Does the cold weather make you feel sleepier?
There are many different factors that can play a role in sapping our energy levels during the winter months – poor immune function, an overburdened digestive system and stress are just a few examples! However, could the cold, bleak weather also be having an impact, making us feel more lethargic and drowsy? The answer just might be yes as I investigate below!
1 - Shorter days and longer nights
Sunlight is important when it comes to regulating your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. The production of the sleep hormone melatonin is largely governed by the photoreceptor cells in your eyes. When these special cells detect a decrease in sunlight they will relay a message to the part of your brain that monitors your sleep-wake cycle, the Superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
When the SCN receives this message, it will encourage the pineal gland to release melatonin which then relaxes your body and prepares you for sleep. This works quite well during the summer months but during winter, when your exposure to sunlight is limited, it can result in your body producing too much melatonin, making you feel drowsier as a result. It can also influence how your skin synthesises vitamin D, which I’ll discuss shortly.
What can you do?
None of us have the power to dictate the weather or the seasons; all we can do is moderate our response to them. That’s why you should try and make the most of every opportunity you get to soak up a little sunlight, whether it’s taking a walk during your lunch break at work or spending some time outside after the sun has risen. This should help to regulate your sleep patterns, improving your energy levels and making you feel less lethargic!
2 - Not enough vitamin D
I’ve recently discussed the possible role of vitamin D when it comes to your sleep patterns in my blog, ‘Does vitamin D help you to sleep?’ Here, I established that there is a noticeable link between vitamin D deficiency and poor sleep and the bad news is that darker skies and bleaker weather can make you more vulnerable to having insufficient levels of this nutrient. This can be bad news not only for your sleep patterns but also for your immune function and mood too.
What can you do?
Vitamin D deficiency has become such a problem in the UK that Public Health England have recently advised that, during the winter months, all of us should look into taking a 10mcg vitamin D supplement. Our Balance Mineral Drink may be a useful tool here as, not only is it indicated for fighting fatigue, it also contains an impressive 5mcg of vitamin D, helping you to reach your daily target.
3 - SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a common mental health condition that often affects people at this time of year. Known as the ‘winter blues’ it’s believed that SAD occurs as relic of our bygone hibernation instinct, with cold weather and little exposure to sunlight affecting our production of melatonin and a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin helps to stimulate feelings of happiness which improves mood so it’s understandable that, if winter is affecting your levels of serotonin, your mental health may suffer.
What can you do?
When low mood strikes it can be difficult to dismiss and often fuels other unhealthy habits. In addition to getting out as much as possible and using a vitamin D supplement, there are also other steps you can take to combat SAD as I discuss in my blog ‘5 natural ways to prevent SAD.’ It may even help to consider a natural remedy such as Hyperiforce which has a long history of traditional use when it comes to symptoms of low mood.
4 - Sedentary behaviour
When the wind is rattling at your windows and the rain is pelting off the roof, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is putting on your sports gear and heading out for a run. The weather during winter doesn’t exactly endear us to spending much time outside and so we can fall into bad habits. We can end up spending most of our time indoors which will almost certainly encourage other unhealthy habits and will definitely have an impact on energy levels!
What can you do?
Exercising outdoors isn’t impossible during the winter months but you do have to be prepared to take some sensible precautions. If you want to learn more you can check out our Get Active Advisor Gillian’s blog, ‘Why you should be running outdoors this winter.’
However, if outdoor exercise during winter isn’t your thing, you should still be looking for alternatives. Sometimes the best way to stay motivated is to exercise with friends so now could be the time to join an aerobics class as group – there’s such a wide range of opportunities out there from boxercise to aquaerobics to tai chi! If prefer to work alone though, we have a range of exercises over at our Get Active hub which you can practice from the comfort of your own home.
5 - Poor sleep environment
During the winter months, the temperature can fluctuate drastically as outdoors you’re exposed to weather that often dips below freezing whereas indoors, the heating is often cranked up as high as it can go. This disparity can create a problem with your sleeping environment as the temperature often goes between two extremes.
Studies have found that there is a correlation between cold weather and arthritis pain. This is believed to occur as fluctuations in barometric pressure (the weight of the air) seems to influence our susceptibility to pain. Although cool air can be conducive to a good night’s sleep, it’s important that you don’t let your bedroom become too cold!
However, on the opposite end of this spectrum, if you’ve kept the heating on for too long, you may find yourself tossing and turning during the night, unable to cool down or get comfortable. It’s also worth noting that the noise of the weather itself may also be having an impact – how many of you have been kept awake by gale force winds pounding your windows?
What can you do?
You might not be able to control the weather but you can control the temperature in your home. That’s why it’s important to use your central heating system in moderation so your bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold. If noise is keeping you up at night it might also be worth investing in a good pair of ear plugs to block the elements out.
Another thing that you might not consider is the effect that all that dry hair is having on your skin and the mucous membranes in your throat. That’s why, at this time of year, I usually recommend considering a dehumidifier for your home – not only will this protect your skin, it can also get some much needed moisture back into the air circulating through your home.