Did you know that our exposure to light can have an effect on our mood?  Sometimes this can be strong enough to make people depressed and tired all of the time. When a person is more strongly affected and feels depressed (especially in the Winter) they might have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Now that the days are beginning to get longer in the Northern Hemisphere, many people with SAD may notice an improvement in their moods.  This is even more likely the further North you live.

Lighting in our work or school environment can also affect our moods. I noticed a difference in my lab when we would have a big project that required starting work around 3:30 AM for weeks at a time. I read about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and experimented with different lighting in my lab at the university.

In our lab, those who came in to work around 3:30 AM performed better with very bright white lighting. I even found that adjusting the light temperature and filters on the microscopes made us more attentive.  I got the idea for increasing the lighting by reading about SAD.

SAD seems to be more common in the far North where winter day length is much shorter and with people who don't spend much time outside during the daytime.  It affects mood and can even cause depression.

Less severe reactions to lower light and shorter days may be called Winter Blues. This is where people are affected to the point that they have less energy but are not actually depressed.  If this is interesting to you, please search the internet and read some more.

Do you think lighting makes a difference to you at your home, work or school?

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Tags: SAD, activity, affective, depression, disorder, learning, lighting, seasonal

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Comment by ⊱ Mickey ⊰ on April 12, 2013 at 16:49

I tend to be happier on sunny days~

Comment by Hardi on April 10, 2013 at 20:36

Yes having enough bright light bulb, may really be enough for most people. But also room interior is probably important. I use as light colors for my room as I can. The wallpaper is almost white.. the furniture also is lighter one. And also the laminated floor, I got the brightest one I could find from store.. It can be a bit challenging to find light colored floor tiles, but having dark winter in mind, it's worth of trouble to go to many stores.. I suspect the darker things are selling better, so the stores don't have much variations for bright ones in stock.. I wonder why people want dark stuff? They probably don't consider it's pros and cons well enough?

I have had a bright 21W compact fluorescent light bulb in my ceiling for some few years.. it gives as much, or little more light than 100W incandescent lamp. These past years I haven't been as moody at dark season as I used to be.. So, I think it may be enough. Also this winter I didn't need to increase my insulin dosage so much as some previous years.. That was probably because this winter I started to go jogging/running or walking, even bicycling for some few times.. Previous years I made some indoor spinning and such things at winter.... Indoor training wasn't as effective. Seems like outdoor activity is way better, even, when it's just walking. And even when doing it after sunset in dark..

The light deficit and bad weather can have many effects for us, indirectly. Because It makes our body more sleepy and inactive.. ^_^

Comment by Mr. Bob on April 10, 2013 at 17:10

Thanks Hardi,

I am not surprised about the difference in blood sugar because studies show that the intensity of light has a glandular effect.  People who develop SAD are those most sensitive to the light.  Many use a lightbox like you mentioned, which is a concentration of bright lamps and these people may turn it on for 30 minutes or more to get their needed dosage of light.

The non-profit group, SADA has a website where they discuss the studies where lights were used to help people ( http://www.sada.org.uk/treatment-1.html  ).  I don't think a special light box is necessary if you purchase the right light bulb (lamp) and sit in front of it.  It would be a great experiment if you could try a bright light as a way of reducing your insulin need.  Maybe next winter that would be something good to try since too much insulin also has negative effects.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and please stay away from the high floors if you start feeling too moody.  ;) 

Also see this do it yourself story-

http://lifehacker.com/5122849/make-your-own-sad-light-box

Comment by Hardi on April 9, 2013 at 17:59

Yes, since I live in northern Europe. I'm fully aware of the importance of daylight. At December we have only about 6 to 7 hours between sunrise and sunset. Daylight is a little bit longer, because sun doesn't sink so quick behind horizon. Sky may stay still lid about a hour after sunset and also lids up before sunrise.. but if it's cloudy and if there's no white snow, the late autumn is very depressing season. I think December is the time when most suicides are attempted.. There have been some in my neighborhood.. where people jump out from window at high floor.. I think one happened this winter or last autumn too.. I Haven't heard people doing that at summer.....

Most it affects office workers. They go to work in dark before sunrise, and when they get off from work. It's already dark again. It's a waste.. I find it really unfair, that people have to sacrifice all the daylight for employer.. Although they really don't need sunlight in office. There's electric light anyways.. People who can work outside, are luckier.. I think.

These days they make special therapeutic lights, that can be used to treat daylight deprivation.. But they are expensive devices.. Also I think, they do light therapy in some hospitals too if doctor subscribes it.. probably. :)

For me. November and December are worst.. I'm always waiting for January, when day start to get longer by each day.

I have diabetes. And the change of daylight, changes how I treat diabet too. I adjust the insulin dosage accordingly.. Checking blood sugar and then change it according that.. I've noticed, that In dark season, when there's less daylight. I need more insulin. And in summer I need less. Also when the weather is cloudy and dark, the blood sugar rises a bit. Then I might need inject more... There can be more reasons, like the lover temperature at winter, but I think light is main reason that changes it..

But despite all that. I like to live here in north. I never been in southern places, maybe I would like there too, but.... I think the Nice summer we have here, compensates totally the dark cold winter.

In summer, we have so much sun light.. there's only some few hours dark at middle summer. :) I can survive the winter, just by knowing that nice summer will come after dark winter.. But this year the spring don't want to arrive. It seems that also migratory birds are waiting somewhere further south.. they know it's too early.. so it might get longer to get warm, this year. But day is already pretty long. :)

...Here in northern area, It's also important to get some D-vitamins at winter.. because having too less sun light.

Comment by Mr. Bob on April 9, 2013 at 15:40

I am someone who feels tired and sleepy if I don't see enough sunlight.  Humans were not designed to spend too much time away from light.  When I have really bright lights in the morning I feel full of energy and it feels the same as if I can take a nice walk outside in the morning.  My house now has lighting that does not help, so I try to get outdoors early.

Comment by Lynne on April 9, 2013 at 15:39

I think what you have discussed are all true, Mr. Bob.

Comment by sofia on April 9, 2013 at 14:30

yes i agree with this blog


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Comment by Charos on April 9, 2013 at 13:56

Yeah, Mr.Bob, I also found out that I'm the one of those who tend to be affected by this S A D, being a light- and warmthlover :)... And the afternoon is the best time for me to work efficiently.


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Comment by Expector Smith on April 9, 2013 at 11:14

Sometimes, the winter season seems to be too long - endless snowfall until the spring is coming.

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