What Is Spring Fever and Is It Real?

As the sun returns and the days become longer, we may feel an intriguing sense of motivation attributable to spring fever. But what causes this surge of energy at the start of the year, and why might this manifest for some as an overwhelming feeling of restlessness? Spring fever is a phenomenon encompassing a range of physical and mental health symptoms experienced by many alongside the change of seasons.

Understanding spring fever

Though it was thought to have started as a colloquialism, the exact origin is unknown, but the term spring fever can be found in literature dating back many centuries. Spring fever refers to common changes to individuals' mental and physical health, which, as the name implies, are associated with the onset of spring. In many cultures, spring signifies a sense of renewal and new beginnings. However, it also relates to the effects of spring on one's mental and physical well-being.

Is spring fever real?

Although spring fever is not a recognized medical condition, there is a great body of research that considers how seasonal changes affect our health, mood, and behavior.

Research demonstrates seasonal changes in human immunity and physiology. One study outlines the understanding behind annual rhythms in health and well-being, while another identifies evidence for circannual rhythms in mammals.

Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced through direct sunlight exposure on the skin. Changes to vitamin D levels can have a significant effect on many areas of health, providing one clear example of the impact of changing seasons on physical health.

Spring fever symptoms

There are several symptoms related to so-called spring fever:

  • Increase in energy
  • Increase in lethargy
  • Fluctuations in mood
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Allergies or hay fever
  • Increased libido

The severity and duration of symptoms vary for each individual, heavily influenced by factors such as individual biology, allergies, or pre-existing medical conditions.

The science behind spring fever

Rather than being attributable to one medical condition called spring fever, it is important to recognize the effects of spring on mental and physical health are caused by a range of individual factors, which each have their own scientific explanation.

Below, we will consider some of the science behind common symptoms of spring fever.

Increase in energy

Longer daytime hours result in increased exposure to sunlight, influencing the production of serotonin — a neurotransmitter associated with mood. This gives rise to feelings of happiness, increased energy, and even excitement, or a 'spring' in your step.

One research study examines the relationship between sunshine and serotonin production, concluding that sunshine may directly stimulate the production of serotonin through the skin.

Increase in lethargy

For some, spring can have the opposite effect, eliciting a state of fatigue, reduced energy, or feelings of depression known as 'spring lethargy.' Some researchers consider changes to hormone production might play a role here, putting a heavy strain on the body.

Although seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is commonly known for its peak during winter, SAD can actually occur during any season. Reverse SAD can mean depressive symptoms peak during spring or early summer. Research has identified spring as having the highest suicide rates of any season.

Mood fluctuations

Seasonal changes affect neurotransmitter levels, which regulate mood. Increased sunlight results in increased levels of serotonin, positively influencing mood. However, as previously mentioned, some individuals may experience a decline in their mental health during spring, with an increase in social obligation potentially contributing to feelings of anxiety throughout this season.

Restlessness

Commonly associated with the beginning of the year, restlessness can result in people feeling the need to cleanse, detox, purge, organize, or make adjustments to their daily habits and hobbies. Your circadian rhythm regulates your sleep-wake cycle, but it is heavily influenced by exposure to light.

Additional natural light and the 'spring forward' of our clocks can cause circadian misalignment, disrupting your sleep and resulting in feelings of restlessness.

Altered sleep patterns

Struggling to sleep? Altered sleep patterns are the result of increased sunlight on our circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone produced in darkness, which plays a significant role in how we sleep. Extended daylight hours delay melatonin production, while earlier sunrises may disrupt sleep, all of which affect sleep patterns. This, in turn, can have a knock-on effect on your mood, appetite, mental health, and overall well-being.

Changes in appetite

The change of season can directly influence appetite. Increased light exposure impacts hormone production, which influences both mood and hunger. Changes to preferences during the different seasons, as well as the availability of produce, can also affect what and how much we eat.

Difficulty concentrating

Difficulty concentrating in spring can be a direct result of the changes to our circadian rhythms. Increased light exposure may disrupt sleep, which may lead to fatigue. This, in turn, may have a negative impact on cognitive function, including focus. Seasonal allergies and temperature also have a part to play, potentially impairing your attention span and ability to think clearly.

Allergies or hay fever

Seasonal allergies and hay fever are well-documented occurrences during spring. The increased pollen count may trigger reactions such as sneezing, congestion, and itchy eyes. Seasonal allergies can once again have a knock-on effect on other areas of well-being, with one large-scale study finding that a history of seasonal allergies was associated with significantly higher odds of mood disorder, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Increased libido

One study examined the effects of seasonal variation on sexual behaviors in males, finding a significant increase in levels of testosterone during the spring and summer months, impacting sexual behavior. Longer days and warmer weather can lead to heightened mood and energy levels, which could also contribute to a higher sex drive during the season.

Tips to combat spring fever

By making small adjustments to your lifestyle or environment or introducing mental health strategies, you can take control of the effects of spring fever on your well-being.

  1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
  2. Limit screen time before bed
  3. Limit caffeine and sugar intake
  4. Make use of longer hours by exercising outside
  5. Maintain a consistent weekly routine, promoting a sense of structure
  6. Practice stress-relieving techniques such as meditation or mindfulness
  7. Declutter your home and your workspace to promote productivity

When to seek professional help

If mental health symptoms persist or get worse over a long period of time, become severe or debilitating, or interfere with your ability to carry out normal daily activities, you should immediately seek help from a healthcare professional.

Severe allergic reactions are characterized by rapid heart rate and severe swelling or difficulty breathing and can be fatal. Such reactions require immediate intervention by a healthcare professional.

FAQ

Key takeaways:


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.