Is spring fever real? It certainly feels like it!

April 2, 2021 Swedish Health Team

Spring fever may not be a diagnosable medical condition, but research is clear that more sunlight and warmer days do have an impact on your mental and physical health.

  • Exposure to sunlight can boost production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that can lift our moods.
  • Natural light also helps regulate your sleep cycle, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.
  • The switch from cold, dreary weather to warm, sunny days is enough to make anyone feel hopeful for adventures coming our way.

[4 MIN READ]

After months of cold, dark days, it’s finally happening! Birds are singing. Trees are budding. Flowers are sprouting. Days are getting longer.

Spring is in the air.

If the crisp, warm air and blankets of green grass are putting a bounce in your step – you’re not alone! In fact, you may have “spring fever.”

While you won’t really get a fever, you will experience the mood-boosting power the seasonal change can bring. Discover what spring fever is and the surprising health benefits that come with the change of season.

What is spring fever?

For centuries, “spring fever” has been visually represented by cheerful people skipping through flowery fields, or even someone tackling spring cleaning with a renewed sense of energy. However, the term has also been used to describe a wide range of ailments (some not so great). In fact, it’s been associated with swollen joints, loose teeth and even scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency). Although your doctor may not be able put a clinical label on your condition or side-effects that are derived from spring fever, that doesn’t make it any less real.

Fortunately, today the positive signs are often more prominent in association with spring fever, like:

  • You have more energy
  • You’re getting a better night’s sleep.
  • You’re in a good mood more often.
  • You’re having a hard time focusing (especially when the weather is nice).

The science behind spring fever

It’s not just a coincidence that your mood improves, and you experience other benefits of warmer weather, longer days and the bright sunshine. Researchers have long studied the correlation between weather and health. For example, take seasonal affective disorder. Scientists know that the change in weather can trigger an alteration in your mental health. Just as the dark, cold days of winter can make you feel depressed, the bright, warm days of spring help boost your mood.

The biggest reason for the new pep in your step? More sunlight.

Sunny days can help boost you mood

Remember the joy of running outside on a warm, spring day as a kid? The sun warmed your skin. The breeze brushed against your clothes. You could smell the grass getting greener by the second. Luckily, those same benefits still apply. And it all comes down to sunshine.

Researchers believe sunlight triggers your brain to release serotonin, a hormone that helps boost your mood (among other things). Here’s how it works: Sunlight passes through your eyes and stimulates your optic nerve. Then, the optic nerve sends a message to the part of your brain that produces serotonin. As serotonin is released, it sends signals to nerve cells throughout your body, offering up instructions on a wide range of functions – from managing emotions, digesting food, helping you sleep and even controlling your motor skills.

So, lather up in sunscreen and head outside for fresh air and a feel-good day.

Longer days help you sleep better

Turns out it isn’t just the fresh air and extra energy you’ve burned outside that gets you ready for a good night’s sleep. Melatonin (a hormone that tells your body when it’s time to unwind for the day) works hand in hand with serotonin to balance your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock that signals sleep and wakefulness.

After a day spent in the sun and fresh air, your body will produce melatonin as the sun starts to set. Melatonin is released in a rhythmic cycle – with your brain sending out more at night. It travels from the brain through your bloodstream and signals to your body it’s time to rest and relax.

Simply put – the more sunshine and fresh air you enjoy, the more restful your sleep will be. And, you’ll experience all the benefits that come with it – from a better mood to improved eating habits and much more.

The change in seasons may help you feel excited, hopeful

There’s no denying that this past year has been a challenging one. Now, warmer weather and sunny days might be helping you feel hopeful once again. This is especially true as COVID-19 vaccines become more and more available and the promise of (safely) seeing loved ones seems closer in reach than ever before.

The truth is, everyone needs something to look forward to and these spring days are allowing people to come out of their homes to enjoy the fresh air and make plans for what the future may hold. So, whether that takes shape as a deep spring cleaning around your house; treating yourself to new spring clothes, or even planning a trip with vaccinated family and friends, it certainly seems like the possibilities will abound in the warmer days ahead.

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Find a doctor

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Find out the latest updates on how we’re handling COVID-19.

Related resources

COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

Help your child weather the pandemic with the fine art of self-expression

How to keep your kids active during spring break

Family fitness at home

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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