Hot weather: How to sleep in a heatwave

Under a normal condition, when the environment temperature is rising, the body cools itself down through perspiration and prevents the temperature of the body from rising. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts explain how to cope with several hot consecutive days and enjoy a good night sleep.


IT is common to hear many people say that they wake up about two times in the night to take a bath after they woke up and found their bodies covered in profuse sweat from several hot consecutive days .

From an average temperature of 33 degree Celsius and 70 per cent humidity in Lagos to 39 degree Celsius and 11 per cent in Maiduguri, the excessive sweating and heat rashes have become regular and made it difficult for many, especially children, to sleep comfortably at night.

Good sleep is important for the next day function and it is achievable during a heatwave. “I have worn wet T-shirts to bed many times. I have used it many times and it has allowed me to sleep. With it you can have a good sleep and by the time your T-shirt dries, it will be in the early hours of the morning, maybe 4 am,” said Dr Achaika Irabor, a family physician at (UCH), the University College Hospital,  Ibadan.

Of course, there is no need to fear developing body rashes. She added, “Not in this heat; it is clean water and not sweat. Also, it is a clean shirt.”

Dr Irabor said wearing the wet T-shirt alongside a cold bath before going to bed will ensure the core body temperature remains low enough to ensure sleep.

The core body temperature needs to drop to about 35 degrees. Above this temperature, staying asleep or falling asleep at night will be difficult.

Sadly, heat like most other things when excessive and not controlled can have serious consequences, including heart failure, heatstroke, dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting and skin cancer in albinos.

A consultant family physician at the (UCH), Ibadan, Dr Olusola Mosuro said hot weather is hazardous to health and so staying indoors between 12noon and 3pm when the atmospheric temperature is at the peak.

“We tend to sweat more due to the heat. This will reduce the blood volume, and invariably affect other things in the body, including causing dehydration and hypotension.”

Dr Mosuro said that when dehydration leads to a reduction in the rate of blood supply to vital organs of the body, heatstroke, heat cramps and kidney stone could also occur.

Now, heat stroke, although commoner in northern Nigeria, can also occur in southern Nigeria from inadequate water intake during hot weather. Most of the time even with the heat, people do not take enough water.

She added: “Some people only take water when eating, but it should be a routine. That is why some people go around with a water bottle to remind them of the need to take water. That at least will help with preventing dehydration.”

Dr Mosuro added that heatwaves can also be the reason for skin diseases such as heat rashes and eczema when clothes worn do not absorb sweat and so as serve as a good avenue for yeast growth and body odour.

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She mentioned viral infections that thrive more during the heatwaves to include measles, chickenpox and catarrh.

“The catarrh could be as a result of allergy from dust with that an imposed infection will set in and this could progress to pneumonia,” he added.

Moreover Dr Okechukwu Ogah, a consultant cardiologist said incidence of heart failure is higher during hot seasons too.

He said a sudden change in weather and dehydration can tilt people who are already on the verge of going into heart failure into a frank heart problem.

Dr Ogah, president, Nigerian Cardiac Society, said the increase in cases of weather-related heart failure cases is also linked to their increased risk of acquired upper respiratory infection during major weather changes.

In preventing some of the complications of the heatwave, Dr Irabor suggested staying indoors between 12noon and 3pm when the sun is hottest is important to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.

“Even in dark-skinned, sunburn is possible. You would notice that everybody’s forehead is darker than their faces from sunburn.  Also, some also react to sunlight too, what we call photosensitivity. We see it around their lips; it will be peeling as a result,” she said.

She added that the choice of clothing and style of dressing is also important to cope with the scourging heat.

Irabor declared wearing hats and long sleeve clothes can help prevent sunburn by artisans, traders and security officers that work in the sun.

Dr Irabor declares: “The lighter a person’s skin, the higher the risk of sunburn. Of course, albinos must never go out without a hat and they should wear long sleeve shirts.

“In countries like Morocco where it is very hot, nobody goes sleeveless. Everybody wears long sleeves because of sunburn. They wear light coloured clothes, not black because the colour black tends to absorb more heat.

“In fact, they usually wear thick cotton fabrics. Cotton allows the sweat to escape but it does not allow the sun- rays to hit their skin.  Even our traditional wears across West Africa such as Buba and Sokoto is large, loose, long and is protective against the sun. It ensures good air circulation to cope with the heat.”

Moreover, Dr Irabor stressed taking cold water this hot season to keep the core temperature of the body down faster as well as postponing daily activities till cooler part of the day.

According to her, “when you are hot, you need water but your body does not even recognise that you need water. So over time, the person gets more and more dehydrated. Now, 70 per cent of our body is made of water, so if we do not take water and get dehydrated, confusion can set in. One can collapse and that is what happens with heatstroke.”

She added that children should also be prevented from walking or playing in the hot weather.

According to them, “sunburn is affecting a lot of them. Sunburn is not just making the skin darker, they are also being exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. Ultraviolet light causes cancer of the skin as well as wrinkling of the skin and premature ageing.”

Likewise, Dr Irabor asks that babies be covered with cotton fabrics rather than blankets as well as do away with too much of caps and body hugging polyester wears.

She said women in purdah should also be mindful of the heat their bodies and hijab give out to babies they carry on their backs.

According to her, “When you see your baby sweating, it is a mechanism to cool down the body. If the child is wearing all that and he is sweating, and the body cools down, he can actually cool down too much, especially at night. That is why they can catch a cold, so the best thing is to wear cotton clothes for the babies.”

Moreover, Dr Mosuro said water-based body cream is better than oily based cream in this hot season that could clog the pores of the skin as well as eat a lot of vegetables and fruits to help to fight the oxidative effect of sunlight.


Nigerian Tribune

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