Most of us know how important water is to our survival; our bodies are made up of over 70% water and it is important to keep those reserves replenished so our body can maintain its processes. In the blood, water transports nutrients, oxygen, and waste, and the lungs’ mucus membranes require water to stay moist. Water is also vital to digestive processes. Without any intake of fluid, death occurs within three to five days. Although this is well known to most of us, we have only recently begun to understand how water affects brain function and mental performance.

Research has shown that our brains are 75% water and dehydration causes our brains to shrink, leading to an array of negative neurological and psychological effects. According to two recent studies from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory, even mild dehydration can have negative consequences for your mood, ability to think clearly, and energy level.

Dehydration and Mood

If you find yourself often feeling irritated, nervous, or sluggish, you may be dehydrated. Dehydration affects our thoughts and feelings by slowing our circulation, which lowers blood flow, meaning less oxygen travels to your brain and it is not able to function properly. When the neurons in our brains that detect dehydration signal the mood-regulating parts of our brains that we are experiencing dehydration, our brain’s dopamine and serotonin balances are thrown off. As dopamine and serotonin are the natural neurotransmitters that control depression and anxiety, this can have disastrous effects on mood.

Researchers have studied this process to prove that there are associations between dehydration and mood, most commonly manifesting in feelings of decreased alertness, fatigue, and tension. One study from Dr. David Benton, professor of psychology at Swansea University, found that fluid deprivation resulted in participants feeling tired and less alert, and caused them to struggle with performing cognitive tests. Another study led by Natalie Pross, senior clinical scientist at Roche, also found that dehydration induced by fluid deprivation led to increased fatigue and sleepiness, as well as lower vigor and alertness levels and increased confusion. However, the subjects of this study reported an immediate increase in alertness and happiness when they were provided water.

Natalie Pross led another study in 2014 in which habitual water drinkers were forced to restrict their daily water intake, leading to negative impacts on mood such as feeling less calm, less content, and less vigorous. In a 2012 study from the University of Connecticut, researchers induced dehydration through a combination of exercise and diuretics in an effort to study the link between dehydration and mood disturbances.

Overall, the study found that dehydration led to a measurable increase in “total mood disturbance.” Mild dehydration resulted in headaches, difficulty concentrating, and perceived difficulty in completing tasks; participants who were not properly hydrated after exercise scored lower on mood assessments. “Even mild dehydration that can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities can degrade how we are feeling,” reported Harris Lieberman, one of the studies’ co-authors and a research psychologist with the Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass. “…these adverse mood changes may limit the motivation required to engage in even moderate aerobic exercise. Mild dehydration may also interfere with other daily activities, even when there is no physical demand component present.” Studies measuring hydration-dependent changes in mood have consistently found that mood states are negatively affected by dehydration, independent of any cognitive performance changes.

Drink More Water to Boost Your Mood

The good news is that current research findings indicate that cognitive abilities and mood states are positively affected by water consumption. Studies have found a significant connection between increased hydration and reports of vigor, alertness, and arousal. Reported mood ratings showed a significant increase in study after study when participants were given water.

In Natalie Pross’s above-referenced 2014 study “Effects of Changes in Water Intake on Mood of High and Low Drinkers,” increased water consumption led to significant decreases in fatigue, inertia, confusion, and bewilderment among subjects. The study demonstrated that an increase in daily water intake led to significant mood improvements, less sleepiness, and increased satisfaction. A study from researchers at the University of Bristol’s Department of Experimental Psychology found an immediate positive effect of water consumption on mood in adults. CJ Edmonds and B. Jeffes reported that up to 500 milliliters of water intake had beneficial effects on happiness ratings in a study they conducted at University of East London’s School of Psychology.

A joint study between the University of Connecticut, France’s Hydration and Health Department, and Ohio State University found that the more water participants consumed, the better their moods were. When water intake increased, tension, depression, and confusion scores went down.

Optimum Bottleless Water Coolers

If dehydration has been messing with your mood, Optimum is here to help. Our staff is so excited about all the ways we are helping our clients reach their hydration goals! To find out more about how Optimum can help you boost your water intake and boost your mood, visit our website today.