Many people feel more tired and lethargic during the winter months, which can also manifest itself in low moods, sometimes called the “winter blues”.
When the temperature drops, the mornings are darker and the days shorter, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us find it harder to get out of bed and get on with the day ahead. Some people just want to hibernate through the winter and emerge when spring arrives!
But keeping healthy through the winter months means keeping going, and there are many ways to combat and even wipe out winter tiredness and the apathy it can bring. Here, from the NHS Choices website, are five ways to do just that:
Let some light into your life: The long hours of darkness in the winter months can disrupt your normal sleep pattern and leave you feeling drowsy even when you’re awake. The lack of sunlight means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. The antidote is to let as much natural daylight into your life as possible. If it isn’t icy underfoot, wrap up warm and get outside in the fresh air and natural daylight. Taking a little walk will also get your circulation and respiratory system going. Just remember to always stay within your limits and don’t overdo it. If you don’t want to go out, try to make your home environment as light and airy as possible, making the most of what daylight there is.
Get a good night’s sleep: A little exercise and fresh air during the day will also help you sleep better at night. Try to resist the temptation to ‘hibernate’ through winter and instead stick to your normal bedtime and getting up routine. Also try to resist snoozing in the chair during the daytime, as this will also disrupt your sleep pattern. It’s not always easy, especially if you’re keeping your home warmer than you usually would, but if you can stay awake during the day you’ll reap the benefit of quality sleep at night. We don’t actually need any more sleep in winter than we do in summer. Everyone’s different, but most people do best on around eight hours’ sleep per night.
Exercise when you can: It’s tempting in winter to ‘hole up’ indoors and do as little as possible, but exercising however and whenever you can will benefit both body and mind. A little and often is the key and it’s important not to overdo it or put yourself at any risk, but any exercise is better than none. Some people find it easier to join an exercise group (your local council or GP surgery should have details of what’s available in your area), while others prefer to work out their own exercise routine at home. It’s important to keep your body moving, especially in later life, and exercising regularly will increase your energy levels rather than make you more tired. It’s also been proved that a little exercise can boost your mood and help combat depression. If you’re planning to start an exercise regime, it’s a good idea to consult your GP or other medical professional first, especially if you have an underlying or long-term health condition.
Eat healthily: Very few people fancy a salad in the depths of winter, when a bowl of hot stew and some bread to dip in it are much more appealing. But it’s important to keep eating a healthy and balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Try to avoid too much starchy and stodgy food, or balance it out with healthy winter veg such as carrots, swedes, parsnips and turnips. There are lots of ways to prepare them for a little variety. Also, try to avoid too many sweet treats, especially around Christmas. There’s no need to deprive yourself, but by having ‘all things in moderation’ you can avoid winter weight gain which would be bad for your health generally. Also, try to eat at regular times and limit snacking inbetween meals – this will also help you sleep better by giving your body a routine. Drinking plenty of milk will also boost your energy levels.
Make time to relax: When the days are shorter you might feel under more pressure to get everything done. This is especially true in the days and weeks running up to Christmas, but allowing yourself to become stressed is bad for your body and your mind. Try to make time in each day to relax and, as the young people say, “chill out”. Whether it’s reading a good book, watching your favourite TV programme, taking the dog for a walk or practising deep breathing techniques, everyone has their own way to calm down and ‘de-stress’. If you haven’t found your way yet, click here for 10 useful stress-busting techniques. You might also find that taking a little time to put down on paper what you need to do and when to do it will pay dividends and reduce anxiety.