Sunshine and the Aspie: When the Weather Affects Our Neurology

When I woke up this morning I still felt exhausted because I had not fallen asleep until after 2 a.m. last night. I have been having tremendous difficulty falling asleep lately (again): enter the famous Aspie insomnia. 

This morning, however, unlike the rest of the mornings this week I did not wake up to grey skies or the pitter patter of rain drops, the sunshine was shining. In fact it was streaming through the curtains in my room, and although I was exhausted, I looked forward to getting out of bed to see the daylight—the sunshine.

I am aware that grey dreary days make many people feel “gloomy” or “sleepy,” but for me the problem goes far beyond feeling glum. For me, my entire body is affected, my mood, my energy, even my outlook on life itself is affected. I guess you could say that my moods quite literally changes with the weather.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as Winter Depression, is amongst the host of diagnoses I have received over the years. It is true that wintertime has always brought on depression for me, and the summer sunshine brought happier days. The problem is that even Seasonal Affective Disorder did not explain the drastic change in how I felt from day to day and sometimes even from hour to hour.

I had not considered, until I read something in a book by William Stillman called Autism and the God Connection, that this could be connected to my autism.  Stillman stated that some people with autism are so sensitive that they can sense even the smallest ionic changes in the weather, and it wreaks havoc on their neurology.

That’s when it clicked! I have not read the entire book, but it is on my to-do-list mainly because this particular statement has resounded so strongly with me. I can feel the slightest change in weather pressures, humidity, and temperature, but again, never realized that all other people do not feel the same things.

I am literally uplifted and energized when the sun is shining and drained when the sky turns grey—even if little times had passed between the two. The slightest change in humidity affects my breathing, and temperatures changes have always wreaked havoc.

My issue with temperature is a part of my sensory processing disorder, or deregulation is this case. With my sensory processing issues, comes a temperature regulation issue. I cannot adjust to the changes in weather. I am easily overheated when it gets warm, cannot stay outside during very humid times, and even need to rest, relax, and cool down after a warm bath or shower.  It takes my body a very short period of time to overheat, and an extended period to cool down. 

The same is true for cold weather—I cannot adjust well. Despite how warmly I dress, I will immediately be frozen down to the bones, and have a difficult time warming up. Sometimes after long periods out in the cold it will take hours of shivering indoors to “warm my bones.” Feeling cold down inside my bones is the best way I can describe the feeling, but again, I just always assumed that everyone felt this way—apparently, they do not.

Part of my temperature regulation problem is that when I finally “cool-down,” it is usually followed by a quick shivering chill and a feeling that I need to warm up. And when I try to “warm up my bones”, it is usually followed by a period of overheating—very annoying.  I live in a state of discomfort, many times putting on a sweater or blanket one minute, and throwing it off in a sweat the next.

I had never considered that these sensitivities could have been in any way related to autism—now, I know that they are. I am super sensitive to all kinds of stimuli—including ionic weather changes.  Maybe I need to move to Hawaii…



12 thoughts on “Sunshine and the Aspie: When the Weather Affects Our Neurology

  1. I have a horrible time regulating my body temperature and I think sometimes I also confuse emotional upset with temperature-related discomfort. It’s hard to tell whether being too hot/cold makes me cranky or being overloaded and cranky makes me more likely to notice that I’m too hot/cold.

    Hawaii would be great though! 🙂

  2. This seems true for me too. Most of the depression struggles I have had are seasonal. However, even temperature and weather changes from day to day can mess me up, and there are more than enough ways already for my sleep to get messed up (and even quality of sleep with how my temperature fluctuates in my sleep). I noticed that this was much worse for me when i was on various pills of birth control– apparently i am sensitive to the hormones. I notice too, I have a hard time when it seems the room or place I am doesn’t have good convection, airflow, or the air just doesn’t mix (also doesn’t help that I have asthma and temp changes upset it). It’s like walking in between the freezer aisle and a non refrigerated aisle full if boxes and cans and the differences. (As if the extra grocery store stimuli of children screaming, the beep of everything getting scanned upon checkout, people playing cart bumper cars with you, or the “kerrang!” of people tossing large items into their cart was not enough). Also doesn’t help weather-wise that I live in Missouri– you know how our weather is renowned for being all over the place (like our freak snow storm we got yesterday and it is… MAY!, even if it was 80 the day before) There are many variables that affect me too though. I am more likely to get overloaded not just from adjusting to the outside conditions, but if I didn’t sleep well the night before or if I am hungry.

  3. I experience many of the weather and temperature issues that you do. You described them very well. I get cold very easily & overheat often, and experience the opposite of each afterwards.

  4. I have searched the web for these exact symptoms and never found anything validating until this but I knew! I knew it was this exact problem and way more than SAD because it happened in any season. In fact, here on the Canadian prairies we get bright sunshine all day bouncing off the snow on most winter days so if I stay inside I tend to do better!;)

    • Seasonal Affective Disorder was the first thing I was told, but I knew too, that there was so much more to it. (That was before my ASD diagnosis!) Now, everything makes more sense.

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  7. I’ve just read your article and I am identical to your situation. The trouble is, SPD tends to be seen as a psychological ‘disorder’ rather than a legitimate medical issue. It is seen as an excuse for little participation in life by those who take our shortcomings for granted. It’s taken years to become aware of where my problems have come from. Now I am enlightened, unfortunately, I still have no idea what to do about my situation.

    • Hi Frank, I have to admit that it drives me crazy that even autism is diagnosed out of the DSM and as you put it in “psychological disorders,” when both autism, and it many times accompanying SPD are very much neurological. The lack in defining terminology is deceiving giving others the impression that we can just “get over” our issues, and recover. The truth is that our SPD is just as much a medical condition as someone with diabetes, other invisible issues.

  8. Pingback: The Weather Affect On Autism – An Actually Autistic Adult

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