If you've ever wished you could curl up and hibernate for the winter, you're not alone. What with the cold weather and short daylight hours, many of us become more tired and lethargic during the winter months, and the warm and comfort of bed seems to call.
The shorter days in winter disrupt our sleep and wake cycles, and the lack of sunlight causes the brain to produce more melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel sleepy. For some, the lack of sunlight can even lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can lead to depression. If this sounds like you, here are a few tips to help you stay energised.
The right night's sleep
As tempting as it may be to spend longer under the duvet, too much sleep can leave you feeling even more sluggish during the day. Though the dark mornings and evenings might cause the body to want an earlier night, the truth is, we don't need any more sleep in winter than we do in the summertime. Eight hours is plenty, so stick to the necessary amount by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
It can be tough to raise the necessary motivation to exercise when it's cold and dark outside, but regular exercise will help to reduce fatigue by relieving stress, boosting those feel good endorphins, and ultimately giving you more energy. A spot of late afternoon exercise will also combat that early evening fatigue, not to mention improving the quality of your sleep. If it's the cold that puts you off, opt for classes or indoor activities such as five-a-side football, badminton or swimming.
Vitamins for vitality
Our main source of vitamin D is the sun, and in winter, when working folk rarely see much daylight during the week, that lack of sunshine could leave you deficient, and consequently fatigued. Try to boost your vitamin D levels with a healthy diet including plenty of oily fish, eggs and meat, and opt for cereals and spreads with added vitamin D. Some groups, such as babies, pensioners and pregnant or breastfeeding women are at greater risk of deficiency, so it is worth talking to your doctor about possibly taking supplements during the winter months.
Healthier comfort food
When it's cold and miserable outside, it's only natural that we crave warming comfort food to make us feel better, but loading up on pasta, potatoes and bread, or going for a sweet but temporary sugar rush, can leave us feeling lethargic. Therefore it's important to keep your fruit and veg intake up during the winter. That doesn't mean you're stuck with salads either. Winter veg like carrots, parsnips, swedes, or greens such as kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli make great accompaniments to wintery dishes, and are packed with lots of nutritious vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling energised. Add them to stews, casseroles or soups for a healthy winter warmer, and ensure there are plenty of colourful veggies on offer when it comes to the Sunday roast.
Let there be light
Anyone with a 9-5 job will know only too well that getting enough sunlight in winter is a problem. While there is little you can do about going to and returning from work in the darkness, it's important to get as much natural daylight as possible. Try to get outside at lunchtime, even if it's just for a walk in the park or to get something to eat, and open blinds or curtains as soon as the sun comes up, to let light into your home for as long as possible. You could also invest in a special light lamp, which helps alleviate the symptoms of SAD for many sufferers. Expect to pay upwards of £100 and ensure you only buy from a manufacturer that has proven research. Some 'copycat' products do not produce the correct levels of light and whilst not dangerous they may not treat SAD effectively.
Do you suffer with fatigue during the winter months? What do you do to combat this seasonal tiredness? Leave your comments below...