By Scott Frankel
The 28 mph gusts of wind blew 20-year-old Lindsay Naso’s golden hair across her eyes outside of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s (UIUC) undergraduate library. The junior in community health was the only person who occupied the library’s benches at 2 p.m. in the overcast, 53 degree weather. “The only reason I’m sitting outside is because I’m waiting for my friend,” Naso said. With the rain drizzling and cold air circulating on this mid-October Wednesday, the weather is beginning to make its season change more noticeable.
According to the Illinois State Climatologist’s Web site reports, the previous week had sunny conditions with 88 degree weather. However, according to Weather.com, a storm over the Midwest was predicted to bring high winds and snow over the course of the week – Wednesday being the first day.
Naso said that this was the worst day of fall she has seen thus far. “[The weather] makes me want to sleep more,” Naso said, “but unfortunately it is midterm week and there’s a lot more work to do.”
In an interview conducted via email with staff physician and medical director at UIUC’s McKinley Health Center, David Lawrance, MD, it was reported that students’ sleep patterns were less affected by weather than by their late night habits. “For most people,” Dr. Lawrance said, “I think it has more to do with their sleep hygiene than anything else. That is, even at the risk of sleep deprivation, there are many reasons to stay up late and many students do, even if they must get up early. Eventually, it catches up.”
Naso said that the weather doesn’t affect her as much as the pressure to do well on exams. “Stress affects me more than colder weather,” Naso said.
Alexander Golbin, MD, Ph.D., Editor in Chief of Sleep and Health Journal and author of the book Sleep Psychiatry, believes that rainy, dark, or cold days do affect people in some way. “People become more depressed in the morning of the season change,”
Dr. Golbin said.
Naso, who doesn’t suffer from depression or seasonal disorders, said she felt the weather had a way of bringing her down. “I definitely didn’t have any motivation to go to my 8 a.m. class,” Naso said. “I think all people generally feel more sluggish and sleepy during the colder months.”
According to Dr. Lawrance and numerous international authorities, depression and other seasonal disorders are largely due to the smaller amounts of sunlight throughout the day. “Phototherapy appears to have a beneficial effect for some people and represents a large industry in the northern countries,” Dr. Lawrance said.
Naso admits that the hiding sun indeed has an affect on her daily activities. If the weather had been nicer, she added how she would drive to a nearby arboretum or even hang out after class by the quad. “I feel a lot more tired,” Naso said. “I want to stay inside.”
Despite commonality of lethargic feelings, Dr. Golbin said that many individuals not only adapt well to the changing season but look forward to it. “For people who are very healthy, [the weather] will have little affect. Our body adjusts to any changes,” Dr. Golbin said. “Usually people adapt by changing their efficiency of sleep.” Therefore, season affects people almost as much as it affects the weather.
Illinois State Climatologist Web site: http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/atmos/statecli/
Alexander Golbin, Ph.D.: Editor in Chief- Sleep and
Health Journal, Editor in Chief- Sleep Psychiatry
Lindsay Naso: Junior, Community
David Lawrance, MD: Staff Physician and Medical Director at McKinley Health Center