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Why are we more stressed in summer?

September 19, 2018

Levels of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, appear to be higher in summer than in winter. The result, perhaps unexpected, comes from a Polish study and seems to be in contrast with all the scientific literature that claims that depressive states benefit from greater solar radiation. However, it remains true that people who enjoy a basic situation based on psychological balance may suffer from seasonal variations, with particular reference to the summer period, suffering a strong stress not only because they are tired of months and months of work or intense study. Then the alteration of the sleep-wake rhythm and the exit from the daily routine play a role. We talk about this issue with Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of Exercise Medicine at Humanitas.


When abandoning the routine generates stress

The authors of the study recruited a group of young women, all medical students. For two consecutive days, they measured their cortisol levels and found that during the summer they were higher than in the winter. Why?


Summer is not only a relaxing time, but it is also the period during which the established rhythms of daily routine change, when the social network is less restraining and where a reorganization and new planning of schedules and activities is required. In a nutshell, getting out of the routine can be pleasant and necessary but it can also generate psychosomatic stress.


The alteration of the sleep-wake rhythm

In summer, the sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed by the heat and suffers from the extension of the hours of light, with the well-known consequences in terms of psycho-physical well-being. Defending against heat can also be a problem itself: just think of the infamous air conditioning “regulated” at home or in the office, with unusually low temperatures and relationships that crack because of the different perceptions of temperature between individuals. In summer, in short, even the temperature is itself a source of stress.


“It depends on how one lives the summer – concluded Lucini. The heat certainly has a strong impact on our health. Changes in temperature stress our bodies. Especially if the holiday was very active, returning to work risks being a moment of greater stress and instead of feeling recharged and rested, we feel more tired than before.

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