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Winter Weariness

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

by Caitlin Wilson

With winter coming into full swing, it's difficult to accurately pinpoint what makes people so tired during these long, chilly months. Sure the weather most likely plays a role, turning rays of sunshine into bleak slates of rain or snow depending on where you live, but is this the only factor? Maybe we feel drowsy because of nighttime coming sooner, with sunset at 5:30 PM, unlike its usual 8:30 PM during the summer. Whatever the cause, we’re going to give you some way to help fight off this Winter Wearniness.

The first, and arguably most important way to combat tiredness, is to get some sunlight. With shorter days in winter, it can feel challenging to get as much sunlight as you were during beach days in the summer. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you get outside and spend time outdoors. Why? During darkness, humans release the hormone called melatonin more frequently, a hormone that makes us feel sleepy.

Yet, while you may think this is a simple concept, more sun equals less melatonin, it’s a bit more complicated than that. When the sun sets, the body naturally starts producing nocturnal melatonin. And with longer nights, melatonin levels are actually increased in wintertime. So, you may even need to get additional sun exposure, above those levels of the summer dog days.

Sunlight also affects our “internal clock,” our circadian rhythm. Our bodies change from waking to sleeping according to this clock, but the clock is in turn influenced by light and dark periods. When night comes, circadian rhythm takes note of this and you begin to feel more tired as the night goes on. The same thing applies to the daytime. Ever wonder why you feel so drowsy when you wake up for work or school or why you begin to feel more awake as the sun rises? Our internal schedule wants us to stick to the same timeline.

For instance, take this example. You usually go to bed at around 10:00 PM every night and wake up at 6:00 AM. Now, Friday comes along and you're up until 12:00 AM watching your favorite show on Netflix, and you don’t wake up until 8:00 AM the next day. Even though you got the same number of hours of sleep, 8 hours, your body may still feel sluggish Saturday morning. Just like a morning routine, our bodies like a sense of normalcy, or expected patterns or customs, including sleeping patterns.

One last attempt you can employ to stave off winter fatigue is to make use of caffeine. Coffee, tea, chocolate, all can be healthy and useful tools if consumed in moderation. Downing five lattes a day, while certainly not great for your health, also has reduced results. Just as how you become nose blind to the odors in your room, the more you eat or drink caffeine, the less responsive your body becomes to it. By limiting your caffeine intake to smaller amounts and for fewer times throughout the day, you can greatly increase its effectiveness.

Getting through these frosty days and escaping the winter season is exhausting itself, so make sure to find habits and hacks that will help you get through these weary winter times.

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