Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sun Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

When Mike and I came to Helsinki on our house hunting trip in June, we talked to a lot of people about what it is like to live here weather-wise.  The Finns LIVE for summer.  They love the long, long days, the comfortable temperatures (it never gets much above 80), and spending time outside.  Supposedly, summer makes up for the time we are in now.  November.  Hands down, bar none, and without a doubt, every Finn I have asked says November is the worst month here. 

Though the days are getting noticeably shorter, today’s sunrise was at 7:48 and sunset is at 4:19, the sun never really shines.  It’s all cloudy and gray.  And depressing.  This period will last for many, many weeks. We hope that December brings snow, crazy I know, but snow means that what little light we have will be reflected on the ground, too.  Not just light from above, but light from below.  We will need all of the light that we can get.

This need for light brings us to our latest purchase.  A sun lamp.  Each morning, we get up 30 minutes early in order to have time to sit in front of our lamp.  This is all in order to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is a form of depression that’s symptoms can include a lack of energy, a desire to sleep too much, withdrawal from friends and family, and overeating, especially carbs. It is thought that SAD is caused by the eye’s retina not getting enough sunlight.  Sunshine impacts the amount of serotonin and melatonin in the body which impacts your sleep and mood levels. 

One of the suggested ways to prevent SAD is by sitting in front of a high powered lamp, for between 30 minutes and 2 hours a day.  It is suggested to do it between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in order to not mess up your night time sleep.  Since both Mike and I work, and aren’t always home by 6:00 p.m., this means we start our day 30 minutes earlier than we had.  We are trying to make it quality time.  We eat breakfast together, read the newspaper (my Mom has been sending me sections of the Sunday NY Times.  Love!!), and just chat.  With Mike gone to the U.S. this week, my mornings have definitely been lonelier.  

 This is our sun lamp sitting on our dining table. 

 One of the other issues related to the lack of sun is a potential vitamin D deficiency.  I have been hearing about this a lot in the U.S for 6 months or so.  I have read that some think it is because we all wear so much sunscreen these days.  I am not sure if that is true or not, but the cause in Finland is no sunshine, not too much sunscreen.  In order to combat this one, a vitamin supplement is needed.  For us, it’s not a big deal.  The pre-natal vitamin (me) and the daily multi-vitamin (Mike) that we have been taking provide enough vitamin D.  For babies, it is an entirely different story.  Babies have to take a vitamin D supplement, as well, even if their mom is taking one and breastfeeding.  There isn’t enough vitamin D for them to share.  This supplement is required for about 6 months a year and the time to start taking it is now. 

One of my new friends here happens to be from Mesa, Arizona.  And though she is a Sun Devil, we forgive her for that (Hi, Sarah!)!  Sarah is married to a Finn and has had both of her little boys while living here.  Sarah is a professional photographer and keeps her own blog.  Additionally, she wrote a guest post on another blog that is a beautiful description of this time, and what we are all dealing with.  Her post is quite eloquent, much more so than this one, and I highly suggest you read it.  My friends in the northeast may be able to relate a little more to what Sarah writes and what we are dealing with.  My friends in Arizona and California, otherwise knows as the “Sunshine State”, welcome to our world.  Think of me when you’re complaining because the high is “only” 62 degrees and a cloud or two passes over and “blocks your sun!”

Wish us luck and if you are looking for us in the early morning hours, we’ll be in front of our sun lamp! 

 Here's the lamp on (taken at the same time as the prior picture) to give you an idea of its brightness.


  1. On the base, they will give these lamps out to servicemen. we don't have one and have been able to deal with it fine but I know it has greatly helped some friends. Our sun seems like yours-it is full dark now by 5. Soon it will drop to 3:30. And we don't get the blessing of lots of snow to help (although I don't like snow so I think it more of a win-win:). good luck getting through your first dark winter!

  2. Well those of us in SoCal still have our own mini-SAD...what else can I blame my additional carb intake on at this time of the year? And here I was blaming the October-December gauntlet of *birthdaysHalloweenThanksgivingChristmas* craziness. Ah heck...let's just call it what it and my lack of self control! But thanks for the motivation...heading out for my walk the sunshine....and it is in the high 80's today. Just sayin'

  3. I am really feeling for you all right now. We're down to about 11 hours a day and I need to drag my sunlamp out. I go with some prescribed meds too or else by January I become a complete, bed-ridden blob!

  4. Sounds like you and I are leading very similar lives, only me being in Seattle. The first year I lived here, I bought a membership to a tanning salon only to soak up the happy rays!