Monday, February 25, 2019

Sleep and SAD-can YOU ignore the weather?

Last year I was all about fighting the winter slump. I read at least one book on SAD, which primarily focused on light therapy. I schemed about changing the light fixtures in our apartment, and bought various "happy" lamps.

The happy light I bought (Phillips?) turned out to be the wrong voltage and my father in law fixed it up for Russian use, but it's the kind of thing where you want to have it sitting on a table near you, and I have 2 very curious/destructive kids. So I haven't wanted to risk having it out on a table, and there it sits in the closet! :(

I also got 2 "sunrise" alarm clocks. They're off-brand because I wasn't sure if I would like it (and again, things get broken quickly around here). I've tried them a few times and even though they claim to brighten gradually, I'm pretty much awake with the first hint of light, and then it feels like I'm at the dentist's or something with a bright light in my face. So, it doesn't feel the same as sunshine. A few times I tried just shining the light in my face when I first woke up to send the message to my body that IT'S DAYTIME NOW despite the dark outside. I didn't find it to be effective, though.

So those were my experiments from last year.

Fall 2018 

This year my online fitness group did a walking challenge again during the month of November-get outside every day. I did this faithfully for the first two weeks or so. It's supposed to a) help you get more daylight to keep your body in rhythm and b) give you lots of fresh air/positive exercise vibes.

Well, November is definitely the month when it all starts-the grey, dreary weather and desire to hibernate. The walks didn't feel like they helped at ALL.
On my way to the clinic not knowing I had appendicitis.

Also, as we already know, I got sick. I was still going outside almost every day when I first got a stomachache, although some of those were doctor's appointments or errands.

And then by November 16 I was in the hospital.

Fall gives way to Winter

In the hospital, I surprisingly did not feel the seasonal depression. You'd think that being cooped up all day with fluorescent lighting would be depressing. Nope. I slept horribly and often felt tired, but otherwise didn't feel any winter blah. Towards the end of my stay, we got into a deep freeze and there was some blue sky and snow-that did make me want to go back out into the world.

I often wonder what effect the hospital diet had on me, too. I definitely felt malnourished, but also wasn't eating the usual junk food.

1 week post-op

In December, I was still recovering, my mom visited, and we were decorating for Christmas. Obviously that time of the year is the darkest and therefore it's hard to find the energy for various pursuits.

And just as that is setting in, it's time for fireworks! Particularly around New Year's, there are lots of fireworks. On New Year's Eve we were all up about until 2 a.m. or so. We even went outside after midnight to see some of the fireworks up close (too loud for me!). We then spent about a week trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get out of bed before noon. The following week, I tried to get us waking at a more normal time so that Sophia would get back to napping. Result: by Friday, we got up at a normal time and Sophia took a nap. On Saturday, Andrei was home and we all slept in. :/

Working on the Christmas cheer.

5th Advent candle=Christ is born!

Winter color combinations

Then we moved into winter time and have basically been having late mornings since those holidays in January. I gave up trying to set an alarm to get on a different schedule.

But even though we were waking up late, that just made me stay up later in the evening. Then the next morning I would be so groggy...Andrei, too. And we would get such a late start to the day, with the grey weather outside.

Post-holiday tree (mid-January)

Also, Sophia gave up napping. Which makes sense given she hasn't been getting up early and then getting hours of outside time. But it makes me stir-crazy not having a break during the day, and I guess leads to needing more time to unwind in the evening.

February changes

February is kind of a game-changer in terms of additional light. We're needing the shades in the bedroom now! We can take afternoon walks again and we've even had some sunlight. It's kind of a teaser as winter is still lurking and the snow could stick around until May. But this is usually the point when I stop obsessing over hygge and light therapy.

So we kind of made it through another winter.


-I guess if you are leaving for work/school at a specific time each morning, you can at least get your body in rhythm. But the drawback to that is that you'll likely be indoors during all the daylight, leaving and coming in the dark, still giving that jet-lag kind of feeling.

-November-Feb are the darkest months. That's 3-4 months of needing to plan the day carefully to get outside during the actual daylight. In terms of schoolwork (see other posts), we'd need to bump some of it into the afternoon during those months in order to fit a walk in. But that still leaves a good part of the year that we can do morning school and then get outside.

-Maybe the starkness of the hospital light made me more alert (even though I was pretty tired). I lean towards subdued lighting because I like a cozy atmosphere. But I realize that to be alert and productive, the harsher light is better. In the kitchen work area, home office maybe...anywhere else? And then the other rooms can be the cozy ones.


  1. Light makes a big difference! Sunshine is so refreshing, but we almost don't notice how refreshing it is till we are without it. Adapting your routine to make sure you get out in the daylight for a bit each day sounds like a wise idea!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I guess it's one of those things where the effect isn't obvious but a little bit makes a difference.

  2. I just love the pictures in this one! I honestly think that both the light in summer and dark in winter would be difficult for me; I struggle a lot with simple old day-light savings time. Screws up my sleep pattern for days each time.

    When I don't have something to get up for, I have to say I just let myself wake up when I wake up (and frankly, that has to be one of the greatest luxuries in life). Now Monnie is in school it seems like almost every day is a struggle. Now we've begun going to bed at 7:30 - which should allow for nearly 11 hours of sleep - but I seem to need it all. So odd..... Maybe my body simply does NOT want to get up in the dark.

    1. I know there are families out there with regular sleep patterns...but when you're chronically sleep deprived (or live in a northern climate?), I think you just take whatever sleep you can get! I would love to conquer my own lack of discipline when it comes to bedtime. But I live with other people! Andrei goes to work at a different time each day, the kids might get up earlier or later, etc. So I guess there has to be a degree of flexibility. Usually we get up around 9 or 10, so you'd think I could get plenty of sleep too, and it ends up being about 7 hours, but even then, you'd think it would be enough. I think for various reasons, most people today are pretty burned out and need a recovery phase where they're sleeping 8-10 hours. But as you said, even that might not be enough...there must be other health areas to work on...

    2. I can't believe that your body wasn't still recovering from your medical issues, too!


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