Sept. 22 marks the first day of autumn 2016. I know, I know. Pumpkin spice lattes, North Face jackets, leaves changing colors, Halloween, yada yada yada. Although all of those things are worthy of being excited over, it’s important to think about the seasonal transition and the effects it may have on our bodies and our minds as we make our way from the warm temperatures of summer into the windy, cool tones of fall.
Have you ever heard of sleeping too much? There’s a term for that. It’s called hypersomnia and this is very prominent in the fall months, especially October. (My birthday is in October so that explains a lot.) Because the days are shorter during this time, we are not around sunlight as much as we are in the summer. When this happens, our eyes frequently interpret our days as nighttime.
Sunlight gives our bodies vitamin D. In autumn, sunlight is cut short and because of this, we’re not getting enough vitamin D. The lack of vitamin D creates fatigue (which is also why we may be sleeping too much.) So hold on tight to your sleep schedules for a few weeks, because they’ll be going through a tough time.
However, something to keep us awake as our bodies adapt to the changing of the season is exercise. People often associate exercise to summer but being active year round is essential for boosting our immune systems, reducing the risk of illness during the fall season. Hiking is a great exercise for fall. With hiking, you are getting the advantage of a good workout while admiring the beautiful autumn scenery. Another activity you can do in the fall is go for a bike ride. Find a path full of colorful foliage for a more pleasurable and picturesque experience.
If we’re not exercising in the fall, we’re most likely bundled up in our favorite blanket watching Halloween movies and eating pumpkin-shaped cookies. We often blame those cookies for a sudden weight gain in the fall. Before you start a war on these sweet snacks, consider that it may actually be due to melatonin. Darkness provokes melatonin. This is significant because melatonin also acts on our appetites. In addition to this, we also develop a desire for fattier foods in autumn more so than we do in the summer. Still, autumn puts many of us in a “funk” and we have this psychological drive to boost our moods. Eating usually aids in making us happy, right?
Speaking of mental health, our mental health is just as important as our physical health during a seasonal change. If you find that you often become “moody” in the fall, you may be onto something. There is a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is when one’s mood changes with the weather. Mayo Clinic Staff say it is a “type of depression” that “begins and ends at about the same time every year.” Most people with this disorder start having symptoms in the fall, continuing up until early summer. Mayo Clinic Staff also notes that it is not to be brushed off as “seasonal funk” or “winter’s blues.” People with this disorder experience imbalances and fatigue, as well as a decrease in concentration. Keep this in mind if you know a friend, family member, etc. who may have this disorder.