Fall Back: How The Changing Season Affects Your Body
For many, Autumn conjures visions of, weekend football, fresh hoodies, and crisp weather. Grocery stores are abundant with the harvest of autumn crops, temperatures become more comfortable (before getting unbelievably uncomfortable again) and routines become more normalized as work ramps up and the kids are back to school. As idyllic as this all sounds, autumn is a time of change for both the earth and our bodies.
Energy - As fall advances, the days become shorter and we are exposed to less sunlight. This throws off our circadian rhythm and can disrupt our sleep cycles. You may find yourself sleeping longer than you were in summer. In fact, according to a study from Harvard Medical School, people average about 2.7 more hours of sleep a night in October, which is the highest of the year. This need for more sleep is called hypersomnia, and yep, it’s exactly the opposite of insomnia.
Since we take in less ultraviolet rays during the fall, our bodies become confused and need more sleep to recover. However, with less ultraviolet rays, our circadian rhythm is thrown for a loop and the quality of our sleep suffers. So we may get more sleep but we still wake feeling fatigued.
The solution? Try to get some fresh air and sunshine if you can and allow yourself the extra time for sleep. If you can, short naps can be a great way to pick up your energy levels in the middle of the day.
Mood - The change in season often means a change of schedule for many of us. School is back in, work schedules can start to pile up and it can feel like our life is out of our control. Those suffering from anxiety often report a spike in symptoms during autumn, and you can probably relate.
Lack of sunlight can also create depression-like symptoms in a lot of people. If you feel like you don’t have enough energy, feel blue or feel an increase in negative thoughts, you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Yes, this is a thing. And yes, it spells sad — what an acronym!
The solution? Getting as much sunlight as you can will have a positive impact on those suffering increased anxiety and will help raise levels of vitamin D in the body, shown to help ease symptoms of SAD. Adding adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, saffron and bacopa to your routine can help the body adjust to stress and anxiety and help support your mood through the changing seasons.
Health - Fall signals the coming of winter to our bodies. Evolutionarily speaking, winter is the lean time when the earth is barren and food is scarce. Our bodies are hard-wired to want to consume more energy dense foods like fats and carbs and our metabolism can slow down in an attempt to store this energy for the coming winter season.
So if you find yourself elbow deep in a carton of Ben & Jerry’s or craving a huge bowl of pasta, know it’s a normal reaction to the season. But if you feel like you are getting out of control with food or gaining some unwanted weight, here are some solutions:
- Focus on in-season, fresh produce like sweet potatoes, squash, apples, dark leafy greens, beets and comforting foods like homemade soups and stews. Feed your body plenty of the good stuff and your cravings will be satisfied while feeding your body nourishing food.
- Stay active. Even with shortening days and cooler temps it’s important to stay active in the fall. Try to switch up your regular routine to account for the changes in appetite and energy.
- Make sure to drink plenty of room temperature water. Dehydration can be more common in cooler months as the lack of hot weather can fail to signal our thirst.
Written by Tyree Hicks-Perkins