More heatwave? This is not good for my brain

So, according to the SMH, Sydney, which has already sweltered through what was apparently the fourth hottest January in 150 years (or something), is in for a record heatwave.

This is not good news.

You see, I lose my mind in the Australian summer. Completely.

What happens is this:

I let myself get dehydrated, sometimes because I'm forgetful, but usually because my geek brain does its special trick of tightly focusing on one activity to the detriment of others.

Then, because I'm dehydrated and starting to get a little stoopid, I forget to rehydrate. I forget to walk in the shade when I'm outside. I make ridiculous decisions, like "I'll just go take the dog for a walk in the park instead of having lunch, that'll be nice". I do, of course, feel thirsty, but because I'm both cognitively impaired and British*, I make a cup of hot tea instead of having a glass of water. Or I have a coffee. Or I have a beer. Actually, some beers. By this time, I'm incapable of reasonable decision making and it's all downhill from there.

Before you know it, my short term memory for objectives is down to one item at best. I wander from room to room like a geriatric, wondering why I'm there. I turn the kettle on to make more tea, forget to pour at least twice, then when I've poured the tea I forget about it again, let it overbrew and spoil and have to start again. I trip over things. I lose my keys and my phone. I get seriously grumpy, stomp around in a huff, then progress towards despair at being unable to get anything done. I walk to the shop with one trouser-leg absent-mindedly rolled up, and when I get there, I've forgotten what I was meant to buy. I get both depressed and angry, and I get too tired to do anything about it.

At no point do I start to question my own sanity, because to do so would require a degree of introspection I'm incapable of when impaired by the incessant Australian summer.

Even in my airconditioned office, if I arrive dehydrated, overheated and braindead, it just continues through the day as the dry air circulates around me, sucking out moisture while I sit there in a haze, forgetting to drink anything.

If I lived further north, I'd probably be dangerously irrational. Or, as it's usually known around here, christian.

Eventually, the persistent shouts from my body of "I'm thirsty, you dolt!" start to filter through, usually as the evening starts to cool. Then I rehydrate, and I think to myself "Wow, what a shitty day that was. I was really stupid today". Then I go off to a fitful, incomplete sleep and then the next day, repeat the whole cycle again. For the whole fucking summer.

It's a special kind of hell reserved for people like me.

But not today. Today, I actually brought a bottle of cold, refreshing water with me on the drive to work. I kept myself topped-up and now I'm sitting at my office wondering exactly what the hell I've been doing up until now. I've remembered to do things I've been forgetting to do for days. And I'm kicking myself because this same thing happens every year. I get really stupid in the summer.

Dehydration has quite serious cognitive effects. This article from Nature cites delirium, impaired memory function and potentially irreversible neuronal mitochondrial damage as results of "mild" prolonged dehydration. This study confirms that short-term memory, psychomotor skills and perceptive discrimination suffer, as does the ability to judge one's own condition. Even Wikipedia notes that "dehydration is associated with confusion, fatigue, and negative moods". Of course, if you're dehydrated yourself, you might need the Simple English version.

And this is what I'm in for over the next couple of weeks as Sydney bakes under what is, let's face it, a big, yellow, flaming bastard of a sun. I'll be stupid, and the people around me will also be stupid**.

So if you spot me saying or doing something really dumb***, or if you see me wandering around like a lost alzheimer's patient, make me drink some water. Please?


* insert joke here about statement being redundant
** more stupid than usual
*** see above

posted @ Tuesday, February 1, 2011 11:46 AM

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