Since I got back from holiday, the weather has been decidedly v. British October. The thing that people that don’t live in the UK don’t understand about the weather here is that it isn’t necessarily the cold that is horrible, it is the unrelenting greyness. Especially in winter. In fact, due to the combination of cold grey clouds and the fact that it is dark from 4pm to 10am in the depths of winter, you can pretty much rule out seeing the sun AT ALL from October through May.
I wish with all of my being that this were not true.
When I moved here, I put up with this crap for exactly a couple of months before quickly investing in a SAD light. I’ve had it for years now and use it pretty much every day for half of the year. I have an Apollo GoLite, which is now sold (in an updated version) as the Philips goLITE. As far as SAD lights go, I like it. It is small and has served me well since 2004.
I’m not sure I have Seasonal Affective Disorder since, basically, I am tired and pissed off all year round. But I do tend to be more irate in winter (largely because of the weather, but whatever).
So does a SAD light make a huge difference for me?
I wish I could say yes for certain, but the thing is I am always tired and doing something like staring at a blue light isn’t going to cure that. However, I do think it makes dealing with the unrelenting gloom a bit more bearable. Maybe. I view it as a micro-holiday that I take every day.
I do think it perks me up a bit and I can say that I certainly usually feel a bit better and more human after using the light. It’s a like a cup of tea for your brain, I suppose. I certainly feel more energetic after using it, so even if it isn’t a miracle cure for me, it works enough to keep me using it year after year.
The way it works is that the blue LED light emitted by the SAD light mimics the light emitted by the blue sky on a sunny day. This blue light, when it enters your eye, triggers your brain to get rid of any excess melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone, and your body produces it in the evening to get you tired for bed, and then the sun helps burn it off to wake you up. Without the sun to burn it off in gloomy weather, you feel groggy and cranky…so that’s where the SAD light comes in. It literally is a blue sky substitute to cheer you up emotionally by causing your brain to perk up biochemically (confirmed by studies).
Overall, I’m glad I have my SAD light and I think anyone having to deal with crap winter weather should invest in one. However, I think the reason that it isn’t a cure-all for me is that it can’t cure the deep-rooted resentment that I have against living somewhere that forces me to have to stare at said SAD light in order to feel human. To be honest, the only cure for me would be to move to sunnier climes. Tsk.