Hydration in Education – what you need to know

Alpha Card 19-11-2018

Water is essential for life without question, it makes up more than half our body weight. The quantity and quality of the fluids we consume every day can have a major impact on our wellbeing and long-term health. Our bodies depend on water to survive, every cell, tissue and organ, including the brain, need water to work properly and maintain good health.

It is important to stay properly hydrated, therefore drinking enough water every day is a must, 2 litres is a guide, but individual needs may vary. Although water is best for staying hydrated, we can get hydration from other things such as fruit and vegetable juices, milk and herbal teas. Caffeinated drinks, in moderation, are also adding to our hydration, as is eating fruit and vegetables.

Water can be perceived as being tasteless and boring, as a result sugary drinks, harmful in many ways, be a more palatable alternative. What you drink can be as dangerous as not drinking at all.

It is important to actively prevent dehydration and not wait until you notice the symptoms. Some people are more at risk from dehydration; People exercising at high intensity for too long, those with certain medical conditions, the sick, pregnant or people dieting. Older people are more at risk, as you get older your brain may not be able to sense dehydration, it doesn’t send signals for thirst.

In terms of hydration as it applies to education, for students at whatever level, optimising cognitive capacity must be desirable. Consequently, anything students can do to maximise brain performance is beneficial and if this can be achieved through simple lifestyle changes then all the better. Simply staying properly hydrated is one example that improves brain function, just a 1% increase in dehydration can impair brain function by 5%

Some facts about the brain and hydration:

  1. The brain is one of the most important organs in the body to keep fuelled as it is approximately 85% water and its function depends on having access to plenty of water. It gives the brain electrical energy, essential for thought and memory processes. The right levels of hydration not only help with better thinking but can also help to prevent Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
  2. A properly hydrated brain helps the blood transport nutrients to the brain, removing toxins at the same time. The brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters rely on water. Well hydrated transmitters help the brain function smoothly, with resultant benefits in concentration and memory performance.
  3. Sugary drinks accelerate dehydration by negatively impacting insulin levels and thus impairing brain function. Too much insulin affects the functioning of the brain’s synapses, the result being the impairment of concentration and learning skills.
  4. The cycle of craving and crashing caused by excess sugar can cause feelings of depression and irritability and cause “brain fog” that affects focus.

A fantastic example of a pro-active and informative approach to this subject has recently been undertaken by the University of Plymouth’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, who designed a Pocket-sized concertina style z-folding Alpha Card titled “Let’s talk about hydration”. They turned to us to advise on the best format and produce the card, which had an extended cover with a drill-hole, so it could be hung around the neck of a sustainable, refillable metal water bottle which students were given. To match the sustainability of the bottle, the card, both its covers and inner, were produced on FSC sustainable materials.

The University wanted an engaging, retainable, reusable and compact medium to carry their important advice on this subject, which included signs of poor hydration and benefits of good hydration as below:

Signs of poor hydration:

  • Being thirstier than normal
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Feeling tired
  • Dark urine
  • Headache

Benefits of good hydration:

  • Fluid balance
  • Fatigue buster
  • Blood normaliser
  • Calorie control
  • Brain boost
  • Joints greaser
  • Toxic remover
  • Productivity boost
  • Clearer skin
  • Muscle fuel

So, there can be no doubt that focusing on the required levels of hydration carries benefits in a huge number of ways, in this case as it applies to education, H2O is the way to go!