The cold and darker months can take their toll on the way we feel. Often, the shorter days, dismal weather and changes to the way we eat and sleep mean we feel groggy and tired in winter - making it difficult to get out of bed. But why can our energy levels drop over winter - and what can we do about it?
Why am I always tired in winter?
There are several reasons we might feel more tired in winter. Firstly, as the days become shorter, our sleep and waking cycles may become disrupted and we may experience hormonal changes as a result.
"One reason can be due to the changes in the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our wakefulness and sleep," says Reema Patel, registered dietitian at Dietitian Fit. "When it is dark, we produce more melatonin, which gives us feelings of tiredness. So in the winter when it is darker, we may produce more melatonin, which can impact on our mood and leave us feeling more fatigued and tired compared to the summer months."
A vitamin D deficiency can also make us feel fatigued. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors, which is far easier in the summer when the days are longer and we spend more time outside. But between October and early March in the UK, we don't make any vitamin D. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and (unlike water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C) we can store it in our bodies and don't need a daily supply. Nonetheless, over the course of the winter our supplies become rapidly depleted.
Additionally, our diet may also change during the colder months. In winter, we tend to reach for comforting foods that aren't always healthy - and can make us feel more tired and sluggish. Research suggests that we may be more likely to turn to comfort foods in winter because they release mood-enhancing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. When it's cold and dark out, these foods can give us a temporary boost.
Physical activity can make us feel energized and help us to sleep better, but it can be difficult to feel motivated to exercise in the winter.
So, how can I boost my energy in winter?
Let some daylight in
"Ways to help reduce the influence of melatonin can be to open the curtains in the morning to allow sunlight through to the room," says Patel. "It also helps to try to get out for a short walk in the morning or early afternoon to get in some light where possible."
If you work from home or in an office, it can help to get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible or work near a window.
It's also important to keep moving and exercise regularly. The exercise-induced release of 'feelgood' chemicals called endorphins will give you a boost, reduce stress and help you sleep better at night.
"Generally our exercise levels can reduce in the colder seasons - you might notice yourself not going out for that lunchtime walk any more as it is too cold or raining. These small things can make a difference, as they can often give us a boost of energy, especially when we spend some time outdoors in the fresh air," says Patel.
"Maybe going to the gym doesn't appeal to you, so you notice yourself becoming more sedentary in the colder months. This can actually leave us feeling lower in energy in the long term. Trying to look for home workouts or keeping active in other ways that you enjoy can be helpful for energy levels and overall mood."
The above information was obtained from Patient.info. Visit their website to see more information pertaining to Winter Fatigue: