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Home » Blog » Do we ‘fall back’ as well as the clocks?
At 2am on Sunday 29th October the clocks will ‘fall’ backwards giving us one hour extra in bed. Whilst a lot of people mark the end of British Summer Time with excitement because winter time brings the fun, festive season, there are a lot of us who struggle with the long, dark nights ahead.
In the coming months, it’ll keep getting darker earlier until the shortest day on 22nd December when the sun could set as early as 3pm. Shorter daylight hours bring on the winter blues for some (seasonal affective disorder – SAD) which is caused by an individual’s sensitivity to changes in light. The lack of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight also can cause fatigue, muscle pain and weakened bones. Low vitamin D can also cause disruption to the brain’s biological clock, also known as a circadian rhythm, resulting in a disturbed sleep pattern.
There are other issues people with sensitivity to artificial light face during these darker months. Street lights will be switched on for extended periods of time, the blinding LED car headlights will increase, glaring LED billboards will be illuminated and many people may feel more isolated, being forced to stay in their homes for longer periods of time each day.
During one of our team meetings here at LightAware, we discussed how each of us feels at this time of the year. Some of us are light-sensitive or light-disabled, whilst others only have very minimal problems with artificial light.
Here are some of our thoughts:
“There was a time I enjoyed the change in seasons including the long, dark nights, of winter, but being outside when it is dark is now a nightmare for me because new lighting, including LEDs, trigger my debilitating migraines. Since 2015, when street lights in my town were changed, I have been unable to leave my home when street lights are on without becoming ill, so I don’t go out at night. I daren’t even open my front door, and, living in the North of England, that can mean sometimes being unable to leave my home from 3.30pm to 8.30am in the shortest winter days. I become terribly isolated and depressed as a result.”
“For me this time of year is always hard as the nights draw in fast. I’m good in natural light and I’ve got used to more freedom through the summer and suddenly street lights go on sooner so I have to stay home from much earlier and even before dark, people have lights on in their living rooms when I walk past but haven’t drawn the curtains yet which often triggers a headache. I’ve had more headaches in October than in all the spring and summer put together and without time to recover properly in between and I feel much more reactive so get new headaches easier than usual. I think I actually find this time of year harder than the midwinter as by then I will have got used to the limitations again. I’ve ordered some LightAware Christmas cards and will spend the long evenings writing to friends far and wide.”
“Sensitive to all light to some degree, I venture out more during the day in autumn because the sun is lower and less fierce, but my low-lit evenings grow longer, when I can’t see to read.”
“Living in the North East of Scotland it gets dark very early in the winter with the light beginning to fade early in the afternoon. It gives me the desire to hibernate. I don’t like to drive at night anyway but now most people have their car headlights on during the day as well as it doesn’t properly get light here in midwinter for most of the day and I find the new LED lights too bright. The one good thing for me is that the floodlit tennis courts my house backs onto, turn their lights off much earlier in the winter so it is easier to sleep. I can’t wait for the joy of Spring already.”
“Time shrinks at this time of year. I know we say the ‘days get shorter’ for everyone, but for those of us who struggle with artificial lighting there is an ever-narrowing window of opportunity to get out, see people, get to where you need to be, shop or socialise. Then we have to dash home before those streetlights click on. It also makes it very difficult to get others where they need to be, even picking up kids from school etc. I’m lucky that I work from home and can get out in the morning with the dog for a vital fix of daylight every day. So many people in Scotland go to work in the dark and come home in the dark through the winter, and I think we underestimate the impact of the lack of daylight on everyone’s physical and mental health.”
“I have always thought I was lucky enough to not suffer from sensitivity to artificial light like some of my colleagues at LightAware, but during the autumn and winter months I realise most people are sensitive to some degree to artificial light, particularly LED lighting, which are most problematic in car headlights and LED billboards.
I personally suffer from ‘SAD’ (Seasonal affective disorder) where the lower natural light levels affect me, making my depression worse during the winter months causing me to have to use light therapy in the form of a SAD lamp.
So light plays an interesting role in all of our lives; natural light enables growth, lessens the feelings of low mood whereas artificial light such as LEDs can bring so much pain, disruption and limitation to life.”
How does the imminent ‘clocks going back’ affect you? We’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment or send us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Sarah Pritchard
Blogs are written by LightAware supporters in a personal capacity.
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