Sleepiness at the start of spring? While it might seem counterintuitive that you feel fatigued right at the time the sun is rising earlier, the birds are chirping, and the world is waking up from winter, springtime lethargy is a surprisingly common thing.
Springtime lethargy is the common name for a condition called spring asthenia, a form of seasonal affective disorder wherein seasonal changes result in physiological changes in our bodies. Unlike “spring fever,” however, wherein the change of the season fills people with extra energy and excitement, people who experience springtime lethargy find themselves unusually groggy and even depressed—feeling more like they should hibernate than plant a bunch of spring flowers and repaint their house. The good news, fortunately, is that it’s not cause for major concern, it doesn’t involve medication, and it only lasts a couple of weeks at the most.
Understanding why it happens and what you can do to improve your condition is essential. Below, we tell you all you need to know.
Why Do We Experience Springtime Lethargy?
There are different reasons why some of us live through this down period every time spring comes around. The following are the most common:
- Daylight Saving Time (DST): Having an extra hour of daylight in the evening may be a welcome change, but waking up an hour early certainly isn’t. When the official time changes, our bodies fall out of sync with our reality and need time to adapt to the new sleep-wake cycle and the early sunrise. While many have no issue with that, others take a little longer to adjust to the change, causing us to feel drowsy and tired for a few days.
- Hormonal Changes: During winter, our bodies work with minimal vitamin D and serotonin, two hormones that give us energy and improve our mood. We also have an abundance of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. When days get longer, our bodies have to adapt to the exact opposite: Synthesize more vitamin D and serotonin and less melatonin, which is very energy-consuming and can take days or weeks for our bodies to readjust.
- Allergies: According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, if you suffer from nasal allergies, you likely struggle with sleep quality problems, too. And if that’s not your case, chances are it’s your partner’s. Their sneezing and sniffling, tossing and turning, can easily keep you up at night or prevent you from reaching deep and restorative sleep, causing you to feel sleepy during the day.
- External Noise: Spring’s arrival means longer days, which means more people out in the streets earlier in the day and later at night. It also means that birds are happier and chirpier. When you’re trying to savor those last 30 minutes of sleep before your alarm goes off in the morning, the last thing you want to hear is a world filled with chipper birds and chipper people starting their day at the (now much earlier) crack of dawn.
Because we’re all different, we all adapt to these seasonal changes at different paces. However, there are a few things you can do to try and speed up the process.
How to Beat Springtime Fatigue
Although sleep asthenia is nothing to worry about, it’s still temporarily debilitating and quite a nuisance. Nobody wants the afternoon slump to last all day! Luckily, there are simple ways to minimize your fatigue and encourage your body to adjust to the new rhythm fully.
Air Out the House More Often
Unless you suffer from seasonal allergies, you shouldn’t be afraid to keep the windows open for a little while every day. Airing out the house gets rid of the stale indoor air and removes dust mites hanging around your home.
The best time to air out your house is in the morning right after you wake up. A few minutes with the windows open brings in much-needed oxygen to fuel the brain, giving you a nice little kick to start the day. You can even practice some breathing exercises at the window when the fresh air is flowing in nicely, inducing a state of calm and wellbeing in your mind.
It may sound counterintuitive, but oversleeping doesn’t lead to more energy. On the contrary, studies have shown that sleeping more than you should can exacerbate feelings of depression, which are not uncommon among sufferers of seasonal affective disorders.
For that reason, you should aim to get enough quality sleep to feel your best, which is usually around 7-8 hours every night. The temptation to stay in bed for longer might be hard to resist, but the rewards will be worth it.
Spend More Time Outdoors
When the sun starts to shine brighter and temperatures begin to rise, we can’t help but want to be outside all day. Yet, those that experience spring lethargy find it challenging to part ways with the pillow.
Making the effort to spend more time outdoors during the day can make it easier for us to adapt to the new daylight cycle and feel less sleepy. There’s a biological reason for that: When we’re exposed to natural light, our bodies produce less melatonin and more serotonin, keeping us awake for longer and in a better mood.
Maximizing your time outdoors is as easy as taking a lunch break outside, walking to the office, or even going for a quick morning walk to get your day started. If you have a busy day with limited time to spend outdoors, strive to get bright morning sun on your face for 10-15 minutes in the morning. Intense and early bright sun exposure helps reset your body’s internal clock.
Exercise More Frequently
We know: You’ve heard this tip one too many times. If sports aren’t your thing, committing to moving even for just 15 minutes every day is a good start. Exercise stimulates serotonin (the feel-good hormone) production and reenergizes you, making it a great way to start your day.
Going for a bike ride, getting busy with the jump rope, or doing a YouTube workout video at home, even if you don’t have any equipment, can do wonders for your mental and physical health, especially when spring lethargy is onto you. If you decide to workout outside, even better, as you expose your body to the warm sunshine and fresh air.
Don’t Rely Exclusively On Coffee
Gasp! How could one possibly survive a very long and tiring day without at least four cups of coffee? Well, it’s not easy, but you can do it!
The thing about coffee is that eventually, you crash, and when you’re trying to adapt to a new rhythm and feel energized naturally throughout the day, it’s not very helpful.
Instead, why not swap the second cup of joe for a cup of matcha or some refreshing yerba mate tea? They’re both great sources of invigorating nutrients that can keep you awake for the rest of your day without making you feel drowsy once the effect wears off. Coffee is king, but there are other energizing options worth trying out there.
Eat More Nutritious Foods
One of the great things about springtime is the increased availability of fresh and natural produce. Fruits taste better, and veggies aren’t as dull anymore. Salads are back on the menu!
Listen to your body and give it what it needs, whether it’s something as refreshing as a nutritious juice or satisfying as a big, nutritious salad. Whatever is in season will do the trick—Mother Nature knows what’s best.
Aim to get all the protein, carbohydrates, and fats your body needs, and try to eat smaller portions multiples times a day to keep your energy going throughout the day.
Springtime lethargy is no fun; it’s debilitating and sometimes can last for one too many weeks. Making minor changes in our lifestyle can help the body adjust to a new rhythm to match the daylight cycle and make you feel your normal and best self quicker. Any of these tips can make a difference. Good luck and happy spring!