Getting Lighter

We are only about 20 days past the winter solstice, yet I already notice the increasing daylight, particularly in the evening. The sun still sets quite early, but the sky remains illuminated by the residual glow for a little after 5:00pm. The mornings still seem dark for hours, though that’s probably partially a product of the fact that I get up at 3; of course it’s going to feel like it takes forever for the sun to rise—it’s over four hours!

I call this period of time—between the winter and summer solstices—”the good direction” because the daylight slowly increases in duration and intensity. As a sufferer of severe Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), even seemingly imperceptible changes in lighting either way impact me significantly. My body has what can only be equated to a diurnal amplifier: any slight changes in lighting have a magnified effect on my circadian rhythms. I’m disturbingly reactive to natural and artificial light. In particular, exposure to artificial light within 2-3 hours of bedtime can completely reset my body’s natural melatonin production and sleep/wake cycle. I may struggle to fall asleep for hours past my normal time if even a flicker of an overhead light or glimpse of a lamp or flashlight crosses my path. It makes for a daily practice of fumbling and feeling our way through darkened rooms illuminated only by any lingering natural light. Because quality sleep is so elusive for me, it’s worth the inconvenience and limitations this type of calculated prudence inflicts.

We still have months left of cold weather, winter storms, bitter outdoor conditions, and short days. However, I think it’s a good sign that the days are already appreciably longer and that this will be the trend from here until late June. Because I am as sensitive as I am to changes in environmental conditions, it follows that my body and mind are also intimately affected by my ability to be outdoors comfortably. I thrive on warm weather and intense sunshine so I’m counting down the days until we are in that season again.

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