As the days get shorter, 28-year-old Eva Louise van der Speek suffers from fatigue. She finds it more difficult to get out of bed, doesn’t start her day well, and doesn’t feel comfortable about her skin for the rest of the day. Then she took vitamin D, and for a few years has been using a daylight lamp in the morning. “I turn it on during my facial routine. Then I’m at least ten minutes before it. It wakes me up better and I’m fitter and happier for the rest of the day.”
What is fall low or winter depression?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as both phenomena are called in English, arises because daylight is weaker in winter and fall, the light is shorter and the sun rises later. In people with fall or winter depression, the body continues to produce melatonin on dark days – the hormone that regulates the need for sleep. As a result, a person remains drowsy, tired and sometimes gloomy.
Around 3% of Dutch He suffers from winter depression, according to figures from the University Medical Center Groningen. About 8 percent of Dutch people experience fall depression or winter depression, a milder version of winter depression.
In the fall and/or winter, people with autumn dips or winter blues are mainly tired, like to sleep a lot and eat a lot, just like animals do shortly before they hibernate. With the winter blues, the gloom and sometimes you don’t see life anymore. An important condition for the diagnosis of winter depression is that complaints return each year.
Daylights, you hear a lot about them during this period. But do they really help, and if so, what should you pay attention to? “They definitely work,” says Ybe Meesters. He is a clinical psychologist and head of the winter depression outpatient clinic at UMC Groningen. On an outpatient basis, they’ve been treating people with big daylight bulbs for 30 years. “People who have sometimes been hospitalized because of the severity of their depression can remain socially active with light therapy.”
One week of phototherapy
“In one programme, we follow people diagnosed with winter depression from September onwards. Once their complaints begin, we give them light therapy for one week; five consecutive days for three quarters of an hour in front of such a lamp. Two out of three patients treated within A week. Their complaints, and those complaints don’t come back for most of the rest of the year.”
Eva-Louise does not use the lamp one week per year, but as often as she considers necessary. “It’s ready made, so all I have to do is plug it in. It’s a little effort. I use it a few times a week in the fall and winter when I need a boost. It works really well for me quickly, when I use I have more energy quickly and it makes sense to start today “.
disturbed biological rhythm
How it works? Since there is less light in the fall and winter, the biological rhythm of people with winter depression or autumn retreat is interrupted. This daylight lamp corrects by shining a strong light, through which ultraviolet light is filtered, directly onto the retina. So sit straight or diagonally in front of a special daylight lamp, as Eva-Louise does when applying her makeup. Mesters warns that a regular, powerful bulb will not suffice. “It is important that it does not contain UV light. It harms your eyes.”
It doesn’t matter whether you have a daylight bulb at home or whether you’re going to the hospital for phototherapy. Meisters: “The biggest difference is that the lights in the hospital are quite big, so you can’t avoid looking at them. If you have a lamp at home, you need a little more discipline to look at it on a regular basis. I advise people not to look at their phones during that time, we know That their attention is so absorbed that they forget to look up. But read a book for example and look at the lamp at the end of every page.”
What requirements should a daytime lamp meet?
A simple Google search yields thousands of results at very different prices: from daylight bulbs under €6 to copies of over €400. “You don’t really have to spend a lot on that,” says Meesters. According to him, there are excellent lamps on sale for about 100 euros.
There are two important features that you should pay attention to when buying:
- The lamp must have a luminous intensity of not less than 10,000 lux
- It should not contain ultraviolet light
Furthermore, a bigger bulb is better, says Mesters, because in this case the chance of light falling on your eyes is greater, even if you are distracted by things happening around you. “But if you had enough self-discipline to really look at the light every minute, a smaller lamp would suffice.”
By the way, Misters advises to always go to the doctor when there are serious complaints such as winter depression, rather than buying the lamp yourself. “They can monitor you and refer you on time if needed. Some people need medication in addition to a daylight lamp. Others have contraindications, for example certain eye disease, which can cause daylight lamp damage. Only a GP can tell you that. “.
This discipline is what Inge de Weerd (31) lacks, she says. She’s tried the daylight because nothing gets out of her hands in the fall and winter. “It’s hard for me to get out of bed, and when it gets dark in the evening, I can’t get off the couch, while in the summer I make appointments for the evening, do fun things and pick up everything.”
Patience is not enough
But the patience to sit in front of such a lamp for 20 minutes is what Inge, who was exhausted in 2018/19, lacks. “When I had another winter depression in 2019, I heard a lot of positive stories about daylight bulbs. So I wanted to try that too. But I always do everything at once, I can’t make myself spend enough time in front of the lamp to sit.” That also goes with that fatigue, of course.”
Instead, Angie often goes for a walk when the weather is nice. “Once the sun comes up, I go outside. For the past few years I’ve worked in the office at GGD, but nowadays I work from home three days a week, so I can organize my time. If it rains, I stay home, but if it’s The weather is nice, I walk into the woods, and it suits me well.”
Eva Louise also loves to walk. She has to do it, because she has a dog. “And before that I pretended I had a dog, and then I just went out for 20 minutes in the morning.”
It’s also the advice Meesters gives patients. “A daylight works well, but in the morning when the light is on, a half-hour walk is better. We know that exercise has a positive effect on many aspects of health, including mood. And morning light is that.” Effective, even on a gray day, the outside light is stronger than the inside.” The only thing you should not do while walking is wearing sunglasses. “It filters the light you need.”
Inge is also considering buying daylight glasses. It will work like a daylight lamp, but since it is on your head, you are not restricted in freedom of movement. “The effect of those glasses has not yet been scientifically researched,” Misters warns. “Maybe they work, maybe they don’t. We don’t know yet.”
Not under the sun
What is anyway not a good solution is the solarium. “A lot of people ask about it,” Meesters says. “But tanning beds need UV light to ensure people tan. And you have to put lids on your eyes there so the light doesn’t get into your eyes.” Even iPhone-sized daylights don’t work enough, he warns. “They’ve been on sale for a while, but their brightness is so low that you’re looking at or past them, that the light that’s also there isn’t enough to reach the retina.”
So Meesters have some advice: Go for a walk when it’s light in the morning and/or buy a flashlight in the daylight. And if you suspect depression, always see your doctor first.
Angie has another word, which works well for her anyway: “Remember it’s going to be over in the spring. That’s why I find the term depression difficult, I prefer to use the English term SAD, and I think that covers the burden better. People with depression often They don’t see that things can get better again. I know: in five months it will be March, and then I will have the energy to do fun things again.”
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