Column: Shedding light on the winter blues

An alarm that replicates sunrise could be the answer to the winter blues. Filey Brigg by Tony Johnson.
An alarm that replicates sunrise could be the answer to the winter blues. Filey Brigg by Tony Johnson.
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It’s that time of year again...

The clocks go back and I, like a good percentage of the British population, want to hibernate.

The end of British Summer Time means the end of life as I know it.

Farewell to enjoying after work socialising and weekends spent enjoying the autumn colours in the great outdoors, hello a six month slog through the winter gloom fuelled by excessive carbs.

In short I turn into a bear until March when the advent of more daylight slowly restores my energy levels and I become human again.

Well that was until I discovered the joy that it my sunrise alarm clock.

I was sceptical at first and only gave it a go because there was one going begging,

But, I am a lark once more and while a bit miffed at the thought of my outdoor hobbies being curtailed by the lack of daylight, the end of BST is a molehill not a mountain to climb.

So what was this miracle “cure”?

It’s an alarm clock that looks like a half moon atop the bedside cabinet. When set, it wakes you gently and gradually by slowly illuminating to replicate the sunrise.

I’ve got the basic model but the fancy pants options include a sunrise with birdsong, or the sound of gently lapping waves to rouse you from your slumbers.

And yes, it does work. I’m now into my second season of lightbox life. When I first set the alarm back in autumn 2016, I also set the alarm’s audible function (for you can use it as a standard alarm too) and - belt and braces - set my other alarm clock too.

Next morning, refreshed, I opened my eyes to the early dawn, stretched out and then - panic! It’s light. I must have overslept. The blasted device didn’t work.

I leapt up and checked the time on both alarms. And my phone. 6.15am. Wow, it had done its job.

My energy levels sprang back miraculously to spring and summer mode.

So I’m a convert. Interestingly, the rower daughter from whom I inherited the alarm had discarded it because she found no difference as she emerged from under the duvet at the crack of dawn to break ice off various rivers to go training; clearly it’s not the answer for everyone.

The NHS estimates that as many as one in 15 people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder with the months between September and April the most likely time for it to kick in.

For many it is a condition, a form of depression, that can be completely disabling. For most it’s a mild version more commonly known as “winter blues”.

It’s much more prevalent in women and rarely manifests itself before the age of 20. SAD symptoms can include sleeping too much (hence the hibernating bear!), over-eating (more pie and mash please) low mood or apathy (no, I‘d rather just sit on the sofa snuggled up under a throw).

For mild symptoms of the winter blues then light could be the answer; 20 minutes walking in the mid-day sun, a light box on your desk or the sunrise alarm.

Visit THe SAD Association at www.sada.org.uk for useful help and advice.