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Well, it's that time of the year again: time for a friendly reminder to everybody in the Northern hemisphere who have been on DST (North America, Europe). At 02.00 AM this Sunday morning in your timezone it will be time to switch your clocks back an hour.

Remember the adage: Spring forward, Fall back.

This of course means that your days towards winter will be getting darker now, much darker. The further north, the more dramatic.

More after the jump

For those of you who live near the arctic circle: Russia, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), United States of America (Alaska), Norway, Sweden, Finland, there will now be up to many months of night and no direct sunlight, aka polar night.

For the dwellers of the far north in particular, winter can mean the onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But you don't need to live in an igloo to be affected by diminishing sunlight; SAD affects many through Europe and the Northern continental US, Alaska and Canada.

Seasonal mood variations are believed to be related mostly to daylight, not temperature. For this reason, SAD is prevalent even in mid-latitude places with mild winters, such as Seattle. Prolonged periods of overcast weather can also exacerbate SAD. Normal "winter blues" can usually be dampened or extinguished by exercise and increased outdoor activity, particularly on sunny days, resulting in increased solar exposure. SAD, however, is a more serious disorder, sometimes triggering dysthymia or clinical depression. It may require hospitalization.
Various etiologies have been suggested.1 One possibility is that SAD is related to a lack of serotonin and that exposure to full-spectrum artificial light may improve the condition by stimulating serotonin production although this has been disputed.2,3 Another theory is that melatonin produced in the pineal gland is the primary cause.4,5 There are direct connections between the retina and the pineal gland however some studies show that melatonin levels do not appear to differ between those with and without SAD. Light therapy appears to be effective in treating SAD, but the exact mechanism of the effect is still unknown.
Full-spectrum bulbs and "sunlight lamps" can be purchased as speciality lighting products for those suffering from SAD. The most validated of the light therapies is the use of a bright light box for 30-60 minutes daily in the mornings. These light boxes are many times more bright than regular indoor lighting.6

While SSRIs are popular medical solution for the winter blues, if you think filling yourself with potentially dangerous drugs is not the solution for you, then consider light therapy. Light boxes and full spectrum light bulbs seem to help many people who dread the SAD days of winter.

Whatever you do, the best advice that I have heard for the blues is to get out. Go for walks, hook up with friends, take up winter sports. Find beauty in winter landscapes. Socialize, join a club, eat fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines (Omega-3 is supposedly good for mood disorders). Enjoy the festivals of light that occur in the darkest nights of winter: Christmas, Hanukkah and Three Kings' day to name a few. And remember, at the Winter solstice the worst will be over: the days start getting longer and days of sunshine and light will be approaching rapidly with the New Year and Spring.

PS This is the next to last year that DST will end on the same date in both the US and Europe. Starting in 2007 the US will extend DST by 4 weeks, adding 3 weeks in Spring and one in the Fall.

Clocks [in 2007 and beyond] will be set ahead one hour on the second Sunday of March instead of the current first Sunday of April. Clocks will be set back one hour on the first Sunday in November, rather than the last Sunday of October.

Originally posted to Marcus Junius Brutus on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 09:04 AM PDT.


Do you suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder)?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4.00)
    Feedback and commentary welcome as always.

    "Just a quick observation, when people don't want to play the blame game, they're to blame." --Jon Stewart

    by Marcus Junius Brutus on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 09:03:07 AM PDT

  •  You forgot Iceland. (none)
    My cousins are laying in winter stocks of Aquavit right now.

    My experience of SAD is less day length dependent than weather, though.  Living in Minneapolis, although it's as cold as Satan's armpit, I get a lot of sunny winter days.  Thus I'm way less gloomy than when I lived in London - where the days are longer, but most are shrouded in sepulchrally gloomy clouds.

    •  In what way did I forget (none)
      Iceland? The Arctic Circle passes just north of Iceland:

      Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small island of Grimsey off Iceland's northern coast, but not through mainland Iceland.

      "Just a quick observation, when people don't want to play the blame game, they're to blame." --Jon Stewart

      by Marcus Junius Brutus on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 09:25:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love winter (4.00)
    Living in Seattle and Portland over the past two decades has been great.  I love the dark of winter - going to work in the dark and going home in the dark.  There's something comforting and inviting about it.  It helps with the introspection that often occurs this time of year.  And I don't mind the gray skies and rain (although I've often said I wish it was 10 degrees colder in the winter so we'd have more snow).  My favorite seasons, in order of preference are:


    Summer is my least favorite - boring and endlessly sunny day after day.  I get tired of squinting.  Guess I'm a mole after all...

