Our brain is an energy thirsty organ. Despite only consuming 2% of our body weight, our brains use 20-25% of our energy reserve. On top of that our brains are more than 70% water. To be at our best, ensuring our brain is well fuelled is essential and this starts with hydration. Research has shown that mild to moderate levels of dehydration had a negative effect on performance including short term memory and arithmetic ability.
Dehydration rarely occurs in healthy adults in the absence of illness such as vomiting or diarrhoea. However, mild dehydration is different. Evidence points to symptoms such as tiredness, headaches and dizziness occurring as symptoms that you might not be drinking enough. Keeping an eye on the colour of your urine is a good gauge as to how hydrated you are - pale yellow is what you are aiming for and if the urine appears dark then it’s time to refill your water glass.
There is no magic formula for how much we should drink. The standard advice of 1.5 - 2 litres a day is a reasonable rule of thumb but depending on your circumstances you may need more. It’s important to consider increasing your water intake if you are a breastfeeding mum, when you are exercising and depending on the climate you live or work in.
Studies suggest we can notice the difference from drinking water pretty quickly. Research published in 2013 showed that subjects who drank a pint of water before they performed mental tasks had reaction times that were 14% faster than those who had not hydrated. Similar research done in school has shown that children who drink more water versus classmates who didn't, have improved attention ability and remember things better.
If you are struggling with mental health, being aware of your self care is extremely important. This can be even harder if you have depression due to the nature of the condition and how it affects you - it can be difficult to see yourself as a priority or even have the inclination to look after yourself. Having a self care routine that includes brain health basics can help with how you feel as part of a wider treatment plan. Sleep, exercise and nutrition including your hydration are important aspects of your daily routine to consider when you're struggling with mental health.