Finland darkness - A Vampire's paradise?

Finland | Thu, 8 Jul 2010 | 2508 views | 1 Comment

How do you think you’d go if you had to live for three months if near complete darkness? Do you think it would affect your mood? Do you think you’d sleep a lot more? That perhaps you might get a little depressed?

Well science tells us that there is a measurable rise in mental health problems in the north of Finland during winter. But let’s start from the beginning.

The top of Finland is covered by the Artic Circle which also covers the Arctic and parts of Russia, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and the far northern parts of Alaska and Canada.

The Arctic Circle marks the southern extremity of the polar day (24-hour sunlit day, often referred to as the ‘midnight sun’) and polar night (24-hour sunless night).

North of the Arctic Circle the sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year.

These events occur, in principle, exactly once per year, at the June and December solstices, respectively. But don’t worry - even during winter it isn't completely dark for 24 hours – there will be a few hours of twilight.

And yes, during summer they are equally long days with no real ‘dark’ nights.

Of course both sets of circumstances pose challenges for the human body – both physical and mental. Some science tells us that during winter the body produces more melatonin due to the darkness which makes you tired and unmotivated.  The thing which probably causes depressions is the lack of serotonin – serotonin levels rise with sun light.

So as well as realizing the effect the constant darkness might be having on your own body – you must be aware of it’s effect on the locals. In more remote places you may run across eccentric people, who are sometimes suspicious of outsiders. The long gloomy winter may lead to unpredictable behaviour and alcohol abuse.

(For those who don't know, Finland has a large number of 'Black Metal' bands like these - some allege its a fine example of unpredictable behaviour caused by lack of sunlight...)

Levels of depression and related disorders are known to rise.

Equally, during summer, the constant sunlight can cause insomnia.  So remember it’s not all dog sledding, ice fishing and cross country skiing!

Also, one final note. Obviously with little of the sun’s heat to warm the earth the weather can be especially extreme in northern Finland in areas known as Lapland. Even outside winter this can causes unexpected danger.  Extreme cold kills lone trekkers almost every winter in the wilderness, and cold rain can also be a problem in summer. The key is to take appropriate precautions against both the emotional and physical extremes inherent to Finland’s fascinating northern reaches.

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Tags: darkness, depression, europe, finland, travel-health, travel-safety

1 Comment

  • Alex said

    Hi. There is something that i would like to add to this interesting text. I have a rare and more unknown syndrom which is called Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which it happens the oposite. Hot weather causes irritability, tiredness and apathy. I am from South Europe and down here the summers are of blistering heat. People like me have a rough time in summer, while in winter we feel, and i can speak at least for myself, more awake, inspired and fit. It might sound strange but the fact i am not the only one.
    I have to say i am myself a doom-metal/black metal musician and singer. So there is soemthing that i have to add to the black metal subject. There is some contemplation of darkness and coldness that is inherent to these styles of music that obviously flows more from a dark cold, blueish evening, than from a sunny hot street,noisy and colorful. Its also about what fits the taste and state of spirit, there is obviously a deep connection bettween northern cold landscapes and the rise of a certain kind of black metal-even most songs dont even talk about nature. But the dark mood is there always. I know people on black metal scene from northern europe who are pretty balanced in their minds and the dark and cold is a aesthetical concept that pours into a more introspective, poetic and philosophical idea rather than a sad mood.
    You might say, well but winter in northern europe is so different, so much colder and there you would feel depressed. I was already in Lapland for several weeks in deep wintertime, and i never felt depressed neither sleepy. In the other hand i felt energic and inspired. You might think this happens cause i am related to black metal scenne, but i have to say that i know personally people around here (co-workers, etc) that are just the average citizen, and some of them prefer winter to summer.
    But all of this is just the exception of course, but exists and its a intersting subject if you want to know more: http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2005/oct/30/features.magazine7

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