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S.A.D. Streetlighting

To brighten up those long, dark nights
  (+10, -5)
(+10, -5)
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Seasonal Affective Disorder [*ahem* - thanks, waugs] is a bummer. Certainly, in Scandinavia, it's a contributing factor to depression, alcoholism and suicide. It's bad enough in Scotland where, in the depths of winter, we get a few measly hours of sunlight between 9:00am and 4:00pm. You go to work in the dark. You go home in the dark. You go to work in the dark. You go home in the dark. For two or three months.

Now one treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder involves lamps which give off artificial sunlight. They're more powerful and the spectral mix simulates sunlight in a way that domestic bulbs don't. But how many people can afford this? How many people just put up with the months of misery because they don't think of it as 'depression'? Stiff upper lip, and all that. I'd guess that the problem is way-more widespread than just a few lost souls who are willing to admit 'weakness'.

So I say, let's treat the whole country. We don't need to ditch those orange (halogen?) streetlights completely, of course, because the volcanic glow that they give off is appropriately moody for night-time. I just propose having secondary streetlighting that for a couple of hours, pre-dawn or post-dusk, switches on and bathes the world around in gorgeous simulated sunshine. Two or three hours either side of the day is all I'm asking for.

OK, it would be expensive, I admit. But what price sanity, I ask you? What price do you place on a person's life? And, on a more serious note, there are accidents that occur - kids knocked down on their way to or from school - because people are less alert, less awake. If we're going to work through the winter days from nine to five, we need some way to tell our bodies that "no, you should not be tucked up in a warm bed just now." I think S.A.D streetlighting would be an expensive, but achievable way to jump-start the day and ease into the evening. And I think it would be worth it.

Guy Fox, Dec 14 2001


       I think the orange streetlights are high-pressure sodium, originated by GE with their Lucolux lamp. I've read that, actually, the treatment for s.a.d. does not require full spectrum lighting. Apparently the most effective treatment is to have lighting that is bright, at least 2500 lux, but about 10,000 lux is ideal, for between 1 and 2 hours daily.
bristolz, Dec 14 2001

       I rather like it when it the days are shorter and only really come to life when the sun goes down (no UnaBubba, it's not because I'm a cat burglar). However, I do empathise with the S.A.D. people. Perhaps the cure for jet lag, that beauxeault has mentioned elsewhere, can be adapted as a low cost treatment? Being fond of a bit of astronomy on occasions, I'm not too keen on having the streetlights on at all, let alone all the time.
DrBob, Dec 14 2001

       I'm not at all suggesting that we have these streetlights on all the time, DrBob - just for a couple of extra hours either side of the day, to bring the winter night down to the length of, say, a mid-autumn day (wouldn't want to get the plants all confused, you see). I do like star-gazing myself (not really astronomy, just gosh-wowery) and a clear, winter night can be a wonderful thing. It's just the mornings and afternoons I need my fix of sunshine.   

       Cure for jet-lag that involves, um, exposed knees and mooning street-lights... or something. OK, I gotta track that one down.
Guy Fox, Dec 14 2001

       Or better yet, let's all stay in bed longer in the winter.
hello_c, Dec 14 2001

       WAIT! You complain that most can't afford the special light, yet in the same breath you want to force everyone in your country to pay for it anyway through taxation, whether they want it or not.   

       Think about that.
seal, Dec 14 2001

       When SAD was first investigated there was hope that the apparent link between an animal model (photoperiodism) and treatment (with bright light exposure) would soon lead to confirmation of an underlying etiology for winter depression. The past decade of research has shown SAD to be more complicated and heterogeneous than first thought, and the mechanism of light therapy is proving as elusive as that of antidepressant medications. Further research is therefore needed to determine the pathophysiology of SAD and the specific effects of light therapy.
po, Dec 14 2001

       My SAD pathophysiology leads me to Absolut Mandarin, which seems to work
bristolz, Dec 14 2001

       absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.......
po, Dec 14 2001

       //Guy, in order to have any noticeable effect on your melatonin levels, you're going to have to stand around outside under your streetlights for at least a half hour - perhaps as long as two hours. In the winter. Brrr.//   

       Easily remedied... Alternate the ultraviolet lamps with the heat lamps they use at McDonalds to keep the burgers and fries warm.
PotatoStew, Dec 14 2001

       Maybe it would make more sense to have SAD based 'tanning' booths in which the affected could stand (with the backs of their knees showing clearly) for a few minutes in a very brightly lit 'box' and get their full daily dose of sunlight.   

       Put a bill taker on the outside of the booth and it's self-operating (3 minutes for a buck (or a pound)).   

       Might also have an appeal to people who have had enough of several rainy days in a row.
RobGraham, Dec 14 2001

       <random thought> ....once.... when I was married a long time ago.... my initials were S.A.D. <random thought>
Susen, Dec 14 2001

       Personally, I think it's the irritation of people going around being falsely cheerful at xmas.
StarChaser, Dec 15 2001

       speaking as a well known grump; I am feeling on top of the world today, two of my best buddies have new beautiful healthy babies, and I have a new significant other, shame he's half a world away.
po, Dec 15 2001

       <grins at Po>   

       Actually, I live in Florida. Sunny and hot. And find it immensely depressing...
StarChaser, Dec 15 2001

       //you're going to have to stand around outside under your streetlights for at least a half hour//   

       No problem. I walk my dog first thing in the morning for at least half an hour, usually longer. Even just the daily travel to work may, for many people, be enough to fill their 'recommended daily dosage'.   

