Gadgets and Krakens

I am not, as anyone who has shared a house with me will testify, a ‘morning person’. My propulsion from my bed to an upright position and embarkation on morning routines are pretty well covered by the phrase ‘The Kraken awakes’. In the spring and summer this is a lot less painful due to a rousing dawn chorus from the garden and sunlight feeling its way in through the two skylights in our attic bedroom, but in the winter this can be decidedly trickier. So with that and the Winter Mood Project in mind I requested a ‘dawn simulator’ alarm for my birthday this January, one of those with a light that gets gradually brighter when you want/need to get up (celebrating my birthday is something else that I made an effort to do this year in the interests of having more enjoyable stuff to do in the post-Christmas festival desert, and I actually enjoyed it; normally it just seems too soon after Christmas and a bit of a hassle). Since I had been planning to write a post about SAD lamps / light boxes I may as well cover both here.

The alarm is actually pretty good; it doesn’t really work if I am lying facing the other way and therefore not aware of the light, but if I am facing it I am aware of it even if I’m still essentially asleep. And it does do a good job of mimicking real sunlight and my brain is tricked into thinking it is light outside, which makes waking up a more pleasurable experience even if it is a little disorientating to wake into darkness when my brain is expecting full daylight. Tricking the brain is something that I have found SAD lamps can do effectively as well. I have one and used it last winter and the one before that, mostly on my desk at work in an attempt to get through the mid-afternoon plummet in energy levels that I have all year round but more so when it’s dark. I noticed that when I turned it off my brain’s first response was a desire for me to turn it back on again, so I figured it must be effective to some extent. There are debates about how effective SAD lamps really are and there is little clinical evidence to support them, but then anti-depressants are prescribed in their tens of millions each year in the UK and there is little or no evidence for their effectiveness except as placebos so draw what conclusions you will from that. What I have found interesting is that I haven’t felt the need to turn the SAD lamp on once this winter. I can only conclude that this is because of the other things I have been doing to form a more positive relationship with the winter and enjoy it more. To me this is a good sign that the Winter Mood Project and what it involves is really working for me. Whereas the SAD lamp was a way of trying to deal with the symptoms of finding winters negative and difficult, taking a healthier approach to winter prevents the symptoms occurring in the first place. That said, if you really struggle then you might want to try a SAD lamp, they seem to me to have some positive effect even if it is possibly short-lived, although I am finding the kinds of things listed here more effective


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