Many of us have been in these shoes and know how difficult it can be to get out of bed in the morning – particularly when it’s cold and dark outside. You just want your warm blanket and a cup of hot tea, but if you notice that you feel tired constantly as winter sets in, you might be suffering from “winter tiredness”. It should be noted that whilst many people notice physical and mental tiredness and lack of energy, others may also recognise lack of interest and creativity.
This occurs when the body produces increased levels of melatonin, which is the hormone controlling how sleepy you feel. But what are the major reasons your melatonin levels may be impacted, and how do you combat this?
Melatonin production is linked to light and dark, so less sunlight means more melatonin, and thus a higher likelihood of feeling tired. In winter, days are shorter and our waking cycles have changed. Later sunrises and earlier sunsets can cause our bodies to lack sunlight, triggering our brain to produce more melatonin. This in turn means that our body wants to go to bed earlier or requires more hours of sleep. It is completely normal for your body to slow down when adjusting to the new weather atmosphere. However, the need for more sleep due to the lack of sunlight, combined with the overall feeling of tiredness, can sometimes lead to winter depression.
The first thing you can do is to take advantage of the light hours. As soon as you get up, open your curtains and windows and let the sunlight and some fresh air in. It is also beneficial to get outside more and spend more time in natural daylight. Whilst it isn’t always possible, self employed people and those with a flexible working schedule may wish to change your working hours to ensure that you are working in the lightest possible environment.
To find out more about how melatonin can lead to a winter lull, we advise reading this brilliant article on winter fatigue.
Deficiencies in vitamin D and iron can often cause feelings of tiredness, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough in your diet. During summer months, we usually make sufficient vitamin D from the abundance of sunlight during the longer days. During winter, it is often advisable to supplement your vitamin D and iron intake with some healthy diet changes. Some good sources of vitamin D include oily fish and organic eggs, whilst iron can be supplemented by eating dark green leafy vegetables, lean red meats, nuts, beans, lentils and whole grains.
For more information on how vitamin D and iron can help you, try reading this article on beating the winter blues.
Having just explained that winter weather can make us sleepy, it may seem strange to think that we can actually lack a healthy sleep. However, being sleepy all the time – and sleeping whenever you feel you need to – can cause havoc for your biological clock. Just like in the winter months, we require no more than eight hours of sleep per night. In fact, sleeping for more than eight hours can make us feel even more grumpy, tired and sluggish. You can help alleviate this by sticking to a usual sleeping schedule of at least 8 hours, with a regular bed time and wake up time.
We’ve already covered the benefits of spending your daylight hours outdoors in the sunlight, but you can get even further benefit by doing something active! Both physical activity and outdoor settings are shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and spending time exercising in a park leads to an increase in positive mood and a reduction in cortisol levels – the hormone released when the body feels stress. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight, as obesity has been linked to increased daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
As for the mental benefits, natural settings rejuvenate and calm the mind, improve outlook and increase positive effect. This is in part because social settings and outdoor spaces, especially urban parks, are associated with positive experiences. Outdoor physical activity can also increase pride in the community, as well as offer the chance to meet people with similar interests. That is why we have launched our London fitness days, which are perfect for clients who want to trial what we do, kick-start their health, and act as a perfect reunion for our New You Escapes clients! If anyone is looking to learn about physical training, or wants to start integrating training into their lives, this is a perfect day for you.
To summarise, whether it’s taking an extra walk at lunch, or just keeping the blinds open and sitting nearer a window at work, every little helps. If you would like to cure your winter weariness by taking advantage of our fitness days in Richmond Park – or if you are interested in our boot camp in Spain or boot camp in Morocco – please call us today on 01202 618220, or email [email protected]. We’ll be more than happy to help!