Added: 10th June 2015
In the 1990s, word got around that supermodels like Elle McPherson kept themselves looking young and chic by gulping eight glasses of water a day. Beauty aside, water is one of the body’s most basic needs and scientists agree that each of us does need to drink between six to eight glasses of water per day. Soft drinks and hot drinks may contain other ingredients that dehydrate us a little, like caffeine, but they still count towards this quota. Dehydration can cause all sorts of problems, from headaches and fatigue to more serious effects.
While most of us appreciate the value of keeping hydrated while exercising or sunbathing, how many think about staying hydrated while driving? According to a new study, mild dehydration can affect drivers’ cognitive abilities, resulting in reduced alertness and impaired decision-making.
To test the effects of mild dehydration on driving skills, the researchers invited a group of male drivers to their lab, gave them controlled amounts of water and put them into a driving simulator for two hours. The drivers all made more mistakes during the last 30 minutes, presumably due to normal tiredness, but those who had drunk very little water made significantly more mistakes. Brain scans taken while driving also suggested that dehydrated drivers became sleepier as the driving trial went on.
Whereas the Loughborough University researchers gave their paper the un-catchy title of “Mild hypohydration increases the frequency of driver errors during a prolonged, monotonous driving task,” the Telegraph cut straight to the news angle, announcing that “Not drinking enough water has same effect as drink driving”. The original paper does state that similar effects are seen when a driver has 0.8% blood alcohol, the legal drink driving limit in the UK.
This study provides an important clue about how we can make our roads safer, but it also suggests that keeping properly hydrated is important in many areas of our waking lives. Anyone who’s ever worked in a busy office or shop without an opportunity to have a single sip of water for several hours might find the implications of this research quite shocking. So next time you enjoy a “water cooler moment” at work, remember it’s good for your health and productivity as well as your social life.