What is spring fatigue?

Vad är våtrötthet

A lot of people living in the north feel good about spring, but an estimated 15% of us experience the opposite: spring fatigue. In this article we will explain spring fatigue. Why it happens and how you can prevent it.

What is spring fatigue?

A lot of people living in the north feel good about spring, but an estimated 15% of us experience the opposite - spring fatigue. It is probably due to our internal clock having a rough time adjusting to sunlight during the day. No wonder it can get a little confused for a while, before it adjusts to the new normal! Our internal clock simply struggles to understand what time it is based on daylight. Our bodies then try to adjust and adapt until it seems right. If the internal clock receives conflicting information, for example when it gets daylight at irregular times of day. It can lead to a kind of "jet lag" that causes fatigue.

Most people report spring fatigue in March and April. In May it usually gets better for most people. Then our internal clock has probably adjusted to the increase in daylight. It is then stable for a few months, before daylight is dramatically shortened again during autumn. When daylight decreases we do not seem to be affected in the same way, which is understandable. The thing that really seems to confuse the internal clock is increased daylight, not the lack of it.

Prevent spring fatigue and feel more alert

Common advice for preventing, or reducing, spring fatigue is to do things that support your internal clock. It can be to get a lot of daylight and follow a routine, preferably combined to get the greatest effect. Be quite regular, both in how much daylight you get, and when you go to sleep. It is said that for some of us, "spring fatigue" is mostly due to the fact that we are inspired by the newfound light of spring. We stay up longer, fill our evenings with fun activities. We go to bed too late and simply get too little sleep. It can also be due to vitamin deficiency after a long northern winter. So make sure you set aside enough time for sleep, get all your vitamins, and get that daylight so your body can reap the rewards. If you do, you have a better chance to enjoy spring!

Do you tend to suffer from spring fatigue and would rather struggle to prevent it than struggle to have it? Then February Is the best time to start doing the following.

  • REGULAR DAYLIGHT 
    Get at least 30 minutes of daylight every day as regularly as possible. Preferably in the morning or before lunch. It is especially important to get daylight early in the day for evening people.
  • REGULAR WAKE UP TIME
    Get up at the same time every day of the week (max +/- 1h). Don't sleep in for too long, and keep to your bed time routine for as many nights as you can.
  • STAY ACTIVE
    Be more active than before! All activity increase is helpful for those of us who get a little too little exercise. See if you can get a heart rate-boosting workout for at least 5-10 minutes at a time for at least 150 minutes a week. Follow the advice on 1177.

What is social jet lag?

When your inner circadian rhythm does not keep pace with the sun, you can experience jet lag. It can just as easily come from flying to New York as from getting daylight at unusual times. It can also be sleeping until 12 pm on the weekend when you usually get up at 6 am during the week (both activities give a 6 hour "time difference"). Trying to go to bed and get up at the same during the week and weekend is usually especially tough for evening people.

Jet lag that come from irregular sleeping habits is usually called social jet lag. Spring fatigue can be equated with a kind of social jet lag. It is usually newfound daylight, rather than irregular sleeping habits that affect our circadian rhythm. To stabilize your circadian rhythm and counteract (or cure) social jet lag. Regularity and good habits go a long way in making sure that we get the daylight we need, when we need it. It seems that the most important thing is to have good morning habits, both in terms of sleep and daylight. Although there are a lot that point to the benefits of also going to bed at the same time every night. Keeping to +/- 1 hour in regularity both during weekdays and weekends is considered necessary in terms of not having a negative effect on the inner circadian rhythm.

In addition, it is not just our "main internal clock" that is affected. Research that was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2017 showed that our cells and internal organs have their own clocks and keep track of time. This allows them to adjust to being active or resting at different times when they are usually needed. If we don't stick to a routine, our organs internal clock is thrown off. They may have been set to rest when we eat or to activity when nothing is happening. This affects digestion, fat storage and a lot of other processes that researchers are currently mapping.

Too little sleep can also explain spring fatigue

It is said that for some of us, "spring fatigue" is mostly due to the fact that we are so inspired by the new found light of spring. We stay up longer, fill our evenings with fun activities, go to bed too late and simply get too little sleep. It can also be due to vitamin deficiency after a long northern winter. So make sure you set aside enough time for sleep, get all your vitamins, and get that daylight so your body can reap the rewards. If you do, you have a better chance to enjoy spring!

If you belong to the 2-3% who may experience that spring fatigue leads to depression, where you feel depressed almost all the time, every day, and/or have lost joy/interest in most things you usually like, then contact your health center/doctor. They can help you assess your symptoms and provide you with care than can be good for you).

About the Author

MSc in Psychology from Uppsala University, PhD from University of Oxford in workplace stress. Author of five books. Previously researcher at Karolinska Institutet, and Head of Clinic, deputy CEO and director of the board at Stressmottagningen.

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