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Drink up for learning

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How important is hydration to learning? New research confirms what many have known for years- drinking lots of water is essential for both the body’s health, and the brain’s capacity to learn. In many schools, teachers encourage students to drink water throughout the day. A Breakthroughs in Learning blog tells why is this so important
The human body is about 60% water. The human body needs fluids for digestion, nutrient absorption, circulation and body temperature regulation. When fluids are low, the brain triggers the thirst mechanism. While dehydrated, the body will slow down functions until fluid balance is restored.

While the physical effects of dehydration are quickly apparent, there is not as much awareness regarding the effects dehydration has on brain function. But by the time you are thirsty, cognitive function has already dropped 10%, and body weight may decrease by 2%. Results may be fatigue, reduced concentration, and dizziness. Hydration is needed for students to maintain the high level cognitive tasks required in school.

The Journal of Human Brain Mapping reported that the brain shrinks when dehydrated. After 90 minutes of exercise the brain will shrink as much as it would if it aged 10 years. When the brain shrinks, it must work harder to accomplish tasks, which leads to reduced concentration and higher fatigue.

Consuming just two glasses of water will return the brain to normal size. While the brain is quickly affected by a lack of water, it also quickly recovers.

How to keep hydrated

These tips will help students maintain proper hydration for school tasks. Exact rate of fluid replacement varies by individual, activity level, climate, and other factors.

• Students should keep a reusable water bottle handy. Choosing an appealing design easily encourages this habit. Fresh water should be replaced with standing water in the bottle frequently, especially to keep it attractively cool.

• Encouraging children to drink enough water is a unique challenge. When thirsty, children often pursue high-sugar soda drinks that dehydrate further. Limit these beverages to one or two a week, or better yet, eliminate them completely. They are a needless expense. Teach children from a very young age that water is the “go to” drink.

• Start each day with water. The longest period of time people go without water is during sleep and waking up dehydrated is not uncommon. Starting with water may mean starting the day ready to learn.

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