Do 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. Here are five energy-giving solutions.
What is winter tiredness?
If you find yourself longing for your warm, cozy 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.
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.
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.
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 of shuteye 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.
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 so you 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.
Winter is a great time to experiment with new and different kinds of activity. For instance, if you’re not used to doing exercise, book a session at one of the many open-air skating rinks that open during the winter. Skating is a good all-round exercise for beginners and aficionados alike. There are also many dry ski slopes and indoor snow centres in the UK, which will offer courses for beginners.
If you’re more active, go for a game of badminton at your local sports centre, or a game of 5-a-side football or tennis under the floodlights.
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.
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.
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 might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.
Start with a small amount of exercise. Build up your physical activity gradually over weeks and months until you reach the recommended goal of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting. It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic. Apart from eating healthily, the best way to lose weight is to be more active and do more exercise.
It sounds obvious, but two-thirds of us suffer from sleep problems, and many people don’t get the sleep they need to stay alert through the day. The Royal College of Psychiatrists advises going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every day; avoid naps through the day, and have a hot bath before bed (as hot as you can bear without scalding you) for at least 20 minutes.
Try these NHS-approved sleep apps to help you sleep well.
Reduce stress to boost energy
Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, or a gentler option, such as listening to music, reading or spending time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.
There’s some evidence that talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help to fight fatigue. See your GP for a referral for talking treatment on the NHS or for advice on seeing a private therapist.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. It says the best way to do this is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it.
You may find that not consuming caffeine gives you headaches. If this happens, cut down more slowly on the amount of caffeine that you drink.
Drink less alcohol
Although a few glasses of wine in the evening helps you fall asleep, you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol. The next day you’ll be tired, even if you sleep a full eight hours.
Cut down on alcohol before bedtime. You’ll get a better night’s rest and have more energy. The NHS recommends that men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.
Any serious illness, especially painful ones, can make you tired. But some quite minor illnesses can also leave you feeling washed out. Here are 10 health conditions that are known to cause fatigue.
1. Coeliac disease
This is a type of food intolerance, where your body reacts badly when you eat gluten – a substance found in bread, cakes and cereals. One in 100 people in the UK are affected, but research suggests that up to 90% of them don’t know they have the condition, according to patient group Coeliac UK. Other symptoms of coeliac disease, apart from tiredness, are diarrhoea, anaemia and weight loss. Your GP can check if you have coeliac disease through a blood test.
One of the most common medical reasons for feeling constantly run down is iron deficiency anaemia. It affects around one in 20 men and post-menopausal women, but may be even more common in women who are still having periods.
Typically, you’ll feel you can’t be bothered to do anything, your muscles will feel heavy and you’ll get tired very quickly. Women with heavy periods and pregnant women are especially prone to anaemia.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME) is a severe and disabling tiredness that goes on for at least six months. There are usually other symptoms, such as a sore throat, muscle or joint pain and headache.
Sleep apnoea is a condition where your throat narrows or closes during sleep and repeatedly interrupts your breathing. This results in bad snoring and a drop in your blood’s oxygen levels. The difficulty in breathing means that you wake up often in the night, and feel exhausted the next day.
It’s most common in overweight, middle-aged men. Drinking alcohol and smoking makes it worse.
An underactive thyroid gland means that you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired. You’re also likely to put on weight and have aching muscles. It’s most common in women, and it happens more often as you get older.
Your GP can diagnose an underactive thyroid by taking a blood test.
One of the main symptoms of diabetes, a long-term condition caused by too much sugar in the blood, is feeling very tired. The other key symptoms are feeling very thirsty, going to the toilet a lot and weight loss. Your GP can diagnose diabetes with a blood test.
Glandular fever is a common viral infection that causes fatigue, along with fever, sore throat and swollen glands. Most cases happen in teenagers and young adults. Symptoms usually clear up within four to six weeks, but the fatigue can linger for several more months.
As well as making you feel very sad, depression can also make you feel drained of energy. It can stop you falling asleep or cause you to wake up early in the morning, which makes you feel more tired during the day.
This is when you get uncomfortable sensations in your legs, which keep you awake at night. You might have an overwhelming urge to keep moving your legs, a deep ache in your legs, or your legs might jerk spontaneously through the night. Whatever your symptoms, your sleep will be disrupted and of poor quality, so you’ll feel very tired throughout the day.
Feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, some people have constant, uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, which are so strong they affect their daily life. Doctors call this generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). It affects around around one in 20 people in the UK. As well as feeling worried and irritable, people with GAD often feel tired.
