/ Health, Home & Energy

Are you feeling SAD about the clocks going back?

Turning the clocks back

Being American, I love the Holiday Season (I’m still going to celebrate Thanksgiving, albeit remotely – pumpkin pie, anyone?), but I really don’t like it when the clocks go back and the days are shorter.

Now when I get home from work and it’s dark, I’m convinced I must go to bed immediately. I’m also more prone to giving in to Netflix binge urges instead of going to the gym. And, like a squirrel with nuts, I’ve started stockpiling cans of tomato soup for the apocalypse that is a cold night where I don’t want to venture out to buy groceries for dinner. In short, my hibernation mode has kicked in.

Lighting up

I’m definitely someone who feels a big difference when I don’t get as much sunshine during the day. Too many hours of artificial lighting gives me headaches, as does the higher energy bill I find myself faced with from turning on the lights for longer during the winter months.

So I was very intrigued when I saw Lucy, a small, solar-powered robot that is able to make your home brighter by redirecting sunshine. The concept is fairly simple: you mount Lucy either outside or inside your home, and direct it toward the area you’d like to brighten. It then finds and redirects the sunlight.

I feel that such an elegant solution could have a lot of benefits for those of us who get darkness weary. As it’s reflecting natural sunlight, it could help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and I’d definitely feel more alert not being surrounded by fluorescent bulbs at every waking minute.

It’s also exciting that lighting bills might be more, ahem, ‘reflective’ of summer months.

Surviving winter with seasonal affective disorder

Overall, it got me thinking of how I could be more creative in filling my winter nights with brightness, and whether the colder, darker months are as big of an issue for everyone.

Perhaps a SAD lamp would work wonders for me. Although sitting in front of a lamp for 15 minutes definitely isn’t the same as a long walk in a park, a SAD lamp simulates the full spectrum of light that comes from the sun, essentially acting as exposure to it.

Maybe taking turns having dinner at different family and friends’ houses could help with electricity bills. Being home half of the time means half as many light bulbs on (plus, it’s a great excuse to socialise).

Or perhaps I shouldn’t fight it but relish the build-up to the festivities that this time of year brings.

How do you feel now that the clocks have gone back? Are you looking for ways to simulate the summer sunshine or are you keen to embrace winter?

Should the clocks be set to BST all year round?

Yes, I'd prefer it got darker later in the day (64%, 987 Votes)

No, I like the lighter mornings when the clocks go back (20%, 307 Votes)

It makes no difference to me either way (13%, 205 Votes)

Not sure (3%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,543

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Erin’s Conversation has been published on the day when I can have an extra hour in bed (with my laptop, as it happens) but the main issue is that the days are shorter over the winter months.

I have a friend who has suffered severely from SAD since before most people had heard of the condition. She dreads the winter months and has light boxes round the house. I would normally take a bottle of wine when invited round for dinner but in the days when high power high colour temperature CFLs were uncommon, I decided that this might be a better gift.

I suspect that most of us suffer from SAD to some extent, though it is difficult to tell because of seasonal changes in the weather. Many of us welcome going out when the snow arrives. A snow covered world is undoubtedly attractive, but I suspect that part of appeal of snow is that when it arrives we can go out into a wonderfully bright world.

Perhaps it would be good to equip our homes with lighting that gradually changes from daylight (high colour temperature) to the more popular warm white (lower colour temperature) during the evenings.


Light with a higher blue content has been shown to enhance wakefulness. I like this time if the year because it is the beginning of the run up to Spring and bright green leaves on the trees.


But interestingly Blue light also has been found to induce sleep.


Perhaps we should not tinker with things like this Ian. Hibernation could be one answer. I wonder why some animals do it and not others. Is it just down to scarcity of food?


No – mainly evolution through adaptation to extreme and prolonged cold. Hibernation is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in endotherms and one theory is that animals used to warmer climes became habituated to their environment when the seasons became colder. Hence Polar bears are simply Grizzly bears that have adapted, as the Arctic fox. The evolutionary changes seem to have occurred in shorter periods of time, so may be partly epigenetic .


Hibernation is also a way of conserving energy during long period when insufficient food is available for animals to remain active. Wakening early, for example due to a warm spell, can prove fatal.


I was wondering why only some animals do so and why, for example, humans cannot.


There is some useful information in this review: physrev.physiology.org/content/83/4/1153.full