Light therapy is key to banishing the winter blues that affect up to 24%* of us as we face shorter, darker days following next Sunday’s clock change, says light therapy specialists Lumie.
On Sunday 25th October we gain an hour’s sleep as the clocks go back by an hour. While we initially benefit from lighter mornings, we soon find it harder to wake up as the days become shorter and the mornings darker. The dark winter evenings further impact on our internal body clocks to the point where about a quarter of us experience the winter blues and 7% * within that group suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can be disabling to the point where you struggle to function normally.
London-based IT consultant Jenny Scott Thompson falls into that 7% but it took 6 years of crippling winter depression before her GP finally diagnosed her condition and prescribed light therapy and winter sun holidays:
“When I first got my light box, it made a huge difference to my energy levels and mood – suddenly I could be productive all winter long. It was only after that change that I realised how much of a change it was, and how bad it had been - that not everyone is used to spending half the year hating yourself and wanting to die.”
Jenny still has to cope with a strong hibernation instinct in the winter, comfort eating and oversleeping being two key symptoms, but she’s happy to report she no longer feels as tired at 3pm in winter as at 2am in summer.
“The Lumie light box made such a dramatic difference in my life. I now use wake-up light Lumie Bodyclock Starter for the mornings and have a compact light box called Lumie Brightspark on my desk, both at home and at work. I also take one with me when travelling. Work have been very supportive about me using a light box in the office and when travelling for my job.”
Circadian clock expert Dr Victoria Revell at Surrey University explains the two ways in which light therapy can help you to cope with dark winter days:
“A brightly lit environment has been shown to stimulate your brain resulting in an increase in mood and alertness. Also, a lot of people in winter, because they’re not getting that early morning light cue, drift later in time making it harder for them to get up and get going and that obviously has a knock on effect. You can use early morning light or a dawn simulator to shift your body clock back and keep it synchronized so you find it easier to wake and get up in the mornings.”
Jenny volunteers for the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), the UK’s only non-commercial support organisation for SAD.
*Data based on an ICM Online Omnibus Survey conducted for Lumie in 2007/8 in which 2,000 people in the UK were polled.
Full case study for Jenny Scott Thompson and hi res photos provided on request.