Why Winter Makes You So Tired And What To Do About It
Every year when winter rolls around, I seem to find it almost impossible to leave the comfort of my duvet cocoon and face the day. And I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, research has found that 40% of us experience fatigue in winter. This explains why the average Briton spends almost 8 years feeling tired.
If your winter fatigue has left you feeling fed up, you should take the necessary steps to rectify this pronto so you can begin to fully embrace the festive season. But to figure out what steps you need to take, you must first find out why winter leaves you feeling so tired in the first place.
You Aren’t Getting Enough Vitamin D
If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you’ll know how much I bang on about vitamin D. But I do it for a reason! Vitamin D is so important to our health as a whole, but it’s particularly crucial for our energy levels. Research from Newcastle University found that vitamin D helps enhance our mitochondria activity levels. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, so if they don’t function, our energy levels plummet.
The bad news is that vitamin D is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. In the UK, 1 in 5 of us have low levels of the vitamin throughout the year, but this is likely to be even worse in the winter. The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but it’s difficult to get enough sunlight in the winter months. The cold weather makes a lot of us want to stay cosy indoors all day. And even if we do venture outside, thanks to the overcast and gloomy winter weather, we’re unlikely to reap the benefits of the sunlight.
What to do about it: The easiest way to increase your vitamin D levels during winter is to take supplements. Fortunately, these tablets are readily available from most pharmacies at an affordable price. Although they’re not a natural source like sunlight, they’re still just as effective. However, it’s still worth getting outside to soak up the daylight even on gloomy days, as UV rays will still give your body a decent dose of vitamin D.
You Aren’t Getting Outdoors
Getting outdoors is one of the best ways to fight fatigue throughout the year, but especially in winter. As we already know, the vitamin D we get from sunlight is key to boosting our energy levels. But that’s not the only reason we should be getting out and about. You know that in the winter the days become a lot shorter, even if it manages to catch you off guard every year (seriously, does the sun set at 3:00 PM every December?!).
When it’s dark outside, our levels of the sleep hormone melatonin increase. Whilst this is beneficial in the evening, increased melatonin levels throughout the day can cause havoc with your sleeping pattern. And if we don’t get outdoors, our levels of melatonin increase even further, which leaves us feeling fatigued throughout the day.
Unfortunately, the miserable British weather in the tail end of the year means that many of us spend far more time indoors. And even when we do manage to get outdoors, it’s far less likely to be in daylight thanks to the extremely short days.
What to do about it: Try and go outside once a day, even if it’s just for a short walk. 20 minutes a day is all you need to boost your levels of vitamin D and improve your sleep cycle. If you can, try and get out for around midday, as this is the time when the sun is at its strongest.
Your Diet Has Changed
Has anyone else noticed an increase in their appetites recently? If you’re thinking about your next meal before you’ve even finished the one you’re having, this could in part be down to winter weather. When the temperature drops, we become much hungrier thanks to our survival instincts. Our ancestors overate in winter to store up calories as food was difficult to find, so humans today have evolved to still have this urge to overeat when the weather turns colder. But when we overeat, our insulin levels increase. This leads to a sudden crash in our blood sugar levels, which leaves us feeling exhausted.
It’s not just how much we eat that can affect our energy levels, but what we eat too. Our body needs a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals all year round, but some are even more crucial in the winter months. Vitamin B12 is one of the most important ones for energy levels, as it converts the food you eat into glucose. Another important winter nutrient is vitamin C, as it plays a major role in protecting your immune system. With the common cold, and various other bugs circulating more in winter, having an active immune system is vital for both our health and our energy levels.
What to do about it: If you’re struggling with overeating during the winter months, try practicing intuitive eating. This approach to eating encourages people to trust their gut (pardon the pun) and allows them to eat what they want, when they want. This may sound like a recipe for disaster — surely you’ll end up living off nothing but chocolate and pasta, right?
Well in reality, once you’ve settled into a pattern of intuitive eating, you’re likely to have a balanced diet, a healthier relationship with food, and most importantly you’ll learn to only eat as much as your body needs. And to make sure you’re consuming the right amount of vitamins and minerals, try using a vitamin tracker to keep on top of your daily intake.
You’re Experiencing SAD
Many people find that their mental health tends to take a downward turn when winter rolls around. If, like many others, you find yourself feeling blue in the winter months, it may be down to seasonal affective disorder, otherwise aptly known as SAD. This mental health disorder can occur in any season, but for most people it kicks in around wintertime. This is largely due to all the factors that we’ve discussed so far — lack of sunlight in winter, disrupted sleep cycle, gloomy weather and so on.
There are a number of both mental and physical symptoms that are caused by SAD, including low mood, appetite changes and difficulty concentrating. But one of the main symptoms of the condition is fatigue. This is partly down to the sleep issues that come with SAD, and also partly because it’s a type of depression, a mental health disorder which is known for causing tiredness.
What to do about it: If you think that you’re experiencing SAD, it’s important that you seek professional help. The disorder won’t manage itself and you might need medication to help tackle it, so make sure to visit your GP as soon as possible. You may also benefit from some of the therapy sessions that WellBe provides. Contact our WellBe coordinators to find out more.
Written by Siobhan Kelly
WellBe is spearheading the way to a brighter future for corporate wellness. Our innovative portal is scientifically designed and tailored to each individual employee to improve their wellbeing. We specialise in a range of services from coaching and therapists, to meditation and reading materials. Our aim is to reduce workplace stress that costs UK businesses £42 billion per year. Get in touch with us by visiting our site wellbe.global for more information.