It is often said that if you wish to get more quality sleep, you should get some more morning sunlight.
Why Does Sunlight Make Me Sleepy?
This question actually has less to do with sunlight and more to do with heat. In addition to that, the heat or sunlight tends to make you lazy more than it does sleepy. There is compelling evidence to suggest that sunlight (or heat) is often accompanied by lower productivity, especially during the summer months.
The reality is that the body needs to burn or use more energy during hot days than it does during cool weather. It, therefore, stands to reason that when you are exposed to more sunlight, your body will be using up more energy.
Katherine Ellen Foley explains this in greater detail here.
When you lose energy, you become tired. When you are tired, you are invariably sleepy. The burning up of that energy is in fact your body regulating itself, to try and help you stay cool.
Ordinarily, something as straightforward as taking a stroll down the road – or just standing for that matter – requires more effort than it would under normal circumstances.
On the off chance that you sit next to a window at the office, what are the prospects that this could be used as a viable excuse for being less productive at work?
Is it enough to walk up to your employer or HR personnel and tell them that it is not your fault you are feeling sleepy and that you have been exposed to far too much sunlight during the course of the day?
Well, the answer to that question is probably a resounding NO. However, you can live with yourself knowing that your sudden urge to sleep is not entirely your fault.
There is another caveat to this though and that has to do with the small matter of your body possessing the capacity to acclimatize. If you are exposed to sunlight for protracted periods, the impact it has on you will start to wane.
If your body is exposed to sunlight regularly, there will come a time when you do not feel as sleepy anymore. You might encounter some sunburn or as a worst-case scenario risk, the prospect of skin cancer and this business of being sleepy will come to an abrupt end.
Dehydration Will Make You Sleepy
The dangers of dehydration are made quite apparent in this explanation by Johns Hopkins Medicine. At the heart of it is the fact that almost all of our bodily functions can contribute to dehydration, whether that be when we go to the bathroom when we sweat when we cry or even when we breathe.
It is quite the workload that your body needs to put in. Naturally, that will be complicated by continued exposure to sunlight. You can compensate for this by drinking a meaningful amount of water. However, the consumption of fluids is something that far too many humans tend to take for granted.
When you are in the sun, you lose essential body salts (sodium and potassium) and water.
Among the key indicators that you are dehydrated are thirst, fewer visits to the bathroom, dry mouth, dry skin, and an increased heart rate.
However, the more relevant indicators in the context of this post are fatigue, light-headedness, dizziness, and even confusion. Under all of these circumstances, you are more likely than not to feel sleepy.
Being Sleepy and Signs of Heatstroke
This is not an attempt to create any form of panic. Heatstroke is a worst-case scenario associated with extended exposure to the sun or sunlight. It is life-threatening too.
The point is that being sleepy could be a compelling sign that you are at risk of getting heatstroke.
The symptoms of heatstroke are headaches, sluggishness and fatigue, dizziness, disorientation and some level of confusion. All of those things contribute to you being sleepy, especially after being exposed to sunlight.
So, our bodies have a series of natural cooling mechanisms in cases of heat. However, in cases of extreme heat, the dangers tend to heighten. The cooling systems in our bodies stop functioning efficiently and effectively under these circumstances.
At this point, your body heat builds up to dangerous levels. That is when you will likely start feeling sleepy. However, in the case of heatstroke that feeling sleepy could actually mean a considerable amount more than just that.
If you feel sleepy and you have been exposed to extensive sunlight, do not take it for granted.
Ensure that you are hydrated and be very wary of other symptoms that could mean so much more than just drowsiness and even apparent laziness.
Feeling Sleepy in Sunlight Can Be Prevented
It sounds obvious but do yourselves a favor and drink plenty of fluids when working or playing in the sun. If you can, try and avoid spending time in the sun or in sunlight during the hottest periods of the day.
If you determine that you must be in the sun, make sure you are taking in more water than you are losing. It is sometimes hard to calculate that sort of thing but just try and think of how much energy you might be exerting and try to compensate for that by taking in some fluids.
When it comes to essential body salts, bananas are a popular option for professional sportsmen, especially the tennis players competing during the North American and even Australian summers. They are a good source of potassium.
As exciting as it is to be in the sun when you start displaying negative symptoms try and find some shade. It will do you good.
If you have some form of access to ice packs, try and use them. The doctors say you should apply them to the groin and armpits.
Try to wear light and lightweight clothes if and when you can, especially when you can tell it is going to be a hot one. If you plan on being outdoors, also try to wear clothes that are loose-fitting and really, try and spend as much time indoors as possible, when it is apparent that exposure to sunlight might drain you.
Exposing yourself to sunlight is one of the greatest gifts we have. Just remember to care for yourself and others by being prepared with fluids, shade and common sense.
As always here’s to better sleep!