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5 min read

Tips to avoid tiredness this winter season

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Last reviewed: 04/12/2020
Medically reviewed

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Do you find it harder to roll out of bed in winter when the temperature drops and the mornings are darker? If so, you're not alone.

Many people feel tired and sluggish during the winter season.

Here are 5 energy-giving solutions that may help – and a few conditions that can sometimes be the cause.

  1. Let in some sunlight

As the days become shorter, your sleep and waking cycles may become disrupted. The lack of sunlight means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

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. Try to take even just a brief lunchtime walk, and make sure your work and home environments are as light and airy as possible.

  1. Get a good night's sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is important for fighting off winter tiredness, but not much.

It's tempting to go into hibernation mode when the winter season begins, but that sleepy feeling you get doesn't mean you should snooze for longer.

In fact, if you sleep too much, you may feel even more tired during the day.

We don't actually require any more sleep in winter than we do in summer – aim for between 7 and 9 hours of shut-eye a night, and try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

Make sure your bedroom helps you feel relaxed and sleepy. To do this, you should clear away any clutter, have comfortable and warm bedding, and turn off the TV.

  1. Get regular exercise

Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling tired on dark winter evenings, but you may be surprised by how energetic you feel after some physical activity.

Exercise in the late afternoon can help to reduce early-evening tiredness and improve your sleep. Try to reach the recommended goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This could be cycling, brisk walking or even pushing a lawnmower.

Winter is a great time to experiment with new and different kinds of activity. For example, you could try skating at an open-air skating rink as this is a good form of all-round exercise.

There are many ways to exercise in winter to help your energy levels.

If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise in the colder, darker months, focus on the positives – not only will you feel more energetic, but you may avoid winter weight gain.

  1. Learn to relax

Are you feeling pressured to get everything done during the shorter daylight hours? If so, it may be contributing to your tiredness – stress has been shown to make you feel tired.

There's no quick way to deal with stress, but there are a few simple things you can do to help reduce it. Many people find adding meditation, yoga, breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques into their day helps them to calm down and feel more relaxed.

  1. Eat the right food

Being overweight or underweight can affect your energy levels and leave you feeling sleepy. So it's important to make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Once the summer ends, you may be tempted to avoid salads in favour of starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes and bread. However, you'll have more energy if you include a variety of fruit and vegetables in your meals.

Winter vegetables — such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips – can be roasted, mashed or made into soup to provide a warming meal for the whole family. And classic stews and casseroles are great options if made with lean meats or pulses, and plenty of vegetables.

You may find your sweet tooth going into overdrive in the winter months to provide you with more energy, but try to avoid foods that contain added sugar. They may give you a rush of energy, but this will wear off quickly.

However, you can increase your energy levels by eating energy-giving foods, such as oats or iron-rich foods like green vegetables.

Do I have a health condition?

While it's normal for all of us to slow down during winter, there are some medical conditions that could be causing your tiredness.

A lack of energy and enthusiasm (lethargy) can be a sign of winter depression. Known medically as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it affects around 1 in 15 people, but it can be treated.

If your tiredness is severe and present all year round, you could have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Your tiredness might also be linked to a condition like iron-deficiency anaemia, where you have fewer red blood cells as a result of a lack of iron, or a long-term infection that your body is trying to clear.

If your tiredness prevents you from living your normal life, or goes on for a long time, speak to a doctor.

Key points

  • get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, as exposure to natural light can improve sleep
  • aim for between 7 and 9 about eight hours of sleep a night, and try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day
  • get regular exercise, as this can help you sleep better
  • learn to relax by trying things like mindfulness, yoga and deep breathing
  • eat a balanced diet and focus on slow-releasing energy foods

References:

  1. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? - Sleep Foundation [Internet]. Sleep Foundation. 2020 [cited 6 October 2020]. Available here.
  2. Physical activity guidelines for adults - Your.MD [Internet]. Your.MD. 2020 [cited 6 October 2020]. Available here.
Content supplied byNHS Logonhs.uk
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