Winter tiredness stems from an increased production of melatonin, the hormone regulating our sleep-wake cycle. When it’s dark, our body believes it is time to go to sleep, so it makes more melatonin. Hence, sunlight is a good way to combat melatonin production and keep you awake. But with the sun nowhere to be found in the middle of winter, how can we fix this problem?
Winter tiredness is the feeling of sleepiness in the early evening. The sun is long gone, so your body goes into sleep mode in the absence of light. As more melatonin is produced, you feel like you’re ready to go to bed when it’s only 6 p.m.
It’s important to know the difference between winter tiredness and the winter blues (or SAD). Winter tiredness is a sleepy feeling that goes away after resting or when the sun comes out. The winter blues, on the other hand, is a form of seasonal depression and mood changes, characterized by an all-day feeling of fatigue that does not go away after sleeping and a lingering feeling of sadness. If you have any of the latter symptoms, you should speak with your doctor.
Winter fatigue symptoms
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can get worse in the wintertime. Lack of sunlight is the main reason for this, along with extra stress you may experience during the cold season. Winter fatigue and CFS share similar symptoms, the main difference is, CFS is a chronic condition lasting all year, while winter fatigue is a temporary one taking place in the winter months.
Symptoms of winter fatigue include difficulty sleeping, feeling very stressed, feeling worried, and dysfunction of the body’s autonomic nervous system.
Tips to cope with winter fatigue
If you’re tired of feeling tired, there are things you can do to put that bounce back in your step. Unfortunately, we can’t make the sun shine round the clock, but we can do things that mimic the effects of the sun and make us feel energized once again. Tips to overcome winter tiredness include:
- Try to get as much sunlight as possible when the sun is out. Low sunlight exposure disrupts our sleep cycles because melatonin is being produced much earlier in the day. When possible, get outside, or use a sunlamp to simulate sun exposure to keep you energized.
- Get a good night’s sleep and stick to a sleep schedule. Just because it’s darker earlier doesn’t mean you should be sleeping longer. Oversleeping is detrimental to health, so it’s ideal you still stick to the seven to eight hours that are recommended.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps us feel energized. The ideal time to exercise is late afternoon, before it gets too dark to give yourself an energy boost into the evening. Exercising too late in the evening can keep you awake.
- Reduce stress, which can also contribute to low energy. Findings ways to help reduce stress can help you feel relaxed and less tired as stress can take a toll on your energy levels.
- Eat healthy foods – stock up on fruits and vegetables and try to avoid sugary foods as they can give you an energy crash. Eating foods high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates can make you feel tired and sluggish. Fuel your body with healthy foods that promote energy by providing your body with useful nutrients.
By following these tips, you can have greater success in combating your winter fatigue and feel more energized during the winter months.