Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have suffered with S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The condition used to be colloquially known as the ‘winter blues’ or the ‘January blues’.
Essentially, at some point in the winter season, I start to become depressed – that is, I feel this heavy weight on my mind, my brain feels foggy, I am constantly tired/fatigued no matter how much sleep I get, I become easily tearful, and generally have a sense of gloominess.
For the longest time, I didn’t notice my Seasonal Affective Disorder. I already suffered from depression since I was a teenager, and so it was hard to notice or differentiate. However, by my mid-thirties I have enough experience that I can look back with hindsight and notice the patterns.
I’ve also found that since becoming more mindful of my mind and body that I notice changes as they happen day to day, month to month, season to season. Now I know that S.A.D. is a part of my life, I can anticipate it coming, recognise the symptoms when they first appear, and try my best to mitigate the effects.
My S.A.D. usually last all winter until the clocks go forward in the springtime, the air warms up, and I get to experience more sunshine. Like many S.A.D sufferers, the amount of light I experience makes a huge difference to my wellbeing and mental health. Unfortunately, living where we do (in the UK) our winter days are pretty short and we have very few hours on sunshine. And we all know that sunshine = life.
Literally, sunshine creates and supports life. We need the Vitamin D that our bodies create using exposure to sunshine (specifically UV rays) to help regulate our bodily processes, including the production of melatonin which regulates our sleep patterns. In the winter most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D and as such our melatonin levels are low and that’s why we get that groggy winter feeling. Light is also linked to serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which I like to call the happy hormone (it’s not actually a hormone but I’ve mistakenly been calling it that since my late teens).
Anyhow, this winter season when I started to feel the S.A.D. symptoms start to appear I began looking for ways to counteract them.
Some of the actions I’ve taken include trying to get outside when I can, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. I’ve also been trying to do regular exercise or stretching throughout the day. And I’ve invested in a Lumie alarm clock.
I’d heard of Lumie a few years ago, they make the special light therapy lamps that help sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I was curious to see if there’s anything it could do for me.
I did a bit of research and decided that a Lumie Bodyclock would be ideal. I bought the alarm about 2 months ago now and I wanted to give it a good length of time to try it out before I shared it with you.
The Lumie Bodyclock has made waking up and getting out of bed on these cold, dark winter mornings, so much easier. When I open my eyes my room is bright and I feel ready to get up for the day. I generally feel much more relaxed waking up, and this sets me up for the rest of the day.
What is the Lumie Bodyclock?
I bought the Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 – it’s the mid-range option of the bodyclock alarm clocks offered by Lumie.
The all singing, all dancing, fancy option of the Bodyclock Luxe 700 range was probably my first choice but as we already have high-quality speakers, DAB radio, bluetooth, etc. I didn’t really need it for our bedroom. For now, anyway.
The Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 is an alarm clock that emits light gradually at a set time to mimic sunrise. The result is that you gradually wake up and by the time the light reaches full intensity you are feeling awake and refreshed.
The body clock also has a sunset function so you can also use it to help you drift off sleep at night.
For both the sunset and sunrise functions you can choose if you want it to play a gradual sound effect, or the radio, or nothing at all. For sound effects, I like Blackbird, Thunderstorm, Guzheng, and waves.
The Goats sound effect makes me laugh and my cats went wild for the kittens purring!
Raj, on the other hand, prefers to have the radio come on at a low volume, he’s quite an auditory person so that really helps him wake up.
The FM radio means you can also use the Lumie Bodyclock 300 as just a radio in the bedroom which is nice when you’re getting ready for work in the morning.
For the alarm clock settings, you can set an individual time for each day of the week, turning it on or off depending on the specific day, and you can turn the whole thing off with just one button.
What do I like about the Lumie Bodyclock 300?
First of all, I really like the design of the clock. It’s a clean, modern design that fits in perfectly with the styling of my bedroom. I don’t like appliances that look too appliance-y. So this works perfectly for me. It’s a mostly white design with a light grey fabric cover over the bottom half of the clock where to the speaker is.
My most used and favoured function is the gradual sunrise option. I set it for 30 minutes to gradually light up the room to about a 3/4 light intensity, it starts off as a red-ish light and after 5 minutes or so I become aware that the room is getting lighter. I switch between sounds depending on my mood – either FM radio, a sound effect, or just silence.
What am I not so keen on with the Lumie Bodyclock 300?
I think the build of the product does feel a little bit lightweight and plastic-y. The buttons feel a bit awkward. But overall this isn’t too much of an issue for me.
I also found the initial set-up and controls a little fiddly and not that intuitive by modern technology standards, but again, not too much of an issue once I got the hang of it.
I had a little trouble with the sunset feature, I’m not sure if it’s just me not understanding the instructions but when the light dims it doesn’t go out fully so I end up waking up still (I need total darkness to sleep). So I don’t really use the sunset option at all.
What is Light Therapy?
My next purchase now will probably be a Light Therapy lamp. These are what Lumie are traditionally known for and are essentially bright light lamps that mimic sunlight in the winter months and help with the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Light entering through our eyes helps to stimulate the brain and controls our daily rhythm through hormone production.
Lumie says that ‘To treat SAD, most sufferers need light to their eyes as bright as a spring morning on a clear day, for around 30 minutes a day. The light must be at least 2,000 lux (the technical measure of brightness), which is roughly four times brighter than a well-lit office.’
The light boxes are designed to emit up to 10,00 lux so that you can use them for short ‘treatment times’. Overall the bright light has been proven to ‘tackle symptoms, put you in a better mood and make you feel more awake.’
As I struggle with S.A.D. I think a Light Therapy box would be a great complementary device alongside the bodyclock. One is to help me wake up in a healthy, brighter mood, and the other is to help stimulate the brain and its regulation of vital hormone production to alleviate my mood.
I’ve used the Lumie Bodyclock 300 for 2 months now and it has become a regular part of my healthy morning routine. It helps both myself and Raj wake up in a better mood, and shifts us out of bed on those cold, dark winter mornings when all we want to do is stay snuggled up asleep in bed.
It’s a smart looking device that complements the decor of my room, and it functions in a way that makes our mornings potter along nicely.
I have discovered that light makes a huge difference to me waking up on time, feeling refreshed, and an overall sense of good wellbeing first thing in the morning.