Don't let your mood change with the seasons
Now the clocks have ‘fallen back', this time of year marks the start of winter. With russet red leaves falling from trees, temperatures plummeting and available light levels taking a dip, we move one step closer towards winter. With an estimated seven per cent of people in the UK thought to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder leading light therapy specialist, Lumie, is launching new Lumie Desklamp to help those affected by the condition.
Light has a massive impact on our health; not only is it an important stimulant that helps people feel positive, upbeat and full of life, it also plays a key factor in our overall physical well-being as it keeps our circadian rhythm (our internal body clock) on track so that our daily rhythms (i.e. when we eat and sleep) and our mood stays aligned with each day.
During the winter months, especially when it's grey and miserable outside and there is reduced available daylight, people can find it difficult to function as they lack energy, feel low in mood and are constantly tired.
Like animals that hibernate in winter, humans are also affected by the change in season; a new study published by Arhus University Hospital in Denmark, showed that those working in the great outdoors were less likely to be affected by seasonal mood and winter depression as they were exposed to more natural daylight. This however simply isn't a practical option for the majority of people in Britain who work inside in an office environment.
In winter, many workers are faced with months of waking up in the dark and commuting to and from work in dim light. Lighting conditions in the work place are often not bright enough to keep the circadian rhythm aligned and then many people chose to take their designated lunch breaks at the desk surfing the internet instead of opting to get outside in natural daylight.
When our bodies are exposed to continuous weak light signals, our circadian rhythm can become disrupted and levels of sleep hormones like melatonin can stay high. So on gloomy winter days, this explains why we feel permanently sluggish.
Over a prolonged period of time, being exposed to such inconsistent light levels can have a profound effect on one's health, causing hormonal and chemical imbalances - this can lead to the medical condition, SAD. Another key factor found in those affected by the condition is low serotonin levels (also commonly found in those suffering from depression) - these improve significantly in the summer and with light therapy.
More recent research provides a further insight into how people are affected by the general change of seasons, showing that we eat more and exercise less during the winter months. These studies fall in line with findings from a poll Lumie conducted whereby:
- 93% of respondents say they tend to eat more comfort foods in winter, compared to summer
- 88% also reported they tended to gain weight more in winter, than summer
- A staggering 72% of respondents also reported they tended to be more productive at work during the summer months.
Seasonal depression has also made recent discussion around movements in the financial market. Researcher Lisa Kramer found that people who experience seasonal depression shun financial risk-taking during seasons with diminished daylight, but are more willing to accept risk in spring and summer.
Although getting outside in the natural light is the best treatment for those affected by SAD, this isn't always possible for those with busy working lifestyles. Light therapy products like new Lumie Desklamp therefore provide a practical alternative and based on research, can help alleviate symptoms of SAD and restore natural energy levels.
For those affected by the milder form of the condition, commonly referred to as the winter blues, using a wake-up light such like Lumie Bodyclock Active can also help.
Jonathan Cridland, CEO of Lumie, said: "After the winter clock change at the end of October, many will first enjoy the added benefit of the extra hour in bed. Soon after however it is apparent that the number of daylight hours have dropped as many people will return back to work after the weekend and face a gruelling commute to and from work in the dark.
"SAD can have a massive impact not only on the person affected by the condition, but on family and friends, too. Although getting outside in the natural daylight is the best treatment (as is going on a winter holiday to somewhere bright), when you're busy at work and have to commute in the dark, it's not always easy to fit this in to our busy days.
"Our products are designed to facilitate light into one's life and based on research, can ease the debilitating symptoms of SAD. Products like new Lumie Desklamp have been specifically designed for use in the office so busy working people can incorporate light therapy in to their busy working days"
Doctor Victoria Revell PhD, Chronobiologist at University of Surrey, said: "Light is critical for our health and well-being; ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day will benefit our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology.
"Light can directly and rapidly boost our level of vigilance and ability to perform such that using a light therapy product during the day at work or at home can be very valuable. In addition, light is the crucial element involved in synchronising our circadian body clock to the 24 hour day.
"In the majority of people the clock runs at slightly longer than 24 hours and requires daily resetting to remain in tune with the day/night environmental cycle. Exposure to morning light provides this cue to the clock and ensures the clock remains synchronised to the 24 hour day. The lack of morning light in winter can result in the body clock drifting slightly later in time which makes it difficult to wake up and get up at the required time for work or school. Using a light therapy product such as Lumie Desklamp, or a wake up light like Lumie Bodyclock Active in the morning will prevent this from happening and help you to be ready for the day ahead."
Sue Pavlovich, a spokesperson for SAD dedicated charity, SADA, said: "SAD can have a devastating effect both on those who have it and on the people around them. The SAD Association (SADA) is a charity whose aim is to ensure that SAD is recognised and accepted in every part of the UK, and that those who suffer from the condition can maintain a productive life with the support of doctors, employers, family and friends. While public recognition of SAD has changed drastically in the last twenty-five years since SADA was founded, we still have a long way to go. There are people with SAD all over the country who do not have access to a sympathetic and knowledgeable GP or psychiatric unit, and many more who manage their condition with light therapy, unknown to their doctor.
For more information, see www.sada.org.uk.
In the UK products are available through www.lumie.com as well as major retailers like John Lewis, Boots, Tesco and Selfridges and we have an expanding network of distributors across Europe and in North America.