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SOUNDS ODD  by Elizabeth Holmes
Fun Facts on the Science of Sound
#18: The 'Feel Better' Drink - Water!

Note: The author is Business Director and Gamemaster at Voice Over Virtual - the giant 3-day totally online voice over conference in September.

Did you know that paying attention to your thirst level - and drinking water when you need it - improves your reaction time, your memory and your mood?   

As voice actors, we all know the importance of staying hydrated for our performances behind the mic. Among other things, drinking water helps us eliminate certain kinds of mouth noise and soothe dry throats. 

But for some of us, drinking water can also help us think better and project a more positive demeanor.   


Do you feel grumpy? Maybe you’re thirsty. Important research on this came out a few years ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study on how dehydration affects our moods and our ability to use information. 

Because athletes commonly lose between 2% and 4% of their body weight during exercise, a team of researchers at Tufts University in Boston led by biological psychologist Kristen D’Anci decided to use athletes to study the effects of dehydration. 

Thirty male and female Tufts students were recruited for the tests. Half of the group drank water during and after exercise, and half were denied water. After exercise, participants took tests designed to measure their cognitive abilities, their memories and their moods. 

Guess what? By comparison to the hydrated group, the group that didn’t get water was significantly more tired, more confused and grumpier.  


Do you really need water? Or just think you do?

Taking this research one step further, scientists at the University of London’s School of Psychology led by Caroline J. Edmonds recently completed research to find out how feeling thirsty affects us. 

How did they do it? They tested the same group of participants on two different days. Both times, participants abstained from drinking fluids from 9 p.m. the night before the test. 

On Day 1, they received a cereal bar and water. On Day 2, they received a cereal bar only – no water. 


The test revealed conflicting results. Being thirsty appears to affect our ability to concentrate.  Scientists speculate that when we’re thirsty, no matter how hard we try to ignore it, a part of our brains is always focused on trying to satisfying our thirst. So we’re distracted, and our attention suffers. 

Edmond’s tests revealed that thirsty participants lagged behind their ‘quenched’ participants by 14% on reaction time tests, (pressing a button in response to seeing target images on a computer screen).  

On the other hand, being thirsty may actually improve our performance on other tests. 

The hormone vasopressin activates our thirst response, and has been linked to attention and arousal. Further study is need to figure out which tasks are enhanced by thirst, and which are impaired. Dehydration is NOT pretty!  


Still skeptical about the benefits of water?  Consider this progression:  
  • Mild Dehydration – Symptoms: Thirst, dark urine, fatigue, headache, lack of appetite, irritability, dizziness, constipation  
  • Moderate to Severe Dehydration – Symptoms: All of the above, plus lethargy, nausea, tingling limbs, rapid pulse, seizures, delirium, death  
So, stay safe, stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it.  

Too much water can flush minerals out of your body and disrupt your electrolyte balance.  Fortunately,  "Water Intoxication” (yes, that’s really what they call it) is extremely rare.  

Most of us get it exactly right when we let our thirst be our guide.        

To learn more about the dehydration studies mentioned in this article, please see:  Dehydration Affects Mood, Not Just Motor Skills and  Subjective thirst moderates changes in speed of responding associated with water consumption.

Elizabeth Holmes is a writer, voice actor, and staff editor at VoiceOverXtra, based in Northern California. She is also editor of VoiceOverXtra's book division, including Voice Over Legal, by voice actor / attorney Robert Sciglimpaglia.


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