Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder

This may seem a little off topic, but not really.  I mean, Portland in winter is DARK!  And, I know that some of you feel the effects as much as I do.  Besides, what's off topic in a blog like this anyway?!  Nothing!

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.  Brilliant!  Pun intended!

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!


  1. I'm so glad that's working! We both should have gotten one years ago. I can usually sleep through the sun coming up though. :)

  2. I am a big fan of light. I have noticed a world of difference in my mood and overall health since being here in California and soaking up some vitamin D. Becky is feeling the difference too! I am glad to hear that the light therapy is working for you.

  3. Yes, getting out from under the cloud cover is a good thing. But, come summer we'll be fine up here and it'll be roasting down there. There's always something to complain about, isn't there? Or something to feel grateful for...

    Glad you are feeling better, Gager. And, Zoe, would you like to try one of these lamps? I will definitely send you one! Let me know!