One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Monday, November 01, 2010

No sun, no fun, November

(I think the title was originally Chesterton. Not sure.)

I've just taken delivery of one of these things, in an effort to beat the winter gloom.

I've long been prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has always hit me most in November, just as soon as the clocks go back, and mid-January to February. Presumably Christmas distracts me in between. Fuck knows why I migrated northwards! I'm cleary more the Mediterranean type.

SAD used to be regarded sceptically - one of those things diagnosed by American psychiatrists* - but it seems there's some pretty sound physiology behind it:
...the cause may be related to melatonin which is produced in dim light and darkness by the pineal gland, since there are direct connections, via the retinohypothalamic tract and the suprachiasmatic nucleus, between the retina and the pineal gland.
(from Wikipedia)
There is also well documented evidence that its incidence increases moving towards the poles, and of a relationship with bipolar disorder.

Light boxes have come shooting down in price. I got mine for £50 from Amazon. There are all sorts availabe. What you don't want is one of those alarm clocks designed to simulate dawn breaking. (They may work - but they're not the same). You want 10,000 lx of full spectrum light output. Blue lights are available (eg from Philips) , but there's no reason/evidence for them - athough there is some evidence for yellow-green at lower lux, since the human eye is most sensitive in that region.

Experience so far.'s a bit wierd. The first thing you notice is that they make the room seem dimmer, because all the surrounding shadows look more shadowy. Plus the full spectrum light is a little cold looking. My model has a little perceptible flicker at the ends of the tubes, which is not a good thing (could give headaches). Maybe more expensive models are better for that. As for use - to get a sufficient dose you're meant to sit 20cm in front of it for half an hour. That's never going to fit in with my daily routine. Maybe I could manage 10cm for seven and a half minutes (note to non-scientists: inverse square law), but that seems a bit extreme. So I guess I'll have to schlep it in to work where I can sit with it further away for longer. Tcha. It can be a conversation piece.

Apparently I should have started it a few weeks earlier, before the nights really drew in, but better late than never. It's too early to notice results, but I'll keep you posted.

Btw - I once knew of a couple who ended up splitting up over SAD. He was a petrochemical engineer and his work took him to Alaska. But she couldn't get on with the climate and so she moved down to Florida.

She just couldn't stand his lattitude.


End with a song:

* Everyone knows, for example, that American psychiatrists over-diagnose things like ADHD. Oh? Why do we think that? Mightn't it be that over here we underdiagnose?

1 comment:

the quiet one said...

For me it seems that filling up with sunshine during a three and half days holidays in Sevilla provided some vember for this month. And remembering how long the days are in summer, too.