  •  It's hell for me in Michigan (4.00)
    We see something like 35% of avaialble sunlight in winter. VERY depressing.

    "We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang seperately." - Ben Franklin

    by RandyMI on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 09:48:12 AM PDT

  •  I hate short days (none)
    DST sucks the big one.  Going from having normal day/night days to it being dark 80% of the day.  Geez!  Nothing's more depressing than waking up in the dark to go to a job you hate and realizing that the sun is setting at 3pm and driving home in the dark.  There never seems to be time to do anything and everyone wants to go to bed by 8pm.  This is why I could never move north.  I live in SoCal and it's bad enough for me here.  Give me sunshine and long days where I can cram 20,000 activities into it.  

    Usually, about this time of year, I go into a hibernation of sorts.  I don't reply to emails in a timely fashion, I neglect my friends and I'll sit in my house for 4 days in a row.  The only bright spot of this whole mess is my birthday (in 2 weeks) and Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, I'd rather just sleep and wake in April.

    •  It's funny how profoundly different people can be (none)
      I'm just the reverse.  It's as if I come alive in late fall and love the short days of winter.  I get depressed in summer.  Too much sun!

      I'll never forget when my wife and I moved from Reno to Seattle.  It was as if we were given a cool drink of water under a shady tree after living for years under the endless brutality of never-ending sun.  

      I guess it takes all kinds, eh?

  •  Spring forward, Fall back? (none)
    A great little memory aid, until someone pointed out, "Are you sure it's not 'fall forward, spring back'?" Now I can never remember.
  •  Lights (4.00)
    Never tried the light boxes, but just switching to daylight flourescents from the standard type at work made a big difference in how I felt when working both in Seattle, and elsewhere in a windowless office. However, I needed to take the building management to small claims court in one case after they insisted on confiscating the bulbs I'd bought because they were not "building standard." I won with a doctor's note.

    Also, getting out for a long walk, even in grey drizzle, can make a huge difference.

  •  The worst day of the year, for me. (none)
    Tomorrow it will be dark at five frickin' o'clock, and it will just get worse after that.
    The only good thing about setting the clocks back tonight, as I like to remind people, is that we get an extra hour of sex.

    Let's shrink Grover Norquist down to where he can be drowned in the bathtub.

    by jazzmaniac on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 10:16:05 AM PDT

  •  Hate, hate, hate winter, and ... (none)
    ..I just don't get it why everyone has to go through a calendar-induced jet lag twice a year.  I mean, I do know that Earth is a flying body, but there have been no landings that I know of...  ;)
  •  When is the change happening? (none)
    Is it like 2006 or 2007 when we get an extra month of DST?  I will look forward to that, because I'm not a fan of the extra night.  I do really love cloudy, rainy days with a passion.  Maybe I should move to Seattle.  Hmmm...

    I am an ILL State Assassin. Legalize Qualo. Those in Chicago - listen to Boers & Bernstein on 670 AM The Score 2-6 M-F. You'll be glad you did. Vote Hackett

    by Larry Horse on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 10:47:53 AM PDT

  •  What lights do folks use? (none)
    I have been looking for the lights that simulate sunrise, but as long as we are on the subject...

    What do any of you use for light therapy?  Does it make a difference?

    When you are going through hell, keep going! - Winston Churchill

    by flo58 on Sat Oct 29, 2005 at 10:50:39 AM PDT

    •  I was an experimental subject at NIMH in 1980s (none)
      in the Seasonality studies. I was given the 2nd generation light box then in use, and still have it. It is an institutional fluorescent light fixture that contains 6 40-watt bulbs. I sit 3 feet from the box, which is placed vertically on a table. I have a count-down-repeat timer set at one minute intervals. I read or sew, and every time the watch chimes (every minute) I look directly at the light for 10 seconds, for 2-3 hours a day. Time of day for light therapy was very important for me. After experimentation I determined that my therapy had to be between noon and 6PM to promote mental health and normal sleep. If I did the therapy in the morning I would be drowsy in the afternoon. If I did it after 6PM I would be awake until 3AM. I am a lark, not a night owl. IIRC night owls benefit with morning phototherapy. I'm sure the lightbox technology has improved, so I don't know what's out there now commercially, but they're probably very expensive. You may be able to get a used fixture and do-it-yourself on the cheap. I use Vita-lite bulbs from Durotest.

      I'm now retired and fortunate enough to spend the winter months in Florida. Thnk G-d hurricane season is over by the time I head south :)

  •  We (none)
    do not have to do anything in Arizona I've learned. One day we are in the Pacific Time Zone and then we wake up next morning in the Mountain Time Zone and thats about it.

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