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Microscope: Sleepy sunshine

By David, 12 April 2017 News

A bouy sleeping in the sunshine, on a green hill.

Time for a snooze in the sun!
Image: ©iStock.com/imagedepotpro

Double Helix magazine is looking for your science questions! Our Microscope column answers the thorniest science queries you can throw at us. Email us at helix.editor@csiro.au and you could have your question published. Here’s a sample question to get you thinking.

Aisha Goshti asks: Why does the Sun makes you feel sleepy?

There’s nothing like a lazy day at the beach to make you feel sleepy. It turns out that there are several reasons for your sunny snoozing.

One reason is related to temperature. Direct sunlight has a lot of energy, and that can make your body hotter than usual. When you’re hot, you feel tired and sweat a lot – this is called heat exhaustion.

Sweating is great at helping to cool your body. But lots of sweating can cause problems. If you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated, which causes more tiredness, dizziness and headaches. This is dangerous: so remember to drink lots of water when you’re out in the sunshine!

The Sun can also make you sleepy for another reason. When your eyes are exposed to bright light, your body stops making a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep. It makes sure you’re awake during the day and sleepy at night. When you get out of the sunshine, your body starts producing lots of melatonin. Soon after, you might feel like a nap!

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