How to maintain focus during a heatwave

No wonder people in hot countries have an afternoon siesta.

The hot weather makes us sleepy at the best of times – but having to concentrate on projects, or complete tedious work during the most intense heatwave on UK records, is enough to put anyone straight into a day-long doze. 

‘Trying to stay focused in extreme heat can often be an arduous task,’ explains Adam Foster, AKA The Fibro Guy.

Hot weather is notorious for wrecking our cognition and making it hard to focus. He says this extreme heat can give us ‘brain fog.’

Unfortunately, for most of us, getting a day off isn’t an option – so we spoke to some experts to get their top tips on how to focus during the heatwave.

Why does the heat make it hard to concentrate?

‘During hot weather, we may find it more difficult to concentrate because our body and brain will naturally focus on wanting to cool ourselves down,’ explains Dr Charlotte Russell, a clinical psychologist and founder of The Travel Psychologist.

‘If we think about it in evolutionary terms, we wouldn’t have survived as a species if we were concentrating on productivity rather than finding ways to keep cool.’

Fabio Sessa, a clinical hypnotherapist at the Therapethical, explains that: ‘When it’s hot outside, it is hard to focus because the heat makes our bodies feel less energetic and alert.

‘The human body is accustomed to being cool – so we lose some of our mental edges when we’re exposed to extreme heat.’

How can we try to stay focused during the hot weather?

Stay hydrated

Keeping your fluid intake up is going to be essential.

‘Make sure to stay hydrated,’ Charlotte says. ‘Even a small amount of dehydration can affect our concentration, as this will cause our body to focus on survival. 

‘In usual circumstances, caffeine can help us to focus but beware of drinking too much as this can dehydrate you and make you feel sluggish in the extreme heat.’

Emma Cowan, from Superprof, also explains that: ‘Staying hydrated will help keep the brain at its best. As the brain is largely water, dehydration can reduce reaction times and lower your concentration levels, so it’s crucial to up your water intake to stay focused.

‘Try to keep a water bottle handy at your desk to encourage regular drinking throughout the day while you’re stuck at work or studying.’

But beware of extreme exhaustion as that may indicate something more serious, warns GP and medical director of Cosmedics, Dr Ross Perry.

‘If you are experiencing heat exhaustion for an extended period of time, it can lead to heat stroke, which can be extremely dangerous,’ he explains.

‘Symptoms of heatstroke include feeling sick, dizziness, faint, confusion and cramps. 

‘People tend to get heatstroke when they’ve had prolonged exposure to high temperatures combined with dehydration which then leads to failure of the body’s control system.’

Heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • A headache
  • Dizzy or confused
  • Reduced appetite or feeling sick
  • Excessive sweating with pale and clammy skin
  • Fast breathing or pulse
  • Cramps in your arms, legs and stomach.
  • A temperature above 38 degrees
  • Being very thirsty

If you continue to feel unwell after around half an hour, you may have heatstroke and should call 999 immediately.

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