A Long Winter’s Nap: How Hibernation Helps You

Season changes in weather also affect how our minds and bodies work.


| January/Febraury 2009



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Curling up under the covers restores our bodies in winter.

In the depths of winter, do you find yourself wanting to sleep more, eat more and curl up by the fire? We often behave as if seasonal changes are irrelevant to a modern lifestyle. After all, in many ways, civilization is all about overcoming nature. But our bodies are evolutionarily old and remember how weather once dictated behavior. In winter, we hunkered around a fire, repairing tools and telling tales that wove our culture. We packed our bodies close and slept long.

Now we act as if it’s always summer, demanding consistently high productivity at work and at home. But our bodies require cycles of activity and rest—daily, annually. When days are long, our metabolisms and energy levels amp up.  In winter, we produce hormones that make us sleepy, giving us time to restore body, mind and soul.

And there’s nothing wrong with that cycle—except that we work against it, forcing ourselves to operate at summer levels even in winter. No wonder so many people feel depressed at this time of year!

How SAD is that?

You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. You might even suffer from it—as many as half a million U.S. citizens do, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The fact that most clinicians address the issue via technology (daily exposure to high-intensity electric light) and/or medication provides an interesting perspective on our time. But some have noted that SAD’s symptoms have more in common with hibernation than with clinical depression.

Could SAD be a result of modern living’s demand to move at top speed all day, every day—and mostly indoors, disconnected from the sun’s cycles? Could we give in to a bit of hibernation?





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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