Autumn conjures visions of golden foliage, cozy sweaters, crisp weather and spiced apple cider. Grocery stores are abundant with the harvest of autumn crops, temperatures become more comfortable and routines become more normalized as work ramps up and the kids are back to school. Understanding How Autumn Affects Our Body is important. As idyllic as this all sounds, autumn is a time of change for both the earth and our bodies.
It’s a time to look inwards and honor the changes that the season brings.
Understanding How Autumn Affects Our Body
As autumn advances, the days become shorter and we are exposed to less sunlight. This throws off our circadian rhythm and can wreck havoc on 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, the highest of the year. This need for more sleep is called hypersomnia, and you got it right, it’s exactly the opposite of insomnia.
Because we take in less ultraviolet rays during the day in autumn, 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 up 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. Be kind to yourself and understand that it might take a few weeks to get back on track,
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.
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).
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 season.
Be kind to yourself and make allowances for the change in your body; don’t push yourself too hard with your to-do list, schedule plenty of time for rest and self care.
Fall signals the coming of winter to our bodies. Evolutionally 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 matcha ice cream or craving a huge bowl of pasta, know it’s a normal reaction to autumn. 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 deliciously satisfied while feeding your body wholesome and nourishing food.
- Stay active. Even with shortening days and cooler temperatures it’s important to stay active in autumn. Try to switch up your regular routine to make allowances 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.
Fall is a time of change. Use this time to turn inwards and reflect on the changes the year has brought so far. Use your meditation, journaling and self care practices to help reflect on all the amazing changes around you. Honor the changes in the season and within yourself.