Does Spring Fever Really Exist?


I’ve got a fever and the only cure for it
is more SPRING. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, I’m Cristen Conger of Stuff Mom Never
Told You in today for DNews. The first day of spring on March 20 is just
around the corner, which is probably an exciting prospect for many U.S. residents who have
experienced a bitterly cold winter. In fact, January 6th was the coldest day of the 21st
century thus far in the United States, and there’s already a Wikipedia entry for Early
2014 North American Cold Wave. And while the physiological and psychological
effects of cold, gray winter, such as Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, are more readily understood,
what do we know about the science of spring fever? Is that anecdotal ants-in-the-pants restlessness
for warm weather and sunshine a real thing? Chronobiologists who study the interaction
between people’s circadian rhythms, mood and behavior say YES, spring fever is a bona fide
phenomenon largely thanks to the relationship between sunlight and a part of the brain called
the hypothalamus. You see, longer spring days mean we’re exposed
to more daylight, setting off a chain reaction from the light-sensitive retina in our eyes
to the hypothalamus, which also happens to be the neurological home of the suprachiasmatic
nucleus — better known as our biological clock. The hypothalamus then signals the brain’s
pineal gland to slow production of melatonin, a hormone associated with regulating sleep
cycles, while increasing production of the so-called “happiness hormone,” serotonin.
As a result, people often experience a springtime boost in energy, confidence and sex drive. Men, in fact, even have higher sperm counts
in the spring than winter, which is probably why ob-gyns also report a springtime spate
of unplanned pregnancies — a baby-making pattern also reflected among other mammalian
species The additionally colorful and fragrant sights
and smells of springtime can also amplify its enlivening effects. But not everyone experiences this seasonal
jolt positively, as things like insomnia, car crashes and criminality also exhibit springtime
revivals. Spring also is associated with an increase
in depressive and suicidal behavior, a trend that psychiatrists still haven’t been able
to conclusively explain. Different theories echo the aspects of spring fever generally
associated with sunnier moods: more socializing and restless energy. On a brighter note, one study out of the Virginia
Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics suggests that basking in the spring sun is
good for us, and the more time we spend outside, the better our moods — which, I’m sad, to
report, will likely take another weather-related dip once hot temperatures begin to crest in
the sweaty summertime. And if you’re in need of a mood boost to get
you through until spring is finally sprung, DNews is giving away a DVD box set of Discovery
Channel’s “Life on Earth” collection, which includes its stunning documentary series “Life,”
“Nature’s Most Amazing Events,” “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet.” To enter, you have to be a US resident who’s
following @Dnews on Twitter. If you are, just head down to the first link in the description
below and click it to tweet out this video. We’ll give you til Wednesday and we’ll announce
the winner on Thursday. Thanks for watching – be sure to subscribe
here for more DNews and you can also check out my show at youtube.com/stuffmomnevertoldyou.

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