06 January 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s not just the winter blues, it’s the winter blues on steroids.  It’s the winter blues that have been working out and pumping iron and are coming after you.  It’s the winter blues that take no prisoners.

Yes, I suffer from this disorder.  It’s prevalent in the Pacific Northwest and in other places that are either very cloudy or very far north.  Lots of research has been done in places like Norway.  Go figure.

One of the therapies for SAD is the use of light.  There are two main directions you can go with light therapy.  One is the full spectrum light box that you sit in front of for a period of time every morning.  Many people use this while having their morning coffee and reading the paper (or checking their Faceboob page).  The other method is the dawn simulator lamp.  I use both.

My wonderful, sympathetic, loving partner got me both types of lights for Christmas.  What perfect gifts!  We had two Christmas’ this year; the first with my daughter early in the month and then again with T’s family on the actual date.  T gave me the light box on the first occasion and the dawn simulator lamp on the second.

I used the light box for a couple of weeks and while I couldn’t feel a dramatic difference I think it might have helped.  The odds were not in favor of success, though.  My kid had made a short visit and while it is always fantastic to spend time with her, the saying goodbye part leaves me down in the dumps for awhile.  I’m still using the light every morning because… why not?  Anything that will help seems like a good idea.

The dawn simulator lamp is the most wonderful, brilliant, inspired creation in the history of lamps!  In the history of getting up early!  I LOVE IT.  For reals.  I have been using it for two weeks and can give it a solid recommendation.  It has already had a noticeable and positive effect on my mood.

Here’s how it works: you set the alarm for the time you want to get up – in my case 4:45 am.  A half hour before that time the lamp turns on and starts gradually getting brighter and brighter.  When it gets to the alarm time, it is at full brightness and it also makes sound.  Mine is set to chirping birds!  You can choose a buzzer or the radio as well, but the birds are charming.  I begin to wake up about 10 or 15 minutes into the cycle but don’t feel pressured to jump out of bed.  By the time the lamp is at full brightness I feel ready to get up, although sometimes I’ll lie there for a few minutes listening to the chirpy birds (who, by the way, get louder and louder).

The only downside to the miraculous lamp is if you have a bedmate who gets up after you and can’t sleep through it.  Fortunately for me, T sleeps through most things and even if the light bothered her she wouldn’t want me to stop using it.  When I get up, I prop up a couple of pillows to shield her face from the light.  The first couple of times I turned the lamp off when I got up, but that just made the darkness feel more oppressive. Now I leave it on while I take my shower and only turn it off after I am dressed and ready to go downstairs.

I have definitely noticed an improvement in my depression and I feel confident in saying that it is a direct result of the dawn simulator lamp.  I should have bought one years ago, but I have one now.  If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, I highly recommend that you get one of these.  Best money spent on mental health ever!


greg said...

I'm glad that light works for you - I also heard that taking Vitamin D helps with SAD.

The good news is that we are offically getting more daylight hours every day so the worst is behind us. YAY

Jen said...

We use a dawn simulator alarm too and love Love LOVE it! Huzzah to mental health... I better go for my run now, speaking of mental health!

the only daughter said...

I too, am glad the lamp works for you. Chirping birds way better than a lumbering, chest sitting, orange cat. Most days, I presume. :-)

ditto on the YaY

8thdayplanner said...

I always thought chocolate was the best money spent on mental health.

Fortunately, I can wait for dawn's natural light to wake me. 4:45 am is just inhuman. No wonder you're depressed.

LeLo said...

I use the blue light while drinking coffee in the morning, and it has helped regulate my sleep so much better. I have not tried the dawn simulator, but your vote of confidence in it sure makes it tempting.

I have tried fish oil, but I can't handle the flavor. This winter I am taking St Johns Wort after reading so many recommendations for it.

I'm with you about SAD: getting outside as much as possible when the sun actually comes out helps greatly! February is the worst of months for me....I am bracing myself....

liz said...

So glad to hear the lamps are working for you.

Other than the cold and snow, the darkness is probably the thing I hate the most about winter. It's just always dark. When I walk the dog in the morning, it's dark, when I leave the office, it's dark.

Like greg said, we are getting more daylight hours so the end is definitely in sight! :)

thEbalzie said...

I suppose because I've lived in Houston for the past 37 years, SAD is not something I think about. In fact, I never knew the actual name of it. Coincidentally, my brother and sister in law were visiting last weekend and she suffers from this. Luckily it was warm and sunny while they were here. And here you are talking about it.

It's kinda like buying a car and then you see similar cars all over the place when you never noticed them before.