The nights are still long, temperatures have plummeted and flu season is very much upon us. From shorter days with less sunlight, changes in hormones and potential nutritional deficiencies, there are so many factors that can contribute to feelings of exhaustion at this time of the year. But here are a few simple ways to put the spring back into your step!
Move more, yawn less
Regular low-intensity workouts help boost energy levels in people suffering from fatigue. In a study, subjects trying low-intensity exercise, like leisurely walking or bike riding, reported the biggest drop in feelings of fatigue compared to the group doing more intense exercise. You should keep moving and ensure you continue exercising regularly, as the endorphins released during activity will help give you a much-needed lift. Regular exercising should also help you achieve a better night’s sleep so you feel more energised in the morning.
Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise strengthens your immune system, so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly, helping them to seek and destroy infections. This boost only lasts for a few hours, which is why it’s good to exercise consistently.
Let the light in
February is the worst month for sleep. Research found that it takes longer to nod off in February than any other month. This can certainly contribute to people reporting lower energy levels in February than any other month of the year. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same hour every day, so you get a good length of rest. Avoid sleeping too much at the weekends, because it might result in you actually feeling even more tired and sluggish.
Check your room temperature, too. If it is too high, it can make you feel like you didn’t get enough sleep, even when you have slept a proper amount of hours. And if it’s too cold you might wake up several times during the night. Sleep experts recommend bedroom temperatures to be between 20-22C degrees. Even if you are sleeping well, you may experience fatigue as a result of increased levels of melatonin, because of lack of exposure to sunlight. To help regulate your melatonin levels, spend as much time outdoors in daylight as you can – take a walk at lunchtime, or make sure the blinds are open if you sit near a window at work.
Boost from within
For most of us, the colder it gets, the more we crave carbs. It’s true that if we’re shivering, we burn more energy to keep warm, but as we spend most of our time in heated environments, most of us don’t need the extra calories. Comforting drinks and foods are often higher in fat, carbohydrates, and added sugars, and they can have a detrimental impact on energy levels, which can end up making you feel worse. Swap in healthier alternatives, like sweet potato, lentils, veggie soups and porridge. It’s also important to include a vitamin D supplement in your diet as our bodies are unable to create enough at this time of year. Food sources such as eggs, oily fish, spreads and fortified cereals are helpful to include in your diet, but a good quality vitamin D3 supplement is more effective. Nutritional deficiencies can cause low energy levels and exhaustion.