Combating winter darkness

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 19:00

It’s getting dark. And it’s only going to get darker over the next few months.

We are losing more than five minutes of sunlight each day. The big question is how to deal with the darkness and keep it from affecting my mood.

When we moved here in January 2011, I noticed a peculiar trend: it seemed like everyone was traveling out of state, or had traveled out of state, between the months of December and April. The majority of them had headed to Hawaii.

Hawaii is a top travel destination from anywhere, but nowhere else had I seen quite the number of people traveling to its tropical paradise in one year, much less in five months.

The following winter, my college roommate got married in mid-December. It wasn’t Hawaii, but I was headed to sunny Alabama. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the sun until I was standing in a parking lot, arms outstretched, face uplifted, just basking in the direct rays of the sun.

Last year, my husband and I saved up some of his extra pay earned over deployment and the whole family decided to follow the trend I’d seen the year before. We were off to Hawaii. We had six days to sit on the beach and soak up the sun’s rays.

Both trips brought me home right at the winter solstice. That one short day wasn’t too bad knowing that instead of losing light each day, I was gaining about five minutes of sunlight a day.

This year, there is no mid-December trip planned to go visit the sun. Months of darkness seem to loom ahead. There are 44 more days of losing sunlight each day before we begin to gain again.

Even with visits to the sun, the past years have brought the symptoms of less energy and carbohydrate cravings that led to winter weight gain. So in preparation of the days growing ever shorter this year, I have a plan.

First, if the sun is out, so are my children and I, even if only for a short while. We must enjoy what we have while we can.

Second, I am taking my Vitamin D. I asked my doctor how much she recommended for my children and me and we are getting our daily dose.

Third, I am using the lights in my house. The many bright lights in our house were one of the selling points when we first saw it.

During the winter, I use those lights often. Our electric bill is not overly impacted because of my husband buying large quantities of LED light bulbs. It may be dark outside, but it is nice and cheery inside. I even include candles to my lighting scheme to add to the warm, cheery, well-lit atmosphere I’m trying to create.

If all of that doesn’t help combat the seasonal blues, I may have to look into a “happy” light. I have many friends who count on theirs for increased energy. I have been warned to use the light in the morning. Exposure in the evening is rumored to give users too much energy to sleep.

I will get through my first uninterrupted Alaska season of darkness with my sanity intact. And I will daily be thankful that here in Eagle River we do get to see the sun every day, even when it’s only for a short while.


Eagle River’s Lori Spears is the wife of a captain in the U.S. Army.

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