The Winter Fatigue Phenomenon
Everything seems a bit sleepier in the winter: plants die, leaves turn brown and fall tiredly to the ground, the garden beds are coated in a blanket of snow. The days are darker for longer, it’s cold outside, and there’s a dryness to the air. Many people find themselves wanting to curl up under the covers and hibernate. Bears do it, so why not us?
Indeed, our bodies tend to want more sleep this time of year. Humans evolved to be diurnal, meaning we are active during the day. Our internal clocks are governed by when the sun rises and sets. Since there’s less sunlight in the winter, we naturally feel sleepy more hours of the day. Less sunlight means that our sleep and wake cycles get disrupted, and this causes fatigue. The lack of sunlight makes the human body produce more melatonin, which is what causes us to feel sleepy.
This winter tiredness syndrome affects most people, but to varying degrees. Some may just feel a little drowsier upon waking, while others might require an extra hour or two of sleep during the winter. It can be annoying to feel run down throughout the entire season. While you should give your body the rest it needs, there are a few things you can do to fight fatigue when it hits.
The sun is still around in winter, even though there’s less of it, so soak it up when you can. Open your blinds and curtains as soon as the sun rises. Get outside and take a walk or run around your neighborhood or a local park. Use a natural light lamp or alarm clock that simulates the sun’s rays for early morning or evenings when it’s dark out.
Regular sunshine gives you the vitamin D that you need, but in the winter you could become deficient, and that adds to fatigue and lethargy. Since vitamin D from the sun is in short supply, it’s important to get it from your diet. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, eggs, and meat are all good natural sources of vitamin D. You can also take a daily supplement – anywhere from 400 to 2000 IUD is a good dosage.
Keeping active is another way to brush off persistent tiredness. You may not feel like going out and getting a workout in when it’s 20 degrees, windy and dark outside, but you’ll be glad that you did. Exercising in the late afternoon can improve energy levels in the early evening – when the sun goes down and they typically start to drop – and also improves sleep quality. As an added bonus, making exercise a priority at this time of year can keep you from gaining weight during the holidays. Now that’s something to get energetic about!