During a perfect Sunday summer afternoon, you probably don’t think twice when you feel relaxed, unmotivated, and without a care in the world. However, have you ever wondered what puts the “lazy” in those lazy days of summer? The heat’s effect on your brain may have a lot to do with your productivity, or lack thereof, when the temperatures rise.
What’s Happening in Your Brain?
When you’re sitting outside, getting a much needed dose of natural Vitamin D, the sun feels good for awhile, but the more time you spend outside (particularly as the temperatures start to rise), you may start to feel sleepy and lose all ambition for the day. So, how come some people start to feel tired, weak, or have a hard time focusing when they get too hot? Your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that is responsible for controlling your body temperature (among other things), stops working efficiently the more the temperatures rise.
As your body heats up, your sweat glands work hard and draw water from the bloodstream to make the sweat that carries heat through pores, onto the skin surface, and heat is released. However, when more blood goes toward your body surface for cooling off, less blood is available to your brain and other muscles and organs. The more you sweat, the the more water your body loses and unless you stay adequately hydrated you may feel symptoms of heat illness such as poor concentration, fatigue, confusion, and even unconsciousness.
Change in Behavior and Mood
Even if the heat makes you feel sleepy, it’s likely that you won’t be able to get that much needed sleep for your brain if you’re unable to cool down. Not only can the warm temperatures put you at risk for a dangerous heat-related illness and a poor night of rest, but the heat can change your mood and behavior. Ever wonder why people seem a little more irritable or why the incidences of conflict seems higher in the summertime? It’s a safe bet that the heat plays some part in the way that we act and feel, especially when the heat forces our adrenaline to rise, resulting in the classic “flight or fight” response.
How Hot is Too Hot to Stay Motivated this Summer?
While it may sound like an excuse, the temperatures can be responsible for how much you’re able to accomplish throughout the day. Chances are, the hotter you are, the less you’ll get done. Take work, for example. How many times have you struggled through the morning, only to realize that you’re overheated and the temperature in the office is a balmy 70-something degrees? If you want to have a productive day at the office, the ideal temperature for your brain to work efficiently falls between 67 and 72 degrees (F). As the temperature rises, more errors occur and productivity can come to a standstill.
Tips for Keeping Your Brain Cool this Summer
An overheated brain can be a serious problem and although your body works hard to regulate your body temperature, it may need a little extra help. Regardless of the temperature, make sure you keep your body hydrated throughout the day and dress appropriately for the weather. On hot days, try to keep your house cool, avoid direct sunlight, and keep the air flowing. Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest times of the day and limit your trips between extreme temperatures (air conditioning and outside heat).