New research shows that one in five Brits are regularly getting a dangerously low level of sleep, with one in six saying that their fatigue severely impacts activities like driving and socialising, with some struggling to stay awake at work. This could be down to stress, with nearly one in three saying that their work has negatively affected their sleep in the previous week. Sleep experts Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan and Dr. Anna Weighall run through the stark findings in their work in the interview below.
· Less than five hours sleep each night is associated with serious negative health outcomes including cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes.
· One in six (18%) report a high impact of tiredness on daily functioning (e.g., problems staying awake, socialising, feeling enthusiastic, driving, maintaining concentration).
· Six in seven (86%) of people use some kind of tech before they go to bed with 5% checking emails, 41% using social media, and 42% watching TV.
· Furthermore, more than one in four (27.6%) use technology if they wake in the night, 11% check emails, 15% use social media and 13% watch TV.
· Poor sleep patterns may be affected by the pressures of modern life, including the pressures of work. Nearly half (42%) of those questioned from the full sample reported that they found their jobs stressful and almost one in three (30%) indicated that their work has negatively affected their sleep during the previous week.
· The findings come from a new study by the University of Leeds in conjunction with Silentnight to be presented at the Newcastle British Sleep Society conference on 22nd October.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok so we are talking about sleep or not getting enough, first question I have for you guys is what the difference between tiredness and fatigue is?
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – I work a lot with fatigue, chronic fatigue and burnout as well as advising on sleep as well and one of the question that I often ask my patients is what is your energy levels like at the moment out of ten, ten being really high and one being exhausted and that gives me an idea just a quick idea and it also helps them be more aware as well as sort of where they are on the tiredness fatigue scale and I would say the difference between the two is that tiredness we can all experience and sometimes we can get a bit of a tiredness dip in the afternoon, some people tend to be more tired in the mornings when they are not a morning person but fatigue is when it starts to become more evasive and it really starts to effect the quality of life and the ability to function normally so the ability to do things that you would normally be able to do and the things that you would normally enjoy and that fatigue can affect you not just physically but also emotionally and mentality as well.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok that leads onto my next question actually, what medical conditions can result from a lack of sleep.
Dr Anna Weighall – So one of the things that can happen if someone has chronic fatigue is that they can go on to develop quite serious health conditions for example , obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are all more common in those who report low levels of sleep over a period of time.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and what are the underlying reasons for people having a lack of sleep?
Dr Anna Weighall – So in a piece of research that we have recently conducted in association with silent night we asked our respondents, over a thousand people from across the UK about their sleep habits and about their ability to get a good night’s sleep, we found a couple of things that were practically key so one of them is work stress and work life balance so 30% that’s one in three of our participants reported that work affected their sleep in some way, the other thing that we noticed was that we asked people about their sleep habits ,what they do around bedtime ,what they do when they wake in the night and we found that 86% of our participants used screens or technology of some sort before they go to bed and many of them will use technology if they wake in the night as well .
PatientTalk.Org – Ok I’m sure many of us can understand the work one, in terms of insomnia how can it be treated?
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – Well Perry I work with sleep problems I’m a practitioner and I work at a psychiatrist clinic one day a week where we are working with really hard core sleeping patterns and the treatment will go from medication in worst case scenario though too psychology programmes into personal therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, all the way through to practical advice and I can throw some of the tips and techniques out now but you know I teach my patients and clients all sorts of things from nutritional strategies which can help them to sleep all the way through to technology, hygiene , how to wind down before they go to bed, how to manage over busy minds and even breathing and mindfulness, if you direct your viewers and listeners to the Silentnight website we have got lots of the tips and techniques on there as well.
PatientTalk.Org – Yeah I was going to ask what is the best bedtime routine to get the most amount of sleep?
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – Well sleep is so individual, so personal, so what I guide my patients and clients to do is to become more aware of what it is they themselves need in order to be able to let go of the day and rest and relax and then sleep and for some people it might be having a relaxing bath, personally that would make me too hot before I got to bed so it is quite individual, things like what you watch on television even the types of books you read before you go to bed, what you eat before you go to bed, I encourage people to start becoming more aware of these things but the hour to an hour and a half what you choose to do in that time will really set you up for how you are going to sleep. So ideally you would start to disconnect form work, you would start to disconnect from technology, if you are a sensitive sleeper then don’t watch television in your bedroom watch it in another room, preferably don’t watch the news, don’t check the share prices, if you are going through a lot of stress in life then read something that’s uplifting and I even talk to my clients and patients about gratitude exercises before you go to bed keeping a gratitude journal but the idea really is to really bring the levels of stimulation down so the mind and body can prepare to relax and let go off the day.
PatientTalk.Org – What is a gratitude exercise?
