Being Cold and its effects on “Narcosis”

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In a previous newsletter, I wrote: “Cold is not the Issue.” Well, while cold temperatures don’t particularly bother me, thanks in part to training in the Wim Hoff Method — cold water actually is an issue when diving since it does have a nasty effect on me, and perhaps on you too.

It’s Not only the Nitrogen

It’s the only study on the topic I know of, but certainly it, coupled with first-hand personal experience, tells me that the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis are not the only “body response” influenced by cold water.

The study was actually a PhD. thesis submitted to Simon Fraser University in the 1990s. Sanja Alexsandra Savic’s thesis stated that tests during cold-water immersion while her subjects breathed compressed gases, lead to the conclusion, “With an increase in the narcotic potency of the gas, a decrease in the shivering threshold and an improved perception of thermal comfort was observed.”

Rather than this being good news, as in: “Great, that means I will not feel the cold as much when I’m deep-diving and narced”, this should set off a specific alarm bell during the planning stage when we dive in cold water for several reasons; our reaction times to “challenges” being one of them.

When our core temperature drops — even a tiny bit — our body’s autonomic nervous system kicks in and, a lot like the primary effect of nitrogen in our breathing gas, this influences activity in the “logical” part of our brain shifting the focus instead to core brain function.

In other words: “When you’re cold, you think differently.” And for me and many others, this translates into: “I seem to get more narced, and have a harder time focusing on the task at hand when I’m cold”

Cold and Narcosis
Photo by Joshua Lambus, CC BY

Yes, our conscious perception of low water temps may be lessened; however, its sub-conscious effects are working to mask our awareness and connection to what’s happening around us.

The obvious “simple fixes” during the dive planning and execution phases are to lessen nitrogen partial-pressure and to wear decent protection from the ambient chill when you’re diving in cold water.

Story submitted by Steven Lewis @ https://www.facebook.com/Steve.Lewis.Doppler

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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