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Hot Weather Hurts Your Ability to Think Straight

 As temperatures begin to soar in the summer months and humidity levels rise, you may feel more sluggish and scatter-brained. But don't let this concern you, you're not alone. In fact a recent study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found evidence that indicates people's cognitive abilities are reduced during extreme heat.
heat affects your ability to think straight

As part of the study, 24 students who lived in air-conditioned dormitories, and 20 who lived without an AC were asked to take a series of cognitive tests during a heat wave. They found that those without the respite of the AC performed worse on the tests. In fact, it was found that students in buildings without AC experienced 13.4% longer reaction times on color-word tests and 13.3% lower addition/subtraction test scores. It was found that those who lived in AC-equipped dorms had more accurate answers and were able to complete the tests faster. 

What made this study unique is that it focused on how extreme heat affects the cognitive abilities of healthy, young individuals. As stated by Jose Guillermo Cedeño-Laurent, research fellow at Harvard Chan School as well as the lead author of the study said: "Most of the research on the health effects of heat has been done in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, creating the perception that the general population is not at risk of heat waves." 

He added: "To address this blind spot we studied healthy students living in dorms as a natural intervention during a heat wave in Boston. Knowing what the risks are across different populations is critical in considering that in many cities, like Boston, the number of heat waves is projected to increase due to climate change." 

heat affects your ability to think straight

What made this study more unique is that most research on this topic focuses on outdoor temperatures. But given that Americans spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, it is crucial to consider the impact of the climate in our own homes. 

So, what can be done to reduce the effects of sluggishness? Take frequent breaks and refresh yourself in between. By avoiding to do so, you will take a longer time to complete a task at hand. Moreover, experts also advise drinking plenty of fluids rich in salts and electrolytes to replace moisture loss through sweating. 

In addition, while, switching on the AC is an ideal solution to a heat wave in people who are having trouble thinking straight, a well-timed nap gives the brain a real restorative boost.  

heat affects your ability to think straight

As for engaging in physical exercise on a hot and humid day? It can have certain weight-loss benefits, provided you stay hydrated while working out. But when it comes to sleeping, several studies have found that cooler temperatures result in a better night of rest. And as we are all aware, sleeping affects everything from your energy levels to your weight, to your ability to function. 

What's more? Some people are more susceptible to depression during warmer months. Though it's less prevalent than the winter variety of SAD some people do suffer from spring and summer SAD. Diagnosing and treating the disorder can be complicated because conducting research on this specific type of depression is more challenging. 

Experts theorize that warmer-weather SAD is aggravated by excessive heat and humidity. The triggers are very different than wintertime, however, which in case of the latter, is brought on usually by a lack of light and shorter days. 

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Related Topics: tips, guide, concentration, hot weather
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