Routine? What’s that? – Trying out a SAD light.

Remember before all this COVID business, when your alarm would go off in the morning and you’d know your commitments for the next 2 hours? Likely some breakfast, a shower, put on a suit (remember them?), and then your commute. That’s a smooth run anyway. In the real world, you’d throw in some variables like forgetting to iron your shirt, where you chucked your keys after beers on Saturday night, or perhaps a toddler who wants to play Mexican standoff when you’re already running late for the train. It may not have been plain sailing, but at least it was some kind of routine.

Goodbye routine, Hello sweatpants

You might still maintain routine in lockdown, in fact it’s something “they” advise to promote mental well-being at such an uncertain time. But, let’s face it, when the world got very weird at the beginning of last year, and we were slowly instructed to do less and less, the days of lie ins, sweatpants, pinning down the sofa and getting dinner delivered to our door became the norm. And rightfully so, because when the world goes to shit, hiding at home, deep in a saturated fat binge whilst watching re-runs of Friends sometimes feels like the answer.

But “they” are not wrong. Having lived like stig of the dump during lockdown and then bringing in some kind of structure, I realised that it makes a huge difference. It’s worth saying lie-ins aren’t a choice anymore and haven’t been for a long time, so I can’t pretend I ditched them. I have a 3 and a half-year-old who is arguably the most effective alarm clock on the planet. The alarm tones range from “I’m hungry” to “Daddy wake up!”, to “I NEED A WEE!”. All of which are sure to get me out of bed quickly.

When I did decide to bring some structure back to my day, I’d start my morning at the ungodly hour of 5am. I’d read a book that had nudged my brain into believing it would be good for me, and it was. Though it’s hard to maintain, especially when you make the decision to start doing it as the winter months roll in and every morning seems to get colder and darker than the morning prior.

Lockdown Hokey Cokey

For a while I stuck at it an saw a number of benefits, but then the Prime Minister decided to make the UK play lockdown hokey kokey and of course with that my thoughts on what my routine would be changed. Every time the Prime Minister put the “UK in”, lockdown lie ins and being more of a sweatpant slob were more appealing, not to mention the struggle of the dark mornings. So at Christmas, I’d clearly moaned enough about it and made enough hints that I was gifted a SAD light.

Do SAD lights work?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. A SAD light is designed to improve your mood through lighting, either to be used in the morning to wake up gradually to “sunlight” or at night with a sundown effect. SAD lamps encourage your brain to produce less melatonin, which makes you sleepy, while increasing the production of serotonin, which affects your mood.

Considering the amount we’ve all had to deal with in the last 12 months, the darkness of the winter season hasn’t hit me too hard, but the mornings were really becoming a struggle. I can’t say having a SAD light has been a transformative experience, but it’s certainly been an improvement. Here are some of the benefits I’ve experienced.

Sound the alarm

The alarms on offer include a cat purring, birds chirping or jungle noises, so you have to suffer the sounds of a military siren going off.

Dozing off…

The sundown effect at night, for me personally, is like taking a sleeping pill. in a 30 minute window, it gradually gets darker and my eyelids get a lot heavier until I pass out.

Wakey Wakey…

The gradual morning light builds in the half an hour running up to your alarm. So you either wake up to a more soothing alarm, or a more manageable light, not the pitch black as you wrestle to find some kind of light to navigate the toilet in the morning.

You can alter the light colour depending on what mood you’re in. But to be honest I’ve found no need to replicate the red light district in the month that I’ve had it, so the regular light is a permanent fixture.

This light isn’t a miracle cure, it doesn’t stop my daughter beating the alarm and waking me up before the gradual light kicks in, it still has a snooze function and a plug in the wall that turns it off when I’m really not in the mood to be awake. So, until it features a large man who comes to shake you awake at 5 in the morning, it won’t be fool proof. But, it certainly helps you take a step in the right direction if you want to start getting up earlier in a far more relaxed way. Roll on the summer, I say!

Want to bring some artificial light to your life? The light I have is here.

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