How to beat winter tiredness

If you find it harder to drag yourself out of bed once the mornings are darker and it's cold outside then you are not alone. It's not unusual to feel tired, sluggish and to want to curl up and hibernate in the winter – in fact it's a natural reaction to the nights drawing in.

See also: Eight foods that help to ward off colds and flu

See also: Ten ways to boost your energy for winter

Winter tiredness is basically caused by the shorter hours of sunlight prompting our bodies to produce more of a hormone called melatonin – which in turn makes us feel sleepy. However there are some simple strategies you can adopt to put a little spring in your step...

Get more sunlight
Throw those curtains open as soon as you hop out of bed in the morning. We need the vitamin D we get from sunlight to help us absorb calcium from our food – but it also has a positive effect on our mood and helps the body to regulate production of melatonin so we feel less tired.

Make a point of getting out for a walk when you can, whether it's a stroll around the park at lunchtime or just taking the long way to the sandwich shop on your break. Get as much natural light into your workspace as you can too. If you tend to feel low every winter, consider investing in a lightbox. Seasonal affective disorder can leave you feeling depressed and lethargic, but research shows that lightbox therapy can make a difference. Simply sit in front of the box for 30 minutes every morning to benefit.

Keep working out
Don't let your exercise regime slip as the nights draw in. Regular and strenuous physical activity will increase your energy levels and could help lift your mood too – especially if you can do it in a natural setting. If you're not exercising anyway, consider heading down to your local Parkrun at the weekend or signing up for a new exercise class – either on your own or with a friend.

If you really can't face leaving the house, do a fitness DVD at home.

Eat well and stay hydrated
It's tempting to eat stodgy, unhealthy food as a kind of comfort blanket when it's cold and miserable outside - but do make sure you're getting enough fruit and veg. Use winter veg like swedes, carrots and cabbage to bulk out a healthy stew or make a warming parsnip soup. It's also a good idea to make sure you get enough vitamin D via oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals or spreads.

Make sure to drink enough water too. Even mild dehydration can zap your energy levels and give you a fuzzy headache. If you don't fancy cold drinks in winter, try hot water with a slice of ginger and lemon or some cordial, or drink herbal tea.

Stress less
If you're feeling like it's harder to squeeze all your duties into those shorter winter days, try to take a step back and relax a bit. Stress has been shown to induce feelings of tiredness – so make time to unwind with yoga, meditation, country walks, or whatever hobby takes your fancy. Investing in a yoga DVD - and doing a few stretches in the morning and before bed can help.

Something more serious?
It's important to differentiate simple winter tiredness – which affects most of us from time to time – from more serious conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or chronic fatigue syndrome. The former can lead to depression and the latter affects sufferers all year round. If you think your symptoms might be more serious than simple winter tiredness, visit your GP for advice.
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