By: Shaila Anjum
Most of us are well aware of the phenomenon that is ‘winter blues’ or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is often caused by shorter daylight hours and change in weather causing depressive symptoms. But did you know, when we return to an extra hour light as the weather gets warmer in the spring, there is also something called ‘spring fever’?!
In the 18th century, Spring Fever was first heard of as life threatening (Janson, 2016). It was one part of the deadly disease scurvy that occurred due to low levels of vitamin C in the winter months (Janson, 2016). This happened due to the inability to grow and consume fresh produce in the winter months (Janson, 2016). By the end of winter, people showed a deadly depletion, which at the time they linked to spring, as the depletion would start in winter but show significant signs by the beginning of spring before produce was once again available to consume (Janson, 2016). A tradition of receiving an orange in your Christmas stocking ensued in an attempt to keep away the deadly disease during winter months (Janson, 2016). Now, since we have fresh produce available to us year-round thanks to trading, other symptoms have been revealed as stemming from spring fever.
Spring fever has several physiological symptoms we are aware of, such as allergies, migraine headaches, insomnia, etc. (Tunajek, 2011). Other symptoms may include:
Increased Heart Rate & Restlessness - Just the feeling of alertness due to more daylight hours and a decrease in melatonin is enough to get our hearts racing and get us feeling a little more restless in the spring and summer months.
Appetite Loss - Appetite loss isn’t entirely a negative thing for most during the spring. It often results in eating healthier and lighter due to fresh produce and sweet fruits available (Broussard, 2015). Like many of our mammal friends that hibernate in the winter, we tend to stuff ourselves as we stay in majority of the time.
Libido - Science suggests there may be a reason for increase in our libido functions related to increase in endorphin release and decrease in melatonin (Nicholson, 2007). Research has shown a 20% increase in birth rates in early spring, which means conception in late spring (Nicholson, 2007). Women and men have both shown higher rates of fertility during this time as well (Nicholson, 2007). Some research has been done on animals and shows parallel effects of higher fertility and conception rates during spring time than in winter (Nicholson, 2007).
The Science Behind it
For the most part the symptoms are expressed positively, as they increase the functions of your libido, hence why it is not commonly spoke of (Fox News Network, 2011).
Vitamin D - Though spring fever is not an actual diagnostic term, an increase in vitamin D from the sun light is linked to mood elevation (Fox News Network, 2011). The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is known as our biological clock and is also where melatonin is secreted (Nicholson, 2007). Melatonin secretion in the brain decreases with more light which means the desire to sleep in during winter months subsides.
Endorphins - A decrease in melatonin keeps us awake and active. We often channel this alertness into more physical activity which releases endorphins, which are our ‘feel-good’ hormones (Fox News Network, 2011). Exercise has been known to work as effectively as antidepressants (for some) due to the release in endorphins.
Needless to say, spring fever is no longer considered deadly or even close. BUT, there are some individuals that find the transition hard depending on the intensity of their symptoms. The restlessness can translate into difficult levels of anxiety for some, as they feel like they need to be doing more or feel behind in life. The appetite loss for some struggling with eating disorders can be a difficult time and affect levels of anxiety and depression. So not all these ‘positive’ symptoms prove to be a blessing to everyone. The important thing to remember during the early days of spring is to take it easy. Try to slow down and take it day by day. Continue your short-term goals, whether it be having a consistent diet during the transition from winter to summer, or to remember to not be too hard on yourself. As I always like to acknowledge, things are often easier said than done – however, they are not impossible! So keep striving to be the best you can be and remember: resilience is the key because failure is inevitable … but how many times you get back up is what counts! 😉
Broussard, M. (2015). 6 spring fever symptoms to watch out for now that winter is finally gone for good. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/70421-6-spring-fever-symptoms-to-watch-out-for-now-that-winter-is-finally-gone-for-good
Fox News Network. (2011). Spring fever 101. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/health/spring-fever-101
Janson, P. A. (2016). News: when spring fever was a real disease . Emergency Medicine News,38, 1. doi:10.1097/01.eem.0000484361.70086.35
Nickolson, C. (2007). Fact or Fiction: “Spring Fever” is a real phenomenon. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-spring-fever-is-a-real-phenomenon
Tunajek, Sandra. (2011). Spring Fever: Restlessness, renewal, and rebirth. AANA Journal, 65(4), 28-29.