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Abi Jackson & Catherine Addison-Swan

Doctor explains why you feel so tired in hot weather and how to combat heatwave exhaustion

With a summer heatwave sweeping the UK this week, you've most likely been out soaking up the sun - but you may also have noticed that you feel more tired than usual.

Having less energy is a result of your body's natural response to heat and is completely normal, a doctor has explained - but it is something to keep an eye on, as extreme tiredness combined with other symptoms could be a sign of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. There are also things you can do to help your body beat the heat and leave you feeling less sleepy this summer.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Zulqarnain Shah, medical director at SSP Health and GP at SSP Health practice Colne Road Surgery, explained: "When the weather is hot, our bodies have to work harder to cool themselves down. The body's natural cooling mechanism involves increasing blood circulation near the skin's surface and promoting sweat production."

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Dr Shah added: "These physiological changes can lead to fatigue and a feeling of lethargy. It is essential to recognise that this fatigue is a normal response to heat and is typically temporary."

Dehydration can also contribute to over-tiredness in the heat, as you lose more fluid from your body through sweating when temperatures are higher. Not drinking enough water is also a major factor in leading to heat exhaustion - a more serious form of the fatigue we typically feel in hot weather.

As well as tiredness, the signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, weakness, feeling or being sick, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, a high temperature, and a fast heartbeat or breathing. Anyone showing these signs will need to be cooled down and given plenty of fluids, while cooling the skin with water can help too.

Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke if these steps are not followed, which can be much more dangerous. If a person is still feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking fluids, and still has symptoms such as a very high temperature, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath or confusion, the NHS advises calling 999 as heatstroke is considered an emergency.

Dr Shah also explained that a lack of a good night's sleep could be making you feel more tired in the summer. "Hot temperatures can disrupt sleep and lead to poor sleep quality," he said.

"The body needs to cool down to initiate sleep, and excessive heat can make it difficult to reach the optimal sleep temperature. To improve sleep in hot weather, consider using fans or air conditioning, wearing lightweight and breathable sleepwear, keeping your bedroom well-ventilated, and using lighter bedding."

Alongside improving your sleeping situation, the NHS has a list of advice to prevent dehydration and keep you cool in scorching temperatures, as well as helping to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke. This includes drinking more cold drinks, particularly if you've active or exercising, and wearing light-coloured, loose clothing.

If you can, it's best to avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day between 11am and 3pm, and if you're inside you may also want to close the curtains and windows to keep the heat out. Additionally, the health service suggests avoiding drinking excess alcohol, as well as steering clear of extreme exercise.

"Have cold food and drinks, avoid alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks, and have a cool shower or put cool water on your skin or clothes," the NHS suggests. "Wear sunscreen, a hat and light clothes, and avoid exercise or activity that makes you hotter."


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