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – Well in a nutshell and we won’t talk about this now as it’s a 60 minute exercise but right now think about the day you have had so far from when you woke up this morning until now so it’s just gone 1 o’clock and try and find so just go through your day and do it with your eyes closed and try and find as many small positive things that have happened in your day so far and you can think about them or you can take them to the next level which is what I call breathing into your heart and actually giving thanks to them and what it does is an amazing dropping of the shoulders , unclenching of the jaw, relaxing and anite sense of trust and it’s not all woo woo stuff, I mean there is a good degree of science behind this a branch of science called psycho neuro immunology ( PNI) which shows that people who regularly do gratitude exercises have more robust immune systems and their heart is stronger but it also helps promote good sleep , does that answer your question ?
PatientTalk.Org – Yes I was very interested, so how has the research in sleep conducted and what was the main findings?
Dr Anna Weighall – Ok so the research that we conducted in association with Silentnight as part of my work at the University of Leeds was really about getting a detailed picture of the nation’s sleep, the key findings are that many people are not getting enough sleep and reporting less than 5 hours sleep a night which is a worrying low amount of sleep but interestingly the majority of participants reported that they didn’t know how much sleep they thought they should be getting so it was a great awareness that ideally you should be getting around about 8 hours sleep per night which is what the NHS recommend . However when we asked people how much they intended to sleep they report something in that ball park, when we asked people to reflect on how much sleep they actually get they start to report much lower levels than that so we see what we call a sleep debt, so what people need or want in terms of amount of sleep and what they actually get in terms of their sleep behaviour.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and what would be the one piece of advice you would give to somebody who does not or cannot get a good night’s sleep?
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – I would say to really start to prioritise your sleep you know make it important because often in today’s busy busy technology driving world we take our sleep for granted and we run ourselves ragged all day and then we expect ourselves to get into bed and switch off these hyper active minds and body so I would say start giving sleep the respect it deserves. Build rest into your day whenever you can, ideally every 90 minutes to 2 hour get away from technology even if it’s for a few minutes and that in itself becomes a rest , aim to get to bed before midnight at least 3 or 4 times a week and if you can go onto the Silentnight website and have a look at some of those tips because there is some really practical things that you can do just for the next week or so and it can really make a difference to your sleep , I would also say that if you are not sleeping well and it’s been going on for some time believe that it is possible to get a good night sleep , I speak to people who come to my clinic and say ‘ I’ve never slept well since childhood and my parents didn’t sleep well or my grandmother and it’s in my genes in my genetics’ and that’s part of the problem as they just don’t believe that they can sleep well and we can learn behaviours that will give us the sleep that we need and deserve and believe that you can and seek out the advice and respect your sleep.
PatientTalk.Org – Yeah I mean if like me you work in a really stressful environment how do you find the time to grab a few minutes rest when there’s people ringing you and emailing you every two seconds and you’re like please stop this madness.
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan – Yeah I really hear what you are saying, I work in a lot of very stressful environments apart from the clinic, I go into a lot of big companies and banks, last week I worked in a trading floor of 500 bankers and I taught them how in 60 seconds they can create a physiological state of rest in their body even when things are going fairly crazy around them, so we can make the choice for 10 seconds, 30 seconds to out the phone down or sorry to be basic about this but when we go to the bathroom don’t take the phone with us or to take a 5 / 10 minute lunch break where all we are doing is eating not in front of our technology or for half an hour before we get into bed to mindfully engage with your family with no technology around you , these are choices that we can change and make and increasingly this is what I am showing people and urging them to do , if we start to value our sleep and if we get that sleep, one or two night of good sleep and you will get hooked on it and you will do what it takes to get it.
Dr Anna Weighall – And if I can just come back on that I would say that one of the reasons we wanted to conduct this research is to raise people’s awareness of the importance of sleep because I think very much we have fallen into a snooze and you lose kind of a culture and in fact if we start to realise that sleep is part of our health, part of our emotional and mental wellbeing and we start to treat it in the same way of physical exercise, we know we need exercise and we also now know that we need good sleep, we need to find gaps in our busy life’s to make sure that we are getting the things that we need for as healthy life, In our research Perry the other thing that was really important as a take home message is the very strong relationship between a good sleep and good health, so people who reported good sleep quality on the whole reported a better quality of life and that meant they were enjoying their life’s more, having more positive interactions with their families, having less physical ill health and generally being emotionally prepared for the day ahead sop we really can’t underestimate the value of sleep.
At PatientTalk.Org we are passionate about sharing information about natural, alternative and complementary treatments for different conditions and symptoms so i was delighted to find this infographic on “Natural Remedies for Fighting Fatigue”.
Please do feel free to like and share with your friends and family .