Tired, hungry, and sad? Relax – you’re hibernating!April 18, 2023
In the middle of winter, do you find yourself wanting to sleep more, eat more and curl up by the fire rather than going out? Relax - you’re hibernating! Find out why right here…
We often behave as if seasonal changes are irrelevant to a modern lifestyle. After all, in many ways, civilisation is all about overcoming nature. But our bodies have not fully evolved to this modern climate. They remember how weather once dictated behaviour. In winter, we hunkered around a fire, repairing tools and telling tales that wove our culture. We packed our bodies close and slept long.
Now we act as if it’s always summer, demanding consistently high productivity at work and at home.
But our bodies require cycles of activity and rest – daily and annually. In summer, when days are long, our metabolisms and energy levels amp up. In winter, we produce hormones that make us sleepy, giving us time to restore body, mind, and soul. There’s nothing wrong with that cycle – except that we work against it, forcing ourselves to operate at ‘summer levels’ even in winter. No wonder so many people feel depressed at this time of year!
How sad is that?
You’ve probably heard that we can get the “winter blues”. You might even suffer from them. The fact that most clinicians address the issue via technology (daily light therapy) and/or medication provides an interesting perspective on our time. But some have noted that the low mood we feel in the winter may have more in common with hibernation.
Could the winter blues be a result of modern living’s demand to move at top speed all day, every day, and mostly indoors – disconnected from the sun’s cycles? Could we give in to a bit of hibernation?
Factors that affect how we feel in winter…
Lack of Light
The change in light can have an effect on the time and quality of your sleep. We may not necessarily need more sleep in winter, but factors beyond our control make us want it. The amount of daylight during winter is more limited than in other seasons, impacting the body’s cycles.
Bright light supresses the production of melatonin via the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles. Lack of light can cause the body to produce more of the chemical, making the body feel tired and sluggish which explains why we might feel lethargic or sleepy in the mornings and evenings throughout the winter months. It is important for hormone activity to get regular light cues from the sun (sunrise to sunset) even in winter.
Winter is notorious for an increase in electricity bills as temperatures drop and heat gets turned on. However, heating can have undesirable effects on sleep quality. When air is too cold it will negatively affect melatonin production and cause the body’s sleep cycle to be disrupted. However, air that is too dry or too warm will dry out the body’s mucus membranes (like the nose and throat) and make the body more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and seasonal illnesses.
Change in Eating Habits
While summertime brings natural sugars in the form of fruit, winter tends to bring on cravings for more hearty, dense carbohydrates. Overeating this sort of food, avoiding meat, and overdoing processed foods with sugar, refined fats (seed/vegetable oils), and high/empty calories, can impact the body’s hormone levels. Staying away from processed and junk foods becomes all the more relevant in winter.
Associated with metabolism and appetite, the hormone leptin is also influenced by eating too much of these types of foods. The change in the levels of leptin in the body ends up disrupting the sleep cycle, and these disruptions will cause the body to further alter hormone levels. When our sleep cycle gets disrupted, we wind up craving those foods more and we don’t know when we’re full. Seed oils can hijack our satiety and make us constantly hungry. If we continue to eat like this, it will affect our sleep – it’s a vicious cycle.
Tips to wipe out winter tiredness and get energised!
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.
Healthy food choice – of course this is a given. We all know that good quality food, full of nutritious animal foods and seasonal plant foods make us feel better. Don’t make excuses – you’ll only pay for it when summer rolls around.
Get more sleep – go with the natural flow of what your body is telling you. Go to bed earlier in the winter, and when the days become longer, go to bed later. Turn off your devices – it may be tempting to wile away those long winter evenings with a Netflix binge but is another episode of your fav TV programme really worth more than your health? That goes for your phone and laptop, too.
Take Vitamin D3: known as the sunshine vitamin, when we don’t get enough of it, we can feel tired and experience low mood. Get outdoors in the midday sunlight as much as possible but do check with an app like D MInder if there is enough UVB at your latitude to actually make any vitamin D. If not, cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, animal fats (especially free range pork lard), and liver, are good dietary sources.
Stress & Vitality Support: as the name suggests, it can help you cope through the winter months when we start to get a bit stressed and agitated. It helps you to cope better with daily life and to bring back a sense of calm and vitality when we are stuck in the monotony of work and home life but would rather be relaxing on a tropical beach.
Opti CoQ10: This amazing little enzyme might just give you the burst of energy you need. It is often used by people with heart conditions, but it also has other uses. It’s also used by athletes to increase their workout capacity and by people with energy and fatigue disorders. It supports the mitochondria (the powerhouse in each of our cells) to function better.
Take a good Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement. Don’t overlook the essentials. Taking a daily multi can help fill in the gaps of some of the nutrients that we might be missing in our daily diet. Try our Men’s or Woman’s Multi.
Taking charge of your health should help you sail through those moody, wintery days!