COVID-19 Resource Center

Review the latest information on visitor policies, safety procedures, vaccines, and more in the COVID-19 Resource Center.

General purple background
5 surprising ways shorter days affect your brain

5 Surprising Ways Shorter Days Affect Your Brain [Infographic]

And How You Can Adapt

Feeling sluggish? The culprit might be your circadian clock, which takes cues from how much light your body is getting in the course of a day, and tells you when to be asleep and awake.

Shorter winter days mean less light exposure, causing changes to your circadian rhythm.

“Our body, including all of our organs, is aligned to match the environment. It’s a beautiful symphony orchestra,” says Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, Northwestern Medicine neurologist, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine professor and chief of Sleep Medicine in Neurology. “It’s all coordinated through the master pacemaker, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain.”

A disruption to the circadian rhythm can affect a number of functions in your body.


Infographic about how shorter days affect our brain 

SAD Facts

If you can’t shake the winter blues, consider consulting your physician about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that affects 5 percent of people in the U.S. SAD typically starts in fall and goes away in spring.

To meet the criteria for SAD, your seasonal depression must last longer than two years. Women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with SAD.

SAD symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Overeating and craving carbohydrates
  • Trouble focusing
  • Social withdrawal

SAD treatment may involve:

  • Light therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Vitamin D supplementation
  • Medications prescribed by a psychiatrist

Feeling hungry, foggy and sluggish is a normal response to shorter days. If you continue to feel this way, consider talking to your physician about SAD and your treatment options.

Download 5 Surprising Ways Shorter Days Affect Your Brain [Infographic]