When the alarm clock rings in the morning and it’s still pitch dark and cold outside, many of us find it hard to get out of bed. During the long winter months, many of us regularly complain of fatigue and difficulty recharging our batteries. Factors such as the temperature and the amount of light we receive during the day at this time of year can play an important role.
When temperatures rise in the summer, falling asleep becomes difficult as we toss and turn in the sheets and struggle to keep the stifling heat at bay. Our bodies need to cool down in order for us to fall asleep, so a cooler environment can be helpful.
“Does that mean we feel sleepier in colder weather? Not necessarily – an uncomfortable cold can also be a hindrance,” says sleep expert Dr. Sophie Bostock of Sleepio.
When it’s cold, damp and dark outside, it’s normal to feel a little unwell. When the days get shorter and the sun sets at 5:30 pm (or earlier), many feel tired, listless, depressed, and get sick much more often than usual.
Waking up in the morning feels impossible, getting through work without that third (or fourth) cup of coffee just isn’t possible, and the appointment for the gym keeps getting postponed. If you don’t want to let another winter go by where you don’t feel well, here’s your ticket out of that situation: there are a few reasons why you don’t feel well in the winter, and you can tackle them with home remedies to improve your chances of feeling good:
- Shorter days disrupt circadian rhythms.
As the days get shorter and we are exposed to less sunlight, our bodies produce more melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep, rest and our moods. Increased melatonin production during the day can affect the quality of our sleep at night, leaving us feeling even more groggy during the dark winter months. Bright light in the early morning hours is critical to the health of our circadian rhythm. If this is not the case, it may explain why you are sleepy during the day and unable to sleep at night during the winter months – the most frustrating combination of all.
2. You do not exercise
When it’s dark and cold and you’ve just had a long day, it’s understandable that you don’t feel like sweating. However, what many people don’t know is that physical activity can boost energy levels if you do it consistently, and that’s why you feel even more sluggish when you don’t exercise. It’s a vicious cycle: you’re too tired to exercise, but you’re even more tired because you haven’t exercised. Some people worry that they’re adding to their fatigue when they’re already exhausted, but that’s not the case.
3. You have too little vitamin D
Vitamin D is truly an unsung hero: it plays a central role in bone health, hormones, cell growth, immunity, hair and skin, regeneration, and reducing inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is common in Western cultures, even in the warmer months. Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with everything from heart disease to depression. Symptoms of low vitamin D include extreme fatigue, depression, hair loss, bone fractures, general aches and pains, lowered immunity, poor sleep and poor wound healing. The U.S. National Academy of Medicine recommends a daily vitamin D intake of 600-800 IU. However, in light of recent studies on massive vitamin D deficiency and the importance of the vitamin, the U.S. Endocrine Society recommends 1500-2000 IU per day.
4. Magnesium does not find its way into your diet.
Magnesium is an amazing multitasking mineral used by every cell in the body. It’s also generally lacking in most people’s diets – one study suggests that 75% of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily allowance. Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include migraines, muscle tremors, pain, sleep disturbances, constipation, migraines, nausea and general weakness. Magnesium is also a mineral that is critical for regulating vitamin D levels. So if you take vitamin D without an adequate amount of magnesium, your body may not be able to utilize it. Studies show that magnesium is essential for metabolizing vitamin D, and researchers believe that high doses of vitamin D without magnesium can lead to severe magnesium depletion (which is… not ideal). So if you take vitamin D in high doses, be sure to combine it with a rich source of magnesium.
5. Viruses are in the house… and they will stay
A common winter myth is that cold weather or rain itself can cause illness, but that’s not really the case. Respiratory infections are more common in winter because people have more direct contact with others indoors, usually with poor ventilation and closed windows. When people are in our “breathing zone” (within a radius of about three feet), viruses can persist longer in the dry winter air than on a humid day. This increases the likelihood of contracting a virus in the winter. Experts say this is the real reason you’re more likely to contract a virus in cold weather – and not because you were exposed to the harsh elements or went outside with wet hair.
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