Winter tiredness

Person sleeping in a dark room. Creative Commons, thanks to Thibaud SaintinDo you find it harder to roll out of bed every morning when the temperature drops and the mornings are darker?

If so, you’re not alone. Many people feel tired and sluggish during winter.

If you find yourself longing for your warm, cosy bed more than usual during winter, blame the lack of sunlight.  As the days become shorter, your sleep and waking cycles become disrupted, leading to fatigue. Less sunlight means that your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

Because the release of this sleep hormone is linked to light and dark, when the sun sets earlier your body also wants to go to bed earlier – hence you may feel sleepy in the early evening.

Try these tactics to boost your vitality during the winter months.

Sunlight is good for winter tiredness

Open your blinds or curtains as soon as you get up to let more sunlight into your home. And get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial. Make your work and home environment as light and airy as possible.

Fight fatigue with vitamin D

The wane in sunshine over the winter months can mean you don’t get enough Vitamin D and that can make you feel tired.

The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, but here in the UK we can’t make any vitamin D from winter daylight between November and March so it’s especially important to get vitamin D from your diet.

Good food sources of vitamin D are oily fish (for example salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and meat. Vitamin D is also added to all margarine, and to some breakfast cereals, soya products, dairy products and low-fat spreads.

Even with a healthy, balanced diet it’s possible to become vitamin D deficient. The Government recommends that people at risk of vitamin D deficiency – including everyone 65 or over – should take a daily supplement.

Get a good night’s sleep

When winter hits it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode, but that sleepy feeling you get in winter doesn’t mean you should snooze for longer. In fact if you do, chances are you’ll feel even more sluggish during the day.

We don’t technically need any more sleep in winter than in summer. Aim for about eight hours a night and try to stick to a reliable sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. And make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep – clear the clutter, have comfortable and warm bedlinen and turn off the TV.

Read about how to get a good night’s sleep.

Fight winter tiredness with regular exercise

Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing on dark winter evenings, but you’ll feel more energetic if you get involved in some kind of physical activity every day.

Ideally you should try and reach the recommended goal of 150 minutes of exercise a week. Exercise in the late afternoon may help to reduce early evening fatigue, and also improve your sleep.

Join an exercise class, take up yoga (great for helping you to relax) or get outdoors in the fresh air. Make sure you wrap up warmly and have good footwear if conditions are icy. Swimming is a good form of exercise for all ages and abilities because it is gentle on the joints.

Read lots more tips for exercising in winter.

Learn to relax

Feeling time-squeezed to get everything done in the shorter daylight hours? It may be contributing to your tiredness. Stress has been shown to make you feel fatigued.

There’s no quick-fire cure for stress but there are some simple things you can do to alleviate it. So, if you feel under pressure for any reason, calm down with meditation, yoga, exercise and breathing exercises.

Find out more by checking out these 10 stress-busters.

Eat the right foods

Once the summer ends, there’s a temptation to ditch the salads and fill up on starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes and bread. You’ll have more energy, though, if you include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your comfort meals.

Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a warming winter meal for the whole family. And classic stews and casseroles are great options if they’re made with lean meat and plenty of veg.

You may find your sweet tooth going into overdrive in the winter months, but try to avoid foods containing lots of sugar – it gives you a rush of energy but one that wears off quickly. Here are some quick and easy ways to cut down on sugar.

Find out more about energy-giving foods.

Now, read more articles on how to beat tiredness and fatigue.

While it’s normal for all of us to slow down generally over winter, sometimes lethargy can be a sign of more serious winter depression. This health condition, known medically as seasonal affective disorder, affects around one in 15 of us but can be treated. Read more about how to recognise winter depression. If your tiredness is severe and year-round, you could have chronic fatigue syndrome.

If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise in the chillier, darker months, focus on the positives – you’ll not only feel more energetic but stave off winter weight gain.