Lumie Vitamin L: My Experience with a SAD Lamp
When Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) emerged into our culture many years ago, I was unsure whether it was a real condition, or a gimmick. In fairness, that’s probably down to the incredibly accurate acronym; it fits almost TOO well, yknow? But every year as winter approaches, I’ve noticed that I become more lethargic. Less positive. More irritable. Then in February/March, I start feeling more like myself and dismiss how I’ve felt in the previous 3 months. And THEN we creep towards October and I dread the coming season. And I wonder whether I should have been so dismissive before. It’s like clockwork. I research SAD every year, and I see that light treatment can be one of the most effective treatments. And I think “I don’t want to spend all that money on a light when I might not even have SAD”. Well this winter, I broke the cycle. Enter: The Lumie Vitamin L.
I’m clearly no clinician, but the NHS have outlined the theory behind how light therapy works. In short, SAD lamps produce light which is similar to sunlight or outdoor light. This encourages production of serotonin (a mood hormone) and reduces production of melatonin (a sleep hormone). As someone who can’t get out of bed in the morning and is exceptionally grumpy during winter, it sounded promising to me! The amount of time/usage required depends on the intensity of the light. Of course, light therapy isn’t 100% effective, but it’s produced good results in many studies over the years.
There are lots of SAD lamps on the market. The most common brands seem to be Lumie and Beurer. You can buy them from many shops, including pharmacies and department stores. Lumie products can also be ordered directly from their own website. I ordered mine from John Lewis, as I had received a gift card for their store.
I opted for the Vitamin L primarily because of its design. It’s surprisingly slim, and the accompanying stand allows use in both portrait and landscape orientations. It’s also mains operated, which saves going through countless batteries! The Vitamin L operates at the industry standard intensity of 10,000 lux when used 16cm away. If used further away, the light is naturally less intense. The manual recommends 30 minutes of treatment every day if used at a 16cm distance, and slightly longer if further away – but there’s no danger if used for longer.
Research shows that light therapy is particularly effective if done first thing in the morning. The Vitamin L documentation suggests that the time of treatment can be varied in line with the presenting issue. If you struggle to get going in the morning, it makes sense to use the lamp first thing. If, however, you struggle with staying awake later in the day, Lumie recommend using the lamp in the early evening to help stimulate the brain.
My experience using the Vitamin L
My Vitamin L arrived during the first week of December. I wanted to try it for a reasonable period before sharing my thoughts! I’ve tried to be consistent, using it pretty much every weekday while I’m working. The lamp is designed to be used whilst doing other activities, such as watching TV or reading. There’s no need to stare at it for 30 minutes! My first thought was that the cable was a little on the short side (it’s 1.8m). But I’ve been able to place it on my coffee table, while I work comfortably on my sofa.
The light, although bright, isn’t as bright as I thought it might be. I expected to have difficulty working on my laptop whilst using it, but I’ve had no problems at all. However, I should point out that I’ve sat in front of softbox and ring lights for a number of years now, so I might be a little more used to bright lights than others! I use the light for 60-90 minutes a day on average (starting around 9am).
But is it working?
I’ve gone through quite a few changes since last winter, so it’s difficult to do a direct comparison between years. I’m now living on my own as opposed to being with my Dad – we both have strong personalities! I’m also not commuting to a busy office just now, so I’m getting more sleep – as well as having peace and quiet to work. These changes have likely had a positive effect on my mood – but I wouldn’t have bought a SAD lamp if I didn’t think it would help.
The most noticeable benefit I’ve experienced is the increased energy levels. COVID lockdowns and working from home have taken their toll on my routine – and I’ve really struggled to get going. But using the Vitamin L has meant that I feel more energised as early as 9.30am – which really improves my concentration for work.
I’ve also noticed that my mood has been much more stable recently. I’m the first to admit that my emotional state can be volatile; but over the past couple of months I’ve felt fairly content! Even during those horrendous PMS days, I’ve felt balanced. Normally at that point in the month, I’m impatient and irritable – before descending into floods of tears! Again, I can’t guarantee that this change is solely down to the Vitamin L – and I still have my moments of frustration when things don’t go my way. It’s a SAD lamp – not a personality transplant!
There are still occasions where I just want to sleep – and I do indulge in the odd afternoon nap. But the difference this year is that I’m sleeping because I’m tired – not because I’m bored or trying to shift a low mood. There are so many reasons why I could be feeling tired – not least a global pandemic at the time of writing, and the associated stress!
I’ve been recommending the Vitamin L to my friends since late December. I wanted to make sure it worked before posting my thoughts on it – I know some people are sceptical about light therapy. I certainly was for long enough! But with the gloomy winters here in Scotland, it’s been really effective for me – and I’m SO glad I finally did something about my mood.
Have you ever tried a SAD lamp? xx