Why does very humid weather make you feel listless?

There you are, relaxing in your swimsuit at a beautiful exotic holiday destination in the glistening sun (if only! – Ed). It’s a hot and humid day and no matter how excited you are to be on holiday, you feel listless and drowsy. How are the two linked?

Green Pastures by Sprengben [why not get a friend], on FlickrThe weather can have a profound impact on our bodies and on how we feel – especially if we are visiting a place that has a very different climate to the one we’re used to. There has been quite a lot of research into how our mood changes with the weather. Although it’s a little controversial, it has been reported that:

–          Sunny and warm weather = improved mood and positive thinking

–          High humidity = poorer concentration, fatigue and sleepiness

–          Low pressure (e.g. before a storm) = lowered mood

So why does humidity affect your mood? Is likely to have to do with what humidity is: water vapour.

Your body comes programmed with what is called an ‘evaporative cooling’ mechanism: when you get warmer, your body will try to increase the amount of sweating you do and so alter your blood circulation and breathing pattern to keep your body at a normal temperature. If the air is humid, sweating doesn’t work very well – the sweat just doesn’t evaporate well because the air has so much moisture in it. And if the sweat doesn’t evaporate, then it doesn’t keep you cool. This will not only cause you to feel hotter, but because your body has to put more energy into maintaining a healthy body temperature, you feel tired as well.

In order to save your holiday from day-long snooze fests, it’s best to keep exercise to a minimum and to stay in a cooler area. Because your body will be fighting off the heat, dehydration can occur so it would be wise to make sure you drink plenty of water. Enjoy your holiday!

Question from Emma Cooper via website

Answer by Dorothée Grevers and Dr Stu

Article by Dorothée Grevers

September 16, 2013

Holding a BSc in Pre-Med and currently working on a BA in Philosophy, Dorothée is a keen proponent of both the sciences and arts as she tries to make it as a scientist and writer. At Guru she combines them both while spending the rest of her time obsessing about brains, challenging the norm at Sensa Nostra in Berlin, and figuring out the perfect, minimal polyphasic sleep schedule.


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