The polar night (kaamos in Finnish) is a period of time when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, meaning there are more than 24 hours of night.
The phenomenon only occurs in the polar circles. The closer you get to the circles, the longer the polar night is. In the northernmost part of Finland, it lasts for 51 days! The beginning of kaamos coincides with the end of the calendar year.
Although it’s a quite beautiful and exciting time, polar night might affect people negatively. It may trigger depression, seasonal affective disorder, or create extra weariness. Most commonly, people just feel depressed and drowsy. No one has the motivation to do, well, anything. The day goes by, filled with eating chocolate and lying around.
Tests have adduced that different seasons bring out differences in behavior, metabolism and in the mood of humans and animals. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a syndrome associated with depression, anxiety and just feeling down. It’s because of the lack of sun in the northern latitudes.
Some may have so severe symptoms that it intensely complicates daily tasks. Symptoms of SAD are similar to ordinary depression, such as decreasing mood, anxiety, crankiness, lack of satisfaction and interest, as well as feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
Typical features are increased need for sleep, decreased physical activity and increased appetite. That of course means weight gain. Great, another thing to feel depressed about!
Luckily these symptoms will disappear when summer and the shining sun comes. However, not being in shape doesn’t really encourage anyone to be out in their bikinis.
Since SAD feelings come in the winter due to the lack of sun, an obvious treatment is light therapy. You sit in front of a lightbox, which emits a very bright light, for 30 – 60 minutes per day. It’s more efficient in the morning. The treatment starts to have an effect after a week.
They say you should keep your eyes open during the session. However, a very bright light irritates your eyes. Common sense says: eyes closed! But maybe people know what they’re talking about, so just don’t look at the light. Regular exercise increases the effectiveness of the light treatment, so if you feel up to doing sports, it’s efficient to do the treatment 2 – 3 times a week.
Another kind of treatment is to travel to sunny destinations. I’ll take a week in the Bahamas instead of a box any day.