Friday, November 29, 2013

Fighting Winter Depression with Light Bulbs

Light therapy for Winter Blues

It’s time for Winter Depression again. Daylight Savings Time (DST) has struck and suddenly it’s darker during the end of your work day than it was two weeks ago. Although I have clinical Depression year round, I have noticed that every time at this year my mood disorder spikes. I’ve written about Season Affective Disorder before So why was this year harder than previous years? You’d think I’d be prepared.

Well, I was prepared — last year. The bulbs only burn for about a year and starting around August my bulbs began to die off. By the time November rolled around, I was desperately trying to replace them. If I thought things were confusing in 2009 the last time I had to decipher industry offerings for daylight spectrum bulbs, that was nothing compared to the brave new world of federally regulated light bulbs today. Everything has changed again.

Since I couldn’t find an exact match to the bulbs I was using before, I’ve been using GE Reveal halogen bulbs as an experiment and they are OK, but I only bought two of them and have under illuminated my environment. This is why I have been harder hit by DST this year. Since I’ve been using ceiling lights to treat Winter Depression as opposed to dedicated depression lamps, I have discovered a few things.

First, full spectrum bulbs are hard to find now. I realize that most commercial full spectrum bulbs aren’t really full spectrum, but I liked the cool morning light affect of these bulbs and they alleviated my Winter Depression. GE makes regular and full spectrum Reveal bulbs. Their difference seems to be a blue tint on the full spectrum bulbs. I went with the regular Reveal halogen bulbs because that’s all I could buy, but Amazon lists full spectrum versions I would dearly like to find.

Second, the type of bulb doesn’t seem to matter as long as the lux value is high. Lux is equal to light output (lumens) divided by square meters (1 lx = 1 lm/m² —Don’t you feel all smart and everything now?). Most light bulbs will list lumens stats, so lux is the measurement of the amount of light in your work area. By having the hallway and kitchen lights using these high lumens bulbs I could offset the Winter Depression. This year, however, I only had the high lumens bulbs in the hallway. The lack of lux had a profound affect on my depression. I can’t say that a dedicated full spectrum Verilux HappyLite Deluxe Sunshine Simulator can be replaced with far less expensive bulbs, but perhaps the far less expensive bulbs can be good enough if you have enough of them installed.

And that’s my report for the year. I look forward to getting more Reveal lights installed soon. Contact me on Twitter or via email if you want to know how my experiment is going.