Many of us dread wintertime with its frigid temperatures and long nights. The bleak days often lend themselves to a general sense of lethargy. As the season drags on, motivation feels tied to the sunlight and crawling in bed early becomes increasingly tempting.
Feeling sluggish during the winter is common. If you’re fighting an urge to hibernate, you’re not alone. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or, seasonal depression, according to Boston University.
Difficulty waking up and decreased energy levels is a hallmark symptom of SAD. But even if you are not experiencing SAD, feeling extra sleepy during the winter is normal, reports a study from the National Library of Medicine.
Out of the various reasons for wintertime fatigue, here are some of the most common.
Reduced vitamin D intake
According to the Cleveland Clinic, roughly 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient. Sunlight is an essential source of vitamin D, but during the winter, people usually spend less time outside in direct sunlight. In adults, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness and mood changes.
The average hours of sunlight Utah gets during December is 113. In July, it’s 381, reports Current Results, Science and Weather Facts. Shorter days during the winter can create delays in the “circadian rhythm with respect to the sleep/wake cycle” according to a study from the National Library of Medicine.
When it’s dark out, your body naturally produces more melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-related hormone and that your body is triggered to produce when it is dark. So, when sun is making shorter appearances your body will produce more melatonin, making you sleepy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Those who suffer from seasonal depression report having less energy, difficulty waking up, decreased motivation and difficulty concentrating, reports Boston University.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, is a type of depression that effects people only during certain seasons — typically fall and winter.
The shorter days and lack of sunlight during winter months can “trigger a chemical change in the brain leading to symptoms of depression,” reports Johns Hopkins Medicine.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the most common symptom of SAD include; increased sleep, anxiety, daytime drowsiness, fatigue, trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, social withdrawal and increased appetite.
How to combat winter exhaustion
At times, winter exhaustion can feel crippling, but there are ways to combat it.
Practice light therapy. Sitting in front of a therapy light for just 30 minutes a day can help diminish winter depressive symptoms, according to Harvard.
Go outside. Spending time outdoors during the winter, even in short doses, can help keep your circadian rhythm in check, improve your mood and help you get a daily dose of vitamin D, NBC News reports.
Take vitamin D supplements or eat foods that are rich with vitamin D. Such foods include egg yolks and salmon.
Talk with a therapist. If your symptoms feel out of your control, consider speaking with a professional who can provide you with personalized guidance.