Lots of people suffer a bit of a low during the winter months, some can experience a more pervasive recurring depression which begins as the days get shorter known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I wouldn't go so far as to say I suffer from SAD but I can definitely sometimes feel a greyness and heaviness about winter months if I don't look after myself!
There's been increasing research into the impact the lack of sunlight has on our circadian rhythm, our melatonin and seratonin levels. There also may be a link with vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine drug and around 80% of our vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun. Unfortunately holidaying in the sun over winter isn't an option for most of us. There are very few natural sources of Vitamin D in our diet (fatty fishes like tuna and mackeral contain Vitamin D - not my favourite foods unfortunately!) and lots of dairy, juice and cereal products are fortified with it. The National Institute of Health recommend 600 IU (15 mcg) and suggest that those suffering from SAD have difficulty producing Vitamin D. So it might be worth considering a supplement.
I've been curious about SAD lights for a while; a couple of clients have told me they've found them useful and one particular client of mine (who suffered from SAD) who swore by using a daylight lamp was most upset that she found herself having to save for a second one as her daughter had "pinched" hers and she missed it it terribly. The idea is that light boxes (using traditional full spectrum white light or the newer blue light) effectively replicate natural sunshine and give a positive effect to those lacking in sunlight exposure. Many sufferers get benefit from as little as half an hour use a day.
I was more recently reading about a Sunset/Sunrise Alarm clock and purchased it somewhat spontaneously when it was on offer! I'm one of those who often make comment about the dark days being miserable and I personally absolutely hate mornings! ....The latter makes for an interesting combination in our household as my other half is a bright and breezy kind of person in the mornings, ready to "sing" good morning and to have a full blown conversation, where as I on the other hand prefer not to speak to anyone for a while; I function, but on a quiet peaceful level with minimal engagement with others!! So the dark and dreary mornings don't really help my transition into "The real world"! Plus I'm naturally a night owl not a morning bird so really not a great combination!
My "investment", was in a Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500 which is a sunset and dawn simulator. The company Lumie have been around for sometime and supply light boxes to the NHS so I was hopeful! I wondered if this alarm clock might help me to be a bit more sociable and ready to rumble on these winter mornings... and thought it would be interesting to see if it did have an affect on my mood too?
The idea of these simulator lamps is that, using a daylight bulb they gradually come on simulating a gentle sunrise (and in reverse, a sunset for bedtime). The one I bought also has the option to use a diffuser for essential oils which, with my interest in essential oils, of course appealed to me too ....I will have to play around with some combos for sleep and waking up to use with it!!
Well!!! The results after a month's use? I'm not saying I've suddenly become the great conversationalist in the mornings BUT I've definitely found it easier to crawl out of bed. Actually I have been throwing my duvet off with some determination and shifting into 1st gear with relative ease! Which is very bizarre! Quite the opposite of begrudgingly emerging from the warmth at snails pace and having to sit for 5 minutes contemplating the next move off the bed!
I also really like the sunset mode - it allows me to read a little before going to sleep but the gradual reduction in light makes reading gradually a little harder as it lowers and this, rather than being irritating, I found made me drop off nicely without reading excessively and not having to turn a bright light off, then having to settle down. It made a nice gentle transition from wakefulness, reading and into sleepy zone!
So, so far I'm a fan. I feel it definitely starts and ends my day nicely and according to the manufacturer the light "resets your internal body clock each day to create a healthy sleep cycle, help you get up and feel alert, refreshed and energetic all day" .....I'm not sure I've experienced being energetic all day!! But I DO feel brighter in the morning. Has it improved my mood? Difficult to say.... I don't think I'm feeling too miserable about the miserable days, as I am starting my day off a bit brighter and that has to have a knock on effect doesn't it?! It took me a little time to get to grips with the programming on the light but I'm pleased with the results so far. And I like the remote control it comes with.
Though technically its not a full blown SAD light the manufacturer has registered this model as a Class 1 medical device. However if you suffer from SAD www.sad.org.uk recommend using a Dawn Simulator followed by a SAD Light treatment about half an hour after you wake up as the most effective way to treat SAD.
There are others available but you can purchase the one I've been using here plus also some essential oils for the diffuser! ....and of course if you want some help with a personalised oil blend, get in touch!
The other thing of note is that, since I now have this as my alarm clock, I've been leaving my phone out of the bedroom (which I was previously using as an alarm) and I can highly recommend doing this, as distancing yourself from the interuptions our mobile phones can bring, has to be a good thing!)
I will definitely continue to use my Lumie Bodyclock! Perhaps with prolonged use I'll become the morning conversationalist my other half has been hoping for in me for 25 years!.....
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Integrative Psychotherapist, Nurse Specialist (Mental Health), Mum, Youth Worker, Trainer.......