We know when to drink, because we get thirsty. But what is it that makes us thirsty?
The action takes place in the hypothalamus, a small but vital structure in the brain responsible for the production of many different hormones that regulate behaviours and emotions such as recognition, trust, sexual arousal, appetite, sleep pattern, maternal behaviour, and temperature.
The hypothalamus monitors blood pressure, blood volume, and the sodium content of blood. When the blood’s sodium content is too high, or when blood volume or pressure falls, a hormone called vasopressin is activated in the anterior region of the hypothalamus. Vasopressin regulates the body’s water levels by triggering the desire to drink.
As we get older, the production of vasopressin can become suppressed. Without the natural thirst trigger, there’s a danger of dehydration.
Around 75% of a healthy adult brain is water. But the water is a transient part of the system. It’s always on the move and can’t be stored.
There has to be a constant supply of water for the production of cerebrospinal fluid (the brain’s built-in shock-absorber), neurotransmitters (proteins responsible for cognition), and hormones (the body’s signalling molecules responsible for behaviour).
Dehydration can have a devastating impact on concentration and mood, causing headaches, tiredness, confusion, disorientation, light-headedness, and irritability.
It’s a shocking fact that just 3% dehydration can slow down your reaction time to the same extent as 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Bearing in mind that with 0.08 BAC you’re five times more likely (compared to 0.00 BAC) to be involved in a road traffic accident, the result of 3% hydration could mean greater risk of a workplace accident.
The water content of blood (approximately 78%) is necessary for both the consistency and volume of blood. If the water content is reduced, the blood thickens and reduces in volume, making the heart’s job that bit harder. Protracted periods of dehydration can cause discomfort and palpitations in a weary heart.
A deficiency in synovial fluid (made up mostly of water) will lessen the protective properties of cartilage, subjecting the joints to damage through wear and tear. Over time, this can lead to pain and stiffness, making movement more tiring.
The excretory systems, too, depend on good hydration. The kidneys need plenty of water to flush out waste from the circulatory system, and the digestive system requires lubrication for the formation and excretion of digestive waste. Dehydration can cause kidney stones or constipation, both of which, when severe, can be painful and distressing, affecting energy levels and mood.
Every cell in a body is maintained by nutrients carried in the bloodstream. Every single cell relies on good circulation for health and functionality. In turn, good circulation relies on adequate hydration.
Aches and pains, impaired cognitive function, lower resistance to stress, and a struggling digestive system are all symptoms of dehydration, and they can all contribute to fatigue. In addition to being a direct cause of fatigue, these symptoms are commonly associated with insomnia, which, inevitably, is a cause of tiredness in the workplace.
The impact of tiredness on productivity has been the subject of various recent studies. Participants reported making errors and losing concentration, snapping at colleagues, and falling asleep at work. There were also reports of serious accidents and temper tantrums.
Of course, not all fatigue is due to dehydration. But extreme tiredness at work is a dangerous condition, and it’s important to take it seriously. Bear in mind that dehydration can cause fatigue.
Supporting the health of employees equates to long-term investment in productivity.
The emotional wellbeing and economic security of employees and their families are well-established traditions in some industries, and many firms have reaped the rewards of philanthropy in the form of high productivity from happy, settled workers.
One of the very best ways to ensure the health and wellbeing of your team is to provide pure water, on tap, in the workplace. There’s nothing in the world that can match it.