Everyone gets a little bit downhearted when the clocks go back and we end up living without day light for a good proportion of the day. For several years now, I’ve wondered whether I have what is commonly known as the ‘winter blues’ – the medically diagnosed version would be SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Without a diagnosis, the two can be hard to distinguish, but my symptoms range from overwhelming tiredness through to a general low mood and horrendous lethargy. At it’s worst, I have to sleep in the day, just to get through it, and everything – even the smallest thing – seems like too much effort. It’s in winter that I have in the past lost too much weight; loss of appetite can be a symptom as well, as can over-eating. And, I miss the light. I can feel that it’s a physical missing feeling. If I’m very honest, I am far more irritible in winter; small things upset me that more than likely wouldn’t in the summer. It’s weird and it’s got progressively worse over the years. In truth, I don’t think I have full blown SAD – I think I have the ‘winter blues’ (although I think giving that name lessens the reality of it) and it’s something I don’t have any control over. In about September, I can feel everything slowing down and my energy dropping like a stone, and a general feeling of absolute dread because I know that winter is going to be so difficult.
So, this year, I’m not having it! I was offered the chance to use Lumie Lights and grabbed it with unseemly haste. Specialists in light therapy, Lumie lights simulate natural day light. I have one by my bed that comes on gradually (simulating dawn) half an hour before I want to wake up, and I know that in a half-sleep, before I’m fully awake I am turning my face towards the light before the alarm goes off. I also have a larger one that I keep by me whichever room in the house I am working from. Already, I love them. Now, having discussed it with the PR, it’s my feeling that if I did have SAD, I wouldn’t have had the relief I’m having so soon – it would take much longer than the 3-4 weeks I’ve been using them for a full effect to occur. But, I adore these lights. I love waking up knowing I’ve had light streaming over me for half an hour – it doesn’t even wake me some days. I don’t have that heavy dread feeling anymore about getting up on a gloomy day or in the dark. During the day, I’ve noticed that I’m not inclined to want to sleep – that any tiredness is just that, natural tiredness – and doesn’t feel like the same dragging exhaustion. For me, whether it is psychological or not, I cannot tell you how much better the lights make daily life. I don’t say it is a miracle cure but the days when I work from home and have my lights at my side are better days indeed. I cannot recommend these highly enough if you have that awful winter dread and exhaustion, although I will say that the dawn simulator light is an absolute bugger to set correctly.
If you get into the whole SAD business, it’s all about circadian rhythms being out of whack and how light affect the brain chemisty – it affects some people dreadfully. Lumie explain it much better than I can so here’s a direct quote from them:
“Nerve centres in our brain controlling our daily rhythms and moods are stimulated by the amount of light entering the eyes. As night falls, the pineal gland starts to produce a substance called melatonin that tells our body clock it’s night time; bright light at daybreak is the signal for the gland to stop producing this melatonin. But on dull winter days, especially indoors, not enough light is received to trigger this waking up process. Light is also linked to serotonin (also known as or 5HT), a neurotransmitter in the brain. This makes sense because low serotonin levels can cause depression and if you’re depressed it can be difficult to concentrate and complete what would normally be simple tasks. Evidence has shown that serotonin levels increase with exposure to bright light – SSRI drugs such as Prozac have the same effect.”
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Is it v expensive? I find SAD crippling:( I never really thought much about it until I moved to England and pretty much went bonkers. The constant greyness kills me. As does waking up in the dark and it getting very dark again by 4pm. I tried asking my GP about it and she was like “just be cheerful” (thanks lady, very helpful) and “look at pictures of the sun” (sure, and remind myself how much I miss it…). So I’ve always wondered if these things are worth investing in and what options are available. (PS I have changed GP but haven’t yet found the courage to bring up subject with new one!).
Peach, entry level is about £50. genuinely, i think it helps a lot x
I bought my Lumie Brightspark lightbox secondhand on eBay for around £50 and have found it incredibly helpful. I don’t have SAD but I have insomnia and using the lightbox each day is gradually helping to improve my sleep patterns.
I have had a Sunray 100 alarm clock (£60) for a couple of years and it has helped soothe my mornings AND evenings – I use the ‘reverse dawn’ before bed and have the light slowly dim over half an hour until it switches itself off. I don’t think that the alarm clocks are strong enough to count as light therapy/combat SAD but I find mine very helpful.
It’s possible to have a 30 day trial with some of their products. Their customer service is very good and they give you a two year guarantee (I know this because my Sunray needed fixing and I just got it back this morning!)
I must be the only person on earth who loves the darkness and night time. Going to the UK or anywhere in northern Europe in teh winter is a treat for me! Seriously! I lived in Texas for awhile and began to hate the sun. Maybe I need a different kind of therapy but I love having the day darken at 3pm. 🙂
i love the concept…but i sleep with an eye mask because i’m sooo sensitive to light waking me up that i need total darkness. so these are a no go for me despite how much i love the concept. well. maybe. i have to think about it!
Thanks for all the feedback and tips everyone, much appreciated! Will def look into getting something, it can be my Xmas pressie to myself:)
This was a fascinating read, thank you so much for posting about this.
great post, I find my skin suffers in the winter…
I just bought a full blown SAD lamp with 10,000 lux brightness. It’s just a normal lamp, not one with a timer or any fancy features. It was a big investment for me but I’m hoping it will help me with SAD and anxiety/depression which are worsened by my awful sleep routine.
I think these lamps need more publicity as a real alternative to SSRIs; surely the NHS giving them away would be cheaper than endless prescriptions?
Thank you for drawing attention to the subject xx
I’ve had a Lumie for about 4 years and couldn’t be without it. Every winter morning I’d wake up feeling like someone had smacked me around the head with a brick in my sleep, and I’d also have a hideous sore throat daily. It takes a while for the benefits to be seen, but it really does make a difference. I would recommend a Lumie to anyone who has the winter blues. Our version has the ‘white noise’ feature which is really handy if the neighbours are making a racket as we try to sleep.
My friend has this light and he said it definitely helps. Great post.
My friend has one of these and it was super expensive. I would love to try this out I hate alarms – they’re such a harsh way to wake up