I spent a good chunk of my teenage years complaining that I hated winter, and that I wished it could be summer all year round. However, I swiftly realised that I would be miserable for half of my life and began to look for the positives in those long, cold, dark winter months. Finally, winter and I have a better relationship since I discovered mulled cider and puff-pastry mince pies. But for some, the change in season can mean they find it extremely difficult to wake up on dark mornings, making them feel exhausted or triggering a significant change in their mood.
Up to 1 in 50 people in the UK are thought to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can have symptoms similar to depression, and is caused by low levels of serotonin or melatonin. These chemicals are produced as a result of the eyes detecting sunlight and sending messages to certain parts of the brain. Severe cases can be treated with anti-depressants, but drugs aren’t the right option for everyone.
Those wanting to combat the winter blues or just find rolling out of that lovely, warm bed a monumental task, can try various forms of light therapy. You can either try a powerful light box which uses bright white ‘full-spectrum’ light. Full-spectrum light does not give out much damaging UV light, just the helpful rays. Spending time with your light box can be time consuming and requires a fair amount of commitment. Also, the results may not be felt instantly.
You could also try a dawn simulator which can really help eradicate that early morning struggle to wake up and face the day. It works by gradually increasing the light intensity in your bedroom just before you would usually wake up, as if the sun was rising. Exposing yourself to this bright light triggers signals from your retina to your brain, which in turn stimulates the production of chemicals which lift your mood making you feel more alert and energetic throughout the day.
There are numerous manufacturers who have designed light boxes and wake-up lights to help those who struggle with SAD or the winter blues. Philips have released a range of Wake-up Lights, which not only help to wake you up gently in the morning, but also feature dusk and coloured sunrise simulation, as well as natural sounds and FM radio. So whether you find it hard to nod off, or rise and shine, a Philips Wake-up light should help to lift your spirits! Prices start from around £70.
Lumie are another brand which has designed a slightly more affordable range of ‘bodyclocks’ which include night and security options and adjustable fade times. They also have models designed to aid sports training, such as the Lumie Bodyclock STARTER and Bodyclock ACTIVE, both for under £100.
- Alison Wright