Winter brings us shorter days, less sunlight and colder temperatures. For many of us, that means tasks like getting up for work or going to the gym become a real struggle—also known as: winter fatigue.
Winter fatigue and tiredness can hit some of us hard, and there are scientific reasons for it:
- When days are shorter and darker in the winter, our bodies make more of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin regulates our wakefulness and sleep, and an excess amount of it can increase tiredness, fatigue, and even disrupt mood.
- Colder weather and shorter days also decrease opportunities to be outside. This can lower our vitamin D levels, since sunlight is our major source. Vitamin D deficiency can greatly affect how we feel, perform and recover.
- Plus, lack of exercise overall, which is more common in winter for the above reasons, can make us feel sleepier and more fatigued.
How to Combat Winter Fatigue
Now that we know why winter fatigue can hit us during the end and beginning of the year, let’s look at some natural ways to fight the winter slug.
1. Use the Shorter Days to Get More Sleep
Daylight savings in winter can throw sleep off for many of us, making it harder to get the rest we need for energy. But try to use the earlier evenings to your advantage!
Make it easier to get out of bed without the “snooze” button by going to bed earlier. You’ll increase your chance of undisturbed sleep, which is so important for fighting winter fatigue and tiredness and truly resting.
2. Let Daily Sunlight In
It’s harder to get sunlight in the winter, so increase your chances of exposure even when you’re inside:
- In the morning and whenever you’re home, open curtains and blinds to let in natural daylight as much as possible.
- Go for walks during your lunch break or in the morning before work.
- Get outdoors as often as you can, especially on the weekends when there’s often more time for it.
3. Make Time to Breathe and Relax
Shorter days can increase the pressure to get more done in a smaller window of time. The added stress can make you feel more tired, creating a vicious cycle.
Give yourself space to adjust to the new changes, and look for ways to add stress-reducing activities into your life. This could include:
- mindfulness techniques
- reading a good book
- spending time laughing with and enjoying loved ones
4. Move Your Body in the Late Afternoon
Exercise is especially hard when you’re feeling fatigued, but it can actually help you feel more energized!
Try to get some form of physical activity every day (bonus points if it’s something outside). Late afternoon may be best, as it can reduce evening fatigue and improve sleep.
5. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Boost your energy and immunity this year by eating plenty of produce in the winter months. Eating well will also help you maintain a healthy weight. Being under- or overweight can affect energy levels and sleep.
6. Have a Healthy, Hearty Breakfast
You might not feel like making a cold smoothie in the winter months, so reach for a healthy and filling warm breakfast instead—like oatmeal or porridge! It’ll give you a great starchy and fiber-rich boost first thing in the morning to power through your day.
7. Cut Back on the Sugar
The holidays usually involve an increase in sweets and comfort foods. Enjoy the season, but be mindful of how too much sugar affects you. Sugary foods might give you energy initially, but soon you’ll crash and burn, making the winter fatigue worse.
Combat sugar cravings with wholesome meals and snacks—and use these natural sugar alternatives as much as you can.
The Bottom Line
Winter fatigue is frustrating and can make it hard to keep up with the regular rhythm of life – but don’t fret! It’s natural to feel more tired when there’s less sunlight. Go easy on yourself, focus on healthy habits, and be mindful of when you need a little extra rest and stress relief during this time of year.