The singer revealed this week that she suffers from 'really bad seasonal depression." Can a SAD lamp help? Kerry Potter relies on hers for more than just a pick-me-up

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Singer Adele said this week that one of the reasons she prefers living in LA to the UK is the year-round sunlight. "I get really bad seasonal depression, so the weather is good for me here," she told the Hollywood Reporter.  I know how she feels. It's one of those bleak winter mornings when it never seems to get properly light, it’s hammering down with rain and my poor plants in the garden are bent double by the wind. Yuck. 

 According to the NHS, symptoms of SAD, can include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal activities, irritability, feelings of lethargy, despair and difficulty concentrating.

However, it’s positively tropical in my home office, as I perkily type away, basking in the rays of my Lumie Vitamin Light. Not quite Palm Springs, admittedly, but enough, for me at least, to keep the winter blues at bay. 

Lumie has specialised in lamps and clocks to combat SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for 30 years, and mine is their biggest seller. It’s not sexy, you won’t see it on the pages of Elle Deco magazine but I can honestly say it’s one of the best investments in my wellbeing I’ve ever made.  In the five years since I bought it, I religiously bring it out every autumn the week after the clocks go back. As do a lot of other people, it seems; Lumie’s website traffic was 30 per cent higher on the Monday after the clock change compared to the Monday before.

But for me, it's not just a way to feel perkier in the dark mornings. It has surprising other applications too, as we shall see.

How I multi-task with my SAD lamp 

The Lumie Vitamin Light, £68.99 sits on my desk, just to the side of my computer, about an arm’s length away, and beams an LED simulation of summer sunlight (without the harmful UV rays) onto my face every morning for an hour or two. I don’t have SAD (also known as “winter depression”, which is linked to lower exposure to sunlight during short days) but I find the Lumie energises me – I can think faster and write quicker – and lifts my mood.

I’ve discovered my Lumie lamp isn’t a mere one-trick pony. I also use it for the following tasks:

To make me look better on Zoom calls

I started a new job in the deep, dark midst of the pandemic lockdowns in January 2021. Like everyone in the land, I looked (and felt) drawn and miserable at the time. So when I first met my team on Zoom, I fired up the Lumie behind my laptop camera. “Wow, Kerry,” said my new manager. “You look amazing, you’re really glowing.” If only she knew – I hope she wasn’t too disappointed when we finally met in person. The Lumie essentially doubles as a ring light.

For flawless makeup application

As someone who leaves the house at 6.30am, that ritual will now undertaken in depressing darkness until next March. But the lamp behind my mirror means I can actually see where my eyeliner is going.

To perk up sad plants

If you have a houseplant that loves sunlight but looks a little miserable during winter, plonk it in front of the Lumie while you work so you can both soak up the (fake) sunshine together. That’s my kind of gardening.

How do SAD lamps work?

They help regulate our circadian rhythm by mimicking daylight, of which it can be hard to get enough of in the winter months, especially if you do a 9 to 5 type indoor job, thus going to work in the dark and getting home in the dark.

Seeing daylight in the morning encourages receptors in the back of our eyes to send a signal to our internal body clock, telling it to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin and restart again when the daytime gives way to evening. Lack of daylight can mean we produce too much melatonin – and unlike hedgehogs, humans don’t get to hibernate for six months over winter. We just get drowsy and grumpy.

This is why it’s so hard to wake up and get going on these dark winter mornings (and one of the reasons why I tried the 23-minute wellbeing challenge loved by celebrities last winter).

Can you use a SAD lamp at night?

It’s best suited for morning use. I never switch mine on beyond early afternoon because I’m worried it’ll stop my body producing melatonin in the evening and thus affect my sleep. If you’ve ever been to a Vegas casino, you’ll know they are permanently brightly lit, so punters forget to go to bed and keep spending big.

Does a SAD lamp provide Vitamin D ?

No, you still need to take a Vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months, as recommended by the NHS, to make up for the lack of genuine daylight. SAD lamps mimic daylight but only emit a negligible amount of vitamin D-creating UV rays, if at all. (On the plus side, that means a SAD lamp won’t damage your skin like the sun does.)

4 of the best SAD lamps

The chic one: Lumie Task, £249

BUY

This is Lumie’s latest launch and they’ve really amped up the design creds here. It’s cleverly multi-purpose – you can use it as a task light too, and has a dimmer switch.

BUY

Great value, this is lightweight (so good if you’re travelling), has a dimmer and a timer, so you don’t lose track, accidentally leave it on for eight hours and end up wide awake all night.

The one you can use right through the day: Beurer TL45 Perfect Day Daylight Therapy, £75.58

BUY

This one has three light settings – a gentle sunrise one to help you get going, a “peak” super-bright option for full-throttle productivity and then a lower light relax setting for later in the day.

The one that wakes you up in the morning: Philips Sleep and Wake-up Light, £159.99

buy

Short of making you a cup of tea in the morning there's not much this smart lamp doesn't do. It wakes you up gently with morning light and gentle sounds or an FM radio, and has a sunset red light function to wind you down at night. It will also do guided belly breathing with you to help you nod off. And if you wake up in the middle of the night you can use it to cast a gentle red glow to guide your way to the loo!