as those snacks are water-rich fruits and veggies, like grapes or carrots.
Most importantly, make sure pure drinking water is always easy to access. A Primo water dispenser is the perfect solution for quickly filling up water bottles before a day at school and the office or for regularly refilling your glass at home. Stay hydrated and stay focused with the help of Primo!
1Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2018, June 22). The Importance of Hydration. News. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/.
2Feldscher, K. (2015, July 29). The Harvard Gazette. Health & Medicine. Harvard University. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/07/inadequate-hydration-can-lead-to-impaired-cognitive-emotional-function/.
3Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, September 14). Want to stay hydrated? Drink before you're thirsty. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/want-to-stay-hydrated-drink-before-youre-thirsty/art-20390077.
4Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, September 19). Dehydration. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086.
5Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 14). How much water do you need to stay healthy? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256.
6Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2021, July 6). Water. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/water/.