I’ve had SAD for a while. It’s never been officially diagnosed, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been happy, motivated and full of gumption over the summer and then struggled once the darker mornings and nights draw in.
It’s not something I like to admit, I see it as a bit of a weakness and to be fair, mine is milder than some of the cases I’ve read online. Generally, I manage to keep going, but the battle to remove myself from my duvet, stop eating everything in sight and constantly feeling tired and sluggish takes its toll. I can be grumpy, irritable and generally quite miserable after a while. I think the fact I’m more of an owl, doesn’t help and contributed to sleep issues.
This year I thought, “No more!’ and looked into ways to help me combat it. A while back I’d seen a ‘sunrise clock’ in Wired (or a similar publication), which apparently mimicked sunlight to help you gradually and (almost) naturally wake up, refreshed.
Having been brought up in a house with thick, sun-blocking curtains, I’ve never been able to sleep-in staying over in rooms which let in daylight. So, this sounded perfect. However, when I originally looked at this a few years back it seemed prohibitively expensive and my salary at the time wouldn’t stretch to it. Luckily, times have changed.
Lumie has been designing SAD lights to treat seasonal affective disorder since 1991 and supplies to the NHS. They invented the much-imitated Bodyclock wake-up light, which I recognised as being the lamp I had seen all those years ago. I felt like was in safe hands when I got in touch and explained my situation and they recommended Lumie Zest.
It’s a combination wake-up light and also provides bright light therapy. A 2-in-1 essentially. It arrived and at first I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I was a little bit dubious, but eager, so after reading the instructions I popped it on the table and decided to do a 20 minute light therapy session. Firstly, it’s bright. It sounds obvious, but it really is – you don’t look at it directly, more bask in it while you go about your normal daily tasks. Allowing your eyes to soak up the rays in your peripheral vision. I don’t know whether it was psychosomatic, but I did genuinely feel more alert and awake. Some forums or review sites report that you can experience headaches or feel sick after using it, but I felt absolutely fine, so don’t expect to feel unwell – you’ll probably think yourself into it!
The light originally arrived back towards the end of October and I was recommended to use it 2-3 weeks to feel benefit. However, for transparency, during this time, from the second week of November, I did have two weeks in Mexico and Cuba which was, as you can imagine, pretty sunny! That said, I’ve purposefully used it for longer than the recommended period and during darker months to be able to give a fairer assessment.
My findings are as follows:
- * I use it for an alarm every day now. It has the wake-up light which gradually builds to full brightness over 30 mins (or a time of your choosing) and a beeping noise. I have both on and wouldn’t trust the light on it’s own. It’s not fool/Jo proof, I have been known (once or twice) to snooze/turn off the beeper and roll over from the light, but the vast majority of times it gets me out of bed and I feel fresher than I would with just my phone.
- * I genuinely do think the light therapy helps me. I find it most useful to leave the light on after the wake-up sequence and have it glowing over me as I get ready. It makes me feel A LOT more alert than just the phone alarm and I feel very much more set up for the day.
- * I like it and would recommend it. I was pleasantly surprised how much of a difference it made to my mornings. Even my other half, who is SAD-free prefers to have it set as an alarm.
Does it still require some will power to get out of bed? Yes. Of course, everyone wants to stay in bed. Even if they don’t have SAD.
Does it make it easier? Definitely, for me at least. The light can give me a much needed mood boost and makes me feel more prepared for the day.
Lumie Zest is also more functional than a lot of the other wake-up lights and light therapy products I’ve seen. It’s compact, light-weight and has a stand which can detach and fit within the main unit for travel. It also has the benefit of providing both the alarm and light therapy in one unit.
Lumie Zest has become a trusted friend when I know I have to be up. I no longer really use my phone, only when I have super special engagement or need to be up mega early, but that’s more to do with my own paranoia. Lumie Zest has never let me down so far. A testament to this is that I actually took it with me when I had to travel away from home for a few nights on business! Here she is in my hotel room:
My only bug bear is that it has to be plugged in and if you have to remove it from the plug for any length of time, then the clock has to be reset – but this minor and I can understand how the light requires that much power.
Overall, if you’re suffering as I was and you have the money to do so, I would recommend it. If you’re a diagnosed SAD sufferer then you get VAT relief when buying in the UK/EU for personal use – which could be a help with the cost.
Full Disclosure: Lumie provided me with a Lumie Zest to review, but this has not influenced my views or editorial in any way.