The cold, gray days of winter can leave you feeling lethargic. It can be hard to stay enthusiastic and focused in the face of zero-degree wind chills and a dearth of sunlight.

At this time of year, it's more critical than ever that you eat well and maintain good sleep habits in order to power through the season in fine form. Here are some expert suggestions:

Look for Light

Lack of sunlight due to shorter days can be a real energy sapper. "Especially once we turn back the clocks, we have a lot less natural light time," says Dr. Shelby Harris, director of behavioral sleep medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Bright light is extremely powerful for helping with mood and energy as well." Don't get a lot of natural sunlight in your home? Harris suggests flicking on as many light switches as you possibly can. You can also buy a light box, a device that emits sunlight-mimicking light, and have it shine on you for a half-hour during breakfast (see your eye doctor before using a light box). People who have to rise before dawn might also benefit from a dawn-simulating alarm clock, which gradually emits increasing levels of light in the bedroom in the short time before it rings.

Work Out to Banish the Wearies

"Exercise is even more important in the winter," Harris claims. Since it's natural to crave carb-heavy, fatty comfort foods as the temperature drops, working out will combat the sluggish feelings and weight gain that may occur if you indulge at the table. Weight gain can also lead to snoring, which interrupts sleep—hence, less energy overall.

Eat for Energy

Those carbs you're craving? You can have them—just make sure they're healthy ones. Go for whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. A plate of spaghetti may seem like the perfect comfort lunch on a blustery day, but it'll likely leave you fighting to keep your eyes open a few hours later.

Care About Your Indoor Climate

If you're shivering under the covers, you're not going to get a restful night's sleep. You don't have to turn your bedroom into a sauna, but it should be comfortable. Harris recommends keeping the room between 65 degrees and 72 degrees—any higher or lower and you're likely to awaken. Got a bed partner who's always too warm? Add an extra comforter to your side. And don't forget to put socks on before you turn in so your cold feet won't keep you up.




Interview with Dr. Shelby Harris, Montefiore Medical Center, New York.