It’s that time of year. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and waking up to a dark morning can feel like an uphill battle. If you experience more feelings of lethargy and fatigue during the winter, you’re not alone—many Canadians struggle with the winter blues.
Let’s take a look at why you might feel this way and helpful practices and supplements to help you enjoy the season more.
What are the winter blues?
Do you feel more down than usual, or is it harder to get out of bed in the morning? You’re likely experiencing a wave of winter blues. In general, the winter blues bring lower emotions, fatigue, sadness, trouble sleeping, and lack of motivation due to the shorter days and colder months. Some people experience more subtle energy changes, and for others, it will be more prominent. About 15% of people in Canada experience the winter blues.1
Winter blues vs. seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year, usually in the fall or winter. About 2-3% of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime.2 Symptoms include significant mood changes and a lingering sadness that can drastically hinder a person’s daily life for over two weeks.3 Unlike the winter blues, SAD requires a diagnosis from a professional. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, we recommend seeking further guidance from a counsellor.
So, why are we more likely to feel this way in the winter? Let’s take a look at the science.
Why do you feel more tired in the winter?
Less sun exposure
The sun rises later and sets earlier in the winter. When the days are shorter and you’re more inclined to stay cozy inside, you’re less likely to get enough sunlight and vitamin D as a result. The body produces vitamin D from sunlight, which plays an important role in both immune health and mental health. Vitamin D affects serotonin levels in the brain, which helps to regulate our mood and happiness.4
Higher melatonin production
When we experience shorter days and a lack of sunlight, the body’s sleep-wake cycle, also known as circadian rhythm, is likely to be affected. Circadian rhythms get disrupted during the winter because our bodies produce more melatonin, the hormone that controls our ability to sleep.5 The brain’s pineal gland produces melatonin in response to darkness. Therefore, when nights are longer in the winter, the body has higher levels of melatonin overall. This helps explain why we feel more tired in the winter months.6
Now that we’ve identified some causes of winter fatigue, let’s look at how you can boost your energy and maintain a healthy mindset, even during the darkest months.
5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
1. Let in the light
Make light your friend this winter! As soon as you wake up, open the curtains to gradually let in the morning light. Studies have shown that morning light exposure leads to greater alertness, better sleep, and improved mood.7 8 Try to arrange your indoor environment to receive maximum light and spend some time outdoors during the day. The colder weather can make it less appealing to go out, but even just five to fifteen minutes of midday sun exposure is enough for the body to produce sufficient vitamin D levels.9
Alternatively, try light therapy if your geographical location doesn’t offer as much sunlight. Full spectrum light boxes or light therapy lamps are great tools to have in your home or work environment because they mimic natural light.
2. Time your workouts
Incorporating fun workouts at the right time will help to benefit your physical and mental health this season. Exercise is proven to release stress and promote feelings of wellbeing because it releases positive endorphins in your brain.10
The time of day you work out is important, particularly during the winter months when your sleep-wake cycle is more affected. Exercising in the morning while exposed to light can help you feel more energized during the day and tired when it’s time to fall asleep in the evening. Timing your workouts for the morning enables you to maintain a healthier sleep-wake cycle.11
Exercising outside is a win-win combination. Here are some fun winter physical activities to get your heart pumping:
- ice hockey or ice skating
- walking or running
- sledding (walking with your sled uphill is a great workout for your legs)
3. Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Quality, uninterrupted sleep helps us feel our best. Most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But consistency is key here—going to bed and waking up at the same time every day optimizes your circadian rhythm. A healthy circadian rhythm promotes restorative sleep, immune health, alertness, and good mental health.12
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy sleep schedule:
- Optimize your sleeping environment: Set up your bedroom to be quiet, cool, dark, and free from electronics.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Set aside 30 minutes before going to bed for some light stretching, journaling or a hot bath.
- Limit caffeine: Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm.
4. Eat mood enhancing foods
Nutrition and mental health are connected. A balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein sources promotes overall health and wellbeing. But it doesn’t just stop there. Certain foods can also affect your mood by providing a variety of important nutrients.
Some mood enhancing foods that are both healthy and delicious include:
- Bananas: a rich source of vitamin B6 that helps to regulate blood sugar and increase feel-good hormones.13
- Blueberries: a good source of antioxidants, known as flavonoids, that can help enhance your mood.14
- Salmon: rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lessen symptoms of anxiety.15
- Dark chocolate: a good source of antioxidants that helps to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone.16
- Yogurt: full of probiotics to help promote a healthy gut, which can positively affect your mood.17
5. Try a supplement
Taking a multivitamin or supplement can help to promote good health benefits depending on your needs. Let’s take a look at some of our favourites for this season:
To compensate for less sunlight:
One way to get vitamin D support is through a supplement.
Taking 1 daily tablet of Sisu Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy immune function, and builds strong bones and teeth.
For better sleep:
Sisu Melatonin helps to increase total sleep time and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep.
Sisu Stress Rescue uses the relaxing effects of L-Theanine to temporarily promote relaxation.
Sisu Magnesium Relaxation Blend helps to temporarily promote relaxation by combining magnesium with GABA and L-Theanine.
Have a healthy winter
Confronting the winter blues is not easy, but by following these tips, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy winter. Prioritize your mental health and remember to be kind to yourself this season.
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