Fatigue during winter is more than just laziness, as many people assume it to be. It can be tempting to regard winter fatigue as nothing more than a myth and excuse for doing less, but research has shown that it is an all-too-real phenomenon. Read on to discover some of the most important facts about fatigue during winter.
Lack of Sunlight Is the Cause
Many people feel far more tired in the winter, and this is mainly due to the lack of sunlight. Less sunlight results in the brain producing more of the sleep hormone, melatonin, presumably an evolutionary adaptation to encourage less energy expenditure during the months when food was scarce. Therefore, with the shorter days occurring during winter, it is natural to feel more tired than normal.
However, with the advent of the electric light and the development of the 24-hour lifestyle, the gap between natural sleep cycles and actual ones has become ever wider, and this can result in the body responding to sleep signals at times when it has to be awake and productive (such as early mornings during the winter months). Read more about fighting fatigue with your morning routine.
It Can Be Conquered
Many sufferers of seasonal-related fatigue feel as though they have no choice but to live with it. However, there are a number of therapies that have been developed to deal with the condition. Light therapy is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce tiredness; it is a box or lamp that simulates daylight, working in tandem with the body's natural sunlight-related systems. Looking at this light for a set amount of time each day is generally recommended until sunlight levels increase again. Other therapies include talk therapy and even medication. These mainly deal with the depression that can arise from overtiredness, which makes winter fatigue worse.
It Is Not a New Illness
Historical evidence shows that as early as 400 BCE, people were complaining about the weather causing a change in mood. Writings from Hippocrates show that he blamed the weather for causing illness.
It Is More Common in Women
Although anybody can fall prey to winter fatigue, it seems to affect women far more than it does men. In fact, the official statistic is that as many as 90% of winter fatigue sufferers are women. However, this could be more to do with the fact that men are less likely to seek help and support for it than women are, rather than any kind of biological reason. On the other hand, it is well-documented that women are more susceptible to hormone-related disorders, so this could be just an extension of that.
Winter-related fatigue affects people differently. Some might find it is very mild - simply being a feeling of tiredness more common in the winter months that is easily overcome - while others can experience feelings of debilitating exhaustion that seem to fall in line with how long the sun is up. Read about daily routines to avoid fatigue.
- Kids' Health. (2014). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved September 29, 2014, from http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/sad.html#
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Wipe out winter tiredness. Retrieved September 29, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/winter-tiredness.aspx