Failed New Year Resolutions? It's Not Your Fault, the Body is Slower in Winters

Why do we feel so sleepy and lethargic in the winters? Don't fight it, say experts.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Whether you're big on making New Year resolutions or not, the new year invariably brings with it an expectation of renewed, refreshed energy.

I started my new year on a similar note – with plans of waking up early to go for a run, working out regularly, being more productive at work, and taking up a long-abandoned hobby, et all.

...And failed to stick to them over and over and over again.

Just the simple task of getting out of bed in the morning feels like an uphill battle when it's so cold and even the sun is reluctant to make an appearance.

The battle continues through the day, as I drag my feet trying to hack through task after task, while constantly being on the cusp of being drowsy.

If you've been grappling with unexplained fatigue that's keeping you from being productive the way you would like to be too, don't be so hard on yourself. It's natural for you to be more lethargic in the winter, say experts.

The Rhythm of the Sun, the Seasons and Your Body

It's not just a feeling. Breaking down the biology, Dr Anurag Aggarwal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, says, "Your body has a circadian rhythm which controls your sleep and wake cycle and the energy you have through the day. This is in tune with the sun's movement and affected by your exposure to sunlight." 

To put it very simply, your body releases melatonin (sleep hormone) at night and cortisol (stress hormone responsible for making you feel alert) during the day to maintain this cycle.

"What happens is, during the winter months when the days are short and the nights are long and there is less of sunlight during the day, the hormone melatonin gets activated which leads to drowsiness and sleepiness. "
Dr Anurag Aggarwal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad

"Moreover, when it's cold outside, the body needs to direct more energy towards keeping our bodies warm and it conserves energy in other ways, by making it less active," says Dr Shikha Sharma, Nutritionist and Founder of Nutriwel Health, an Online Nutrition Advisory Company of Nutrition Coaches.

Because of the interplay of these factors people generally become slower in the winters.

"You're working against your body which is naturally inclined to resting more during this time," adds Dr Aggarwal.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is one extreme of this general state of being.

Risk of Ailments Go Up in Winters

It's not just fatigue. The cold weather can also trigger flareups of many pre-existing ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine.

"Because of temperature variation, irregular circadian rhythm, reduced melatonin levels, reduced exposure to sunlight, irregular sleep cycle, and unhealthy diet patterns, many patients do suffer from more frequent and worse attacks during the winter," Dr Pawan Kumar Goyal, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, told FIT while speaking for a previous article.

Moreover, experts have also spoken about how the risk of heart attacks also go up during the winter.

A recent study conducted in Germany found that heart attacks increase by 11 percent every time the temperature drops by 2.9 degree Celsius over 24 hours.

This happens because: “In cold weather, your arteries are constricted which means your heart is pumping the blood through them against some resistance, and there's also a surge in adrenaline hormones, which increases the stress on your heart," says Dr Shikha Sharma.


How to Beat Lethargy in the Winter?

Even in Ayurveda, winters are considered the time for maintenance and rebuilding your body's strength, says Dr Sharma.

To do this, she suggests fuelling your body with foods rich in good fats.

"Incorporate nuts and seeds, ghee, seasonal vegetables and spices into your diet," she says.

According to Dr Aggarwal, winters are a good time to include supplements like omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D if you're not getting enough in your diet. This can help keep you a bit more active.

However, he adds, "Those who are not deficient should not over consume supplements. Speak to a physician before you start taking them." 

The experts we spoke to also advice getting as much sunlight as possible. "The more sunlight you get, the less melatonin will be released during the day and, the more alert your brain will become," says Dr Sharma.

Setting realistic targets is something else to keep in mind.

"You can't expect yourself to wake up early in the morning and hit the gym the same way you might be able to in the summer, especially when it's still dark outside."
Dr Anurag Aggarwal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad

"We have to be more lenient on the body and respect how nature has built our body so we don't get even more fatigued," he adds.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Fatigue   Winter Season 

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