Why Do I Feel More Tired When It's Cold Outside?

November 12, 2023

With daylight savings time now behind us, you may notice that darkness is upon us much earlier in the day than before. Along with this, late fall is peak cold and flu season. Learn about how these factors can lead to feeling more fatigued compared to summer months.

Common Reasons for Fatigue During Winter

Winter is a time of festivity, gathering, and tradition. However, in many areas of the United States, it also is a time of colder weather as well as peak cold and flu season. During the colder winter months, the weather becomes more intolerable, forcing us indoors for many more hours of the day compared to the warmer summer months. This results in less vitamin D exposure, less daily exercise, and less sunlight. All of these factors can lead to an overall feeling of emotional and physical fatigue.

Daylight savings time also occurs in late fall, meaning that our sleep cycles become confused because it is darker outside much earlier in the day. Sleep is essential for overall health and wellness, as well as immunity to diseases. Due to this, winter is often a time when we feel tired due to disrupted sleep and increased cases of illnesses.

How to Prevent Winter Fatigue

Although it is sometimes difficult to find ways to stay active and not experience seasonal fatigue in the colder winter months, there are a few ways to increase your energy levels in the winter.

Increase Light Exposure: Light is how our body forms its circadian rhythm. Exposure to light early in the morning will help tell your body to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep. Open your curtains when you first wake up to help you wake up in the morning and feel better rested.

Increase Activity Levels: Staying active during the winter months is difficult because the weather often discourages outdoor activities. Regardless, being active and moving your body is essential for building up immunity and reducing overall fatigue. Working out in the morning can help your body wake up, but avoid exercising close to bedtime to prevent disrupting your natural sleep cycle.

Maintain a Steady Sleep Schedule: Maintaining a steady sleep schedule is the easiest way to ensure that your body understands when it is time to be awake, and when it is time to be asleep. During the winter months when the sun sets early, this can be difficult to maintain. Keeping yourself busy after dinner and keeping the lights on can help you stay energized until it's time for bed.

Spend Time Outdoors: The biggest difference between our behavior during summer and winter months is the amount of time we spend outdoors. Spending time outdoors is healthy because it exposes us to vitamin D, a hormone that is essential for overall health. Vitamin D deficiency can cause symptoms such as fatigue, which can make it harder to stay healthy during the fall months. Just 10 minutes outside will provide you with enough vitamin D a day.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Other impacts of winter weather to consider also include Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a type of depression that is associated with a certain season, most commonly winter. Although there is no real known cause of SAD, Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that less light and shorter days during winter can cause a chemical change in the brain.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as feeling suddenly irritable, fatigued, and anti-social, then you should speak to your healthcare provider about testing for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD requires a proper diagnosis by a medical professional, but treatments include light therapy, lifestyle changes, and potentially medication.

Get Health & Wellness Care Without an Appointment at AFC Urgent Care West Long Branch

Seasonal changes can bring on a variety of lifestyle changes. The colder weather and shorter days can have serious impacts on our overall health and wellness without proper lifestyle adjustments. At AFC Urgent Care West Long Branch, our team of board-certified medical professionals are here 7 days a week to provide health and wellness advice to help keep you healthy this winter.

You never need an appointment to receive medical care at our walk-in clinic. Simply walk in when it is convenient for you, or schedule an appointment online. We accept most medical insurance plans and offer low-cost care for patients paying out of pocket. Don’t put your health on the back burner this winter. For more information regarding our clinic and the services that we provide, please contact us directly.

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