Daylight or fall dip against winter depression? ‘Most expensive is definitely not necessary’

As the days grow shorter, Eva-Louise van der Spek (28) suffers from fatigue. She has a hard time getting out of bed, doesn’t start the day well, and isn’t comfortable in her own skin all day. Then she takes vitamin D and for a few years now she uses a daylight lamp in the morning. “I turn it on during my facial routine. I’m at least 10 minutes before that. It wakes me up and I feel healthy and happy throughout the day.”

What is Autumn Depression or Winter Depression?

Both phenomena, meaningfully called in English ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),’ arise in winter and autumn due to shorter daylight hours, less light and later sun rise. In those who suffer from autumn or winter stress, the body continues to produce melatonin during dark days – a hormone that regulates the need for sleep. As a result, a person is sleepy, tired and sometimes in a dark state.

About 3 percent of the Dutch According to statistics from Groningen University Medical Center, he suffers from winter depression. About 8 percent of Dutch people suffer from autumn dip or winter blues, a milder version of winter depression.

In autumn and/or winter, people with autumn dip or winter blues mainly suffer from fatigue, they want to sleep a lot and eat a lot like animals just before hibernation. Winter depression, gloom and sometimes not being able to see life anymore. An important condition for diagnosing winter depression is that complaints recur every year.

Daylights, you hear a lot about them these days. But do they really help, and if so, what should you focus on? “They definitely work,” says Ybe Meesters. He is a clinical psychologist and head of the winter depression outpatient clinic at UMC Groningen. In the outpatient clinic they have been treating people with large daylight lamps for 30 years. “People who are sometimes hospitalized because of the severity of their depression can be socially active with light therapy.”

One week of light therapy

“We have been following people diagnosed with winter depression in a program since September. When their complaints begin, we give them light treatment for a week; five days in a row for three-quarters of an hour. Lamp. Two out of three patients are treated within a week. Their complaints and those complaints do not return for most of the year.”

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Eva-Louise doesn’t use the lamp one week a year, but whenever she needs it. “It’s ready to go, so all I have to do is put it together. It’s a little effort. I use it a few times a week in the fall and winter when I’m feeling inspired. It works for me quickly when I use it. I have more energy and feel better to start the day. There is.”

Disturbance of biological rhythm

How does it work? Due to less light in fall and winter, the biological rhythm of people with winter depression or fall dip is disrupted. A daylight lamp corrects this by shining a strong light from which UV light is filtered directly onto the retina. It has to sit straight or crosswise in front of such a brilliant daylight, like Eva Louise putting on make-up. A normal, strong lamp may not be enough, warns Meisters. “It’s important that it doesn’t have UV light. That can damage your eyes.”

It doesn’t matter if you have daylight at home or go to the hospital for light therapy. Meisters: “The biggest difference is that the lights in the hospital are so big that you can’t avoid looking at them. If you have a light on at home, you need more discipline to keep an eye on it. I advise people not to. To look at their phone at that time, their attention is so absorbed that they We know people forget to look up, but for example read a book and look at the light at the end of each page.”

What requirements must a daylight lamp fulfill?

A simple search on Google yields thousands of results with very different prices: from a daylight lamp for less than 6 euros to a copy for more than 400 euros. “You really don’t have to spend that much,” says Meisters. According to him, the best lamps are on sale for around 100 euros.

There are two main aspects that you should pay attention to when buying:

  • The lamp should have a light intensity of at least 10,000 lux
  • It should not contain UV light
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Also, says Meisters, a larger lamp is better because even if you’re distracted by what’s going on around you, the light is more likely to fall into your eyes. “But if you have enough self-discipline to see the light every minute, a small lamp will suffice.”

By the way, instead of buying a lamp yourself, Meesters advises to always go to the doctor with severe complaints, such as winter depression. “They can monitor you and prescribe you at the right time if necessary. And some people need medication in addition to daylight. Others have contraindications, for example a certain eye disease, which can damage the daylight. A general practitioner can tell you that.”

That discipline, he says, is what de Weert (31) lacks here. She has tried daylight since nothing came out of her hands in the fall and winter. “It’s hard for me to get out of bed, I can’t get out of bed when it’s dark at night, and in the summer I have meetings in the evening, do fun things, and take it all in.”

Not enough patience

But Inge, who was burnt out in 2018/’19, didn’t have the patience to sit in front of such a lamp for 20 minutes. “When I had another winter depression in 2019, I heard a lot of positive stories about daylight lamps. So I wanted to try it too. But I always do everything at once and I can’t spend a long time sitting in front of the lamp. That also applies to burnout.”

Instead, he often goes for walks here when the weather is nice. “As soon as the sun shines, I go out. For the past few years I worked in the GGD office, but nowadays I work from home three days a week, so I can organize my time. If it rains, I stay. At home, but if the weather is good, I go to the forest. , that works well for me.”

Eva-Louise also likes to walk. She has to because she has a dog. “Before that I pretended I had a dog, and then I went outside for 20 minutes in the morning.”

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morning walk

This is also the advice Meisters give to patients. “A daylight works well, but a light half-hour walk in the morning is even better. We know that exercise has a positive effect on many aspects of health, including mood. Morning light is just that.” Useful, even on a gray day, the light outside is stronger than inside.” The only thing you shouldn’t do while hiking is wearing sunglasses. “It filters out the light you need.”

Also considering buying sunglasses here. It works like a daylight lamp, but since it’s on your head, you’re not limited in your freedom of movement. “But the effect of those glasses has yet to be scientifically studied,” cautions Meisters. “Maybe they work, maybe they don’t. We don’t know yet.”

Not under the sun bed

A solarium is not a good solution in any case. “A lot of people ask about it,” Meisters says. “But tanning beds need UV light to make sure people get a tan. And you have to put caps over your eyes in there so the light doesn’t get in your eyes.” He warns that even iPhone-sized daytime running lights won’t do the job well enough. “They’ve been sold for a while, but their brightness is so low that you’re looking at them or walking past them, so the light that’s there isn’t reaching your retina well enough.”

So Meesters offers some advice: Go for a walk in the morning when it’s light and/or buy a daylight lamp. If you suspect depression, always consult your doctor first.

Here’s another one, which at least works well for her: “Remember it will be over in the spring. That’s why I find the word depression so hard. I prefer to use the English word SAD, which I think covers the burden. . Depressed people, to see things get better again.” They won’t. I know: it’ll be March in five months, and then I’ll have the energy to do the fun stuff again.”

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