Welcome to the dark side. Oops, I mean welcome to winter! The darkest months of the year.
We humans have learned to control so many things – but the darkness of winter is not one to be controlled. We manage through it with artificial lighting, carb loading, crankiness, and disturbed sleep.
Luckily, I live in a part of the country where the sun shines most days, and snow is not a regular occurrence (we have one snowplow for the entire county), allowing my family and me to get outside for fresh air and a dose of Vitamin D on the regular… even when it’s frigid outside.
But, those who live in the northern parts of the United States may not be as fortunate and struggle with the side effects of winter darkness.
What’s to blame? Our modern lifestyle has bumped up against our body’s internal clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. The season’s shifts in light and temperature influence our circadian rhythm, leaving us physiologically more tired in the winter. And even small changes (like forced sleep deprivation of even 1 hour) triggers stress to your brain and circadian rhythm that disrupt your metabolism (and by default, your weight) by:
Throwing off your hunger and satiety hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin which causes increased
cravings that can lead to overeating.
Increasing insulin resistance that turns your body into a fat-storing machine.
Decrease neurotransmitter regulation that can cause depressive style symptoms and decreases motivation and drive. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder and it is in fact real.
How can you manage the winter blues?
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Keep bedtime and wake-up times consistent on all days and reduce intake of caffeine and alcohol.
- Get a healthy dose of bright, full-spectrum light first thing in the morning to keep you feeling your best. Take a few minutes to get outside into the sun for at least 10 minutes everyday or invest in a light source that mimics full-spectrum sunlight.
- Eat balanced meals with whole foods veggies, protein, and healthy fat to balance blood sugar. This type of breakfast will give your body nutrients that will help energize you throughout the entire day instead of the fast high and subsequent drop that consuming coffee and a doughnut.
- Learn how to harness your stress and use it to your advantage.
- Get regular physical exercise of some type every single day.
Fortunately, the dark winter months do transition into the renewal of spring so there’s a light at the end of this dark tunnel. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your health by employing these strategies and feel free to let me know which one you like the best.