       Skin cancer? More of a problem, I admit, though we are only talking about "topping up" the winter day with a couple of extra hours of sunshine (simulated), so I'd like to hear from medical type folks on whether this would be a real risk. I guess I kinda assumed the lamps were safe because I'm sure I've heard of them being prescribed. I could well be wrong though.   

       Taxation. Yup. Thought about that. Still think it's worth it - like having streetlighting in the first place, or any other public services. (We could all buy torches, after all.) I'm willing to pay higher taxes for services that contribute to public well-being (but, granted, I am a bit of a leftie). Anyhoo, there's long been an argument over abolishing British Summer Time that centres around the accident rates on winter mornings, and drivers and schoolkids being less alert; I know it takes me a lot longer to feel *awake* without sunlight. I think this _might_ have a positive effect on those accident figures.   

       //Or better yet, let's all stay in bed longer in the winter.// If only, hello_c, if only.
Guy Fox, Dec 15 2001

       we are talking two completely different significant others. significant has several connotations you know!
po, Dec 18 2001

       its panto season
po, Dec 18 2001

       Oh no it isn't!

po, does that mean that your significant other is the back end of a pantomime horse?
DrBob, Dec 18 2001

       One is WishyWashy and the other is the principal boy (played by a male in this panto) - oh yes he is....
po, Dec 18 2001

       I think that's an awful idea. A large portion of the population suffers monthly under the ravages of their menstrual cycles. Does that mean we should air-drop packets of tampons and midol all across the country? Or how about adding Viagra to the nation's water supply for those who are impotent? Heck, let's add asprin to McDonald's and Burger King hamburgers lest someone get a headache!
kdconod, Aug 27 2002

       While we as humans do indeed need light in our lives for certain biological and physiological processes, we as humans also need DARKNESS.   

       It is during this period of darkness that a gland in our bodies called the Pineal Gland (also known as the third eye) produces a potent antioxident called melatonin. Melatonin aids the body in fighting off diseases like cancer.   

       It is no wonder that the more developed countries of the world have higher incidences of cancer, and shift workers that are exposed to light during what is suppossed to be nighttime also have a higher incedence of cancer.   

       So while the proper type of lighting may help us see our way at night and help relieve SAD symptoms, too much may also predispose us all to cancer. The glare from unshielded and overly bright streetlights has caused at least one known fatality, and ordinances are being written all around the world that address the issue of outdoor lighting.   

       Just like anything else, outdoor lighting must be used wisely. Remember also that the electricity used to light up our nighttime was generated by some type of power plant (ie.Nuclear, Coal, Gas, etc.) which also pollutes our air and water.   

       So does it really need to be that bright, and does it really need to stay on ALL night? An estimated $2 BILLION per year is wasted on light that is shinning straight up into the sky in the US alone, benefiting nobody except the power plants!!!
lightwisely, Aug 27 2002

       As far as I know, melatonin is produced only during levels of sleep deeper than REM. I'm going to guess that light levels have little to do with the melatonin production other than maybe people enter these deeper levels of sleep more easily when there is less light. I know that people who have sleep apnea risk very low melatonin levels over time.
bristolz, Aug 27 2002

       //So does it really need to be that bright, and does it really need to stay on ALL night? //   

       Not at all. As I say in the original idea and in a reply to the Good Doctor Bobberty, SAD Streetlighting would only be used to extend winter daylight hours by a few hours in the morning and evening to an adequately autumnal length. As for the equation of the so-called *ajna eye* so beloved of theosophists and other such charlatans with the pineal gland - heathen poppycock, my good man. Pernicious nonsense.   

       But, aye, the night's are fair drawing in.
Guy Fox, Aug 27 2002

       bristolz, on Aug 27 2002 said: "As far as I know, melatonin is produced only during levels of sleep deeper than REM. I'm going to guess that light levels have little to do with the melatonin production other than maybe people enter these deeper levels of sleep more easily when there is less light. I know that people who have sleep apnea risk very low melatonin levels over time."   

       You are misinformed with regards to melatonin. The day/night cycle is the driving force behind the pineal glands production of melatonin in normal patients (the majority of the population) where as the light level increases, the melatonin production goes way down to unmeasureable levels. In contrast as it becomes darker the gland then begins it's production of melatonin until the highest levels are achieved normally just before dawn. The melatonin levels are indeed related to sleep patterns and generally higher levels of melatonin mean deeper more restful sleep.   

       It is also being researched to determine what color/temp of light more effects this production of melatonin and also at what intensity. It would suffice to say at this point that sleeping in a completely dark room is a good idea. Artificially trying to change our planets day/night cycle is a bit of a stretch of our resources and knowledge at this time.
lightwisely, Aug 29 2002

       bugger S.A.D, the orange lamps have been repeatedly linked to depression and psychosis in themselves. I think it is more of a trigger factor than a full on cause, but they definately contribute to the increase in nastyness of all forms in winter.   

       kdconod - if taxation should only pay for things that EVERYONE uses, we couldn't have public roads, lamps, tv, coast guard, police...
greennightmonkey, Apr 10 2003


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