It’s Fall and you can feel it. The summer fun has come and gone and now you’re back in your Fall routine. You arise in the morning, but you don’t feel rested. You’re eating regular meals, exercising, drinking your usual amount of coffee, but you’re still exhausted. Others around you might say that your mood has changed, that you look a little tired or that you are, dare we say it, cranky. The Seasonal sleep slump is a well-known period of transition between the summer and fall seasons, that leaves our bodies feeling a little confused. People often report feeling tired, groggy, irritable, having trouble concentrating, yawning frequently or experiencing brief periods of dosing off. If you are one of these people, today’s blog is just for you. We’ll be sharing the causes of sleep slump, simple tips to overcoming it and getting back to feeling like your energetic, happy self!
What Causes the Sleep Slump:
Many factors are at play and are the causation of the sleep slump. Some of which include changes in circadian rhythm, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight, poorly balanced meals, lack of sleep and stress.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These are driven by lightness and darkness and affect all living things. When it is light, humans tend to be awake, working and performing their daily duties. When it is dark, humans are typically resting and recharging after a hard day of work. The circadian rhythm is part of the body’s internal clock and is responsible for the well-known sleep-wake cycle. When this cycle changes, be it because the sun is setting earlier, you are working later or you are exposing yourself to light from artificial sources such as electronics, our cycle is disrupted. When we stimulate ourselves to stay awake longer, our cycle shifts to later, causing us to feel lethargic and tired in the earlier hours of the morning the following day. Our bodies need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. It is natural for humans to rise with the sun, so when we stay up past our bedtime or wake up late into the morning, our bodies sense the shift and we usually reach for an extra dose of caffeine to keep the tiredness at bay.
Lack of Daily Movement:
Our bodies need movement. We are not designed to sit for long periods of time at a desk or work 12 or 24-hour shifts. We are designed to walk, run, climb and move. We crave movement because it helps to expend extra energy, while simultaneously filling our energy tank. Exercise improves sleep, enhances concentration, reduces anxiety and depression, but most of all, it allows our bodies to reset and start again in a refreshed and energized manner. If we skip a workout or walk and continue to be sedentary, our body feels the shift in energy and is more tired as a result. Studies have continually demonstrated that working or studying in 25-50 minute periods, followed by a short 5-10 minute break for two to three cycles, is optimal for focus and concentration. The next time you are sitting down to work set your timer for 50 minutes, follow it with a 10-minute mental break, repeat twice and then go for a walk. You will feel recharged, motivated and inspired with new ideas when you sit down for the second half of your day!
Poorly Balanced Meals:
We all wish we could eat macaroni and cheese, pizza and burgers for the rest of our life, but realistically, we know that’s not sustainable or healthy. Meals need to contain three components – protein, fat and fibre. Protein, coming from either animal or plant-based sources, fat coming from nuts/seeds, oils, dairy, avocado or fatty animal proteins and fibre coming from starchy carbohydrates, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables. Meals need to have these components to result in balanced blood sugar. Consuming solely carbohydrates will result in one’s blood sugar spiking, insulin being secreted at unhealthy levels, encouraging fat to be rapidly stored in adipose tissue, and one’s energy levels dropping shortly after. Fats, on the other hand, may keep you full for hours, but they do not provide the sugar or proteins our bodies need to function optimally. Last but not least, protein, is required for building and supporting lean muscle mass, improving one’s immunity, suppressing hunger and cravings and supporting the growth of hair, skin and nails. When you’re sitting down for your next meal, ensure that you have all three components in balanced ratios to create a blood sugar-balanced meal that will keep you energized for hours!
Lack of Sleep:
This goes without saying, if you lack sleep, you will be tired and in a sleep debt – constantly trying to catch up on the sleep that you are lacking. Adults require 7-9 hours of deep, restful sleep every night. Anything less than that, or poor quality sleep caused by caffeine or alcohol, will result in feelings of lethargy, tiredness and often times moodiness. Just like children, set a “bedtime” for yourself and try to start winding down an hour before you want to fall asleep. Avoid screens before bed, sleep in a cool room in the darkest setting possible.
The word that makes every adult cringe slightly and reminiscence of the last stressful period in their life. Stress can make everyday tasks seem impossibly hard and exhausting. Couple stress with increased amounts of caffeine, lack of sleep, diminishing sunlight and poorly constructed meals – it is the ultimate recipe for disaster.
In today’s blog post we have covered what the Seasonal Sleep Slump is and provided with a few helpful suggestions to how to overcome it. In our next blog post, we will be digging into the details and offering specific routines, tips and supplements that you can use to put the sleep slump behind you for good!