If you are a newcomer to Finland, you must have realized how short are becoming the days. Actually, the darkness will dominate the following months. Nights will be so long that in Lapland the sun won't rise. In Finland, this is called kaamos (or polar night, in English).
As the winter solstice approaches, more towns in Northern Finland get immerse into a long night that can last several weeks. But it doesn't mean there is absolutely no light. During a few hours every day, the sun, below the horizon, still illuminates the sky.
This phenomenon only occurs inside the Arctic circle, which in Finland starts a few kilometres north from the city of Rovaniemi, in Lapland. The place where the sun takes more time to reappear is Nuorgam, the northernmost village of the country, in the municipality of Utsjoki.
Kaamos starts in this location on 25th of November and finishes on 17th of January: almost two months without seeing the sunrise. Meanwhile, in Sodankylä, closer to the Arctic circle imaginary line, there are only two days of polar night, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute (Ilmatieteenlaitos).
Ice and darkness in Saariselkä.(Lapland). Photo: Pablo Morilla.
Lack of light in south Finland
In the south of the country, although it cannot be strictly said that kaamos occurs, days are also very short. In Helsinki, there can be less than six hours of daylight. It means that it gets already dark at 15:00.
How this situation affect Finns? It is easy to see in the streets that people do not go outside as days are shorter and colder, but there are also serious problems they face.
Due to the lack of natural light, some persons suffer depression related to seasonal affective disorder. According to the Finnish Association for Mental Health, this can cause anxiety, hopelessness and self-destructive thoughts.
How to avoid depression
There are some recommendations to avoid depression. For example, exercise and outdoor activities can have a positive effect on the mood.
Treatment with light therapy can also benefit people with this problem.
Installing an efficient bright light luminary (kirkasvalolamppu) designed to counterweight the effects of this phenomenon and its daily use, for example at work, may be the solution for those who get depressed in wintertime.
Light therapy with a Kirkasvalolamppu is one option to treat depression caused by Kaamos. Photo: Foreigner.fi.
During this period, many Finns also buy pills of vitamin D to cope with the darkness. In winter, skin does not produce as much vitamin D as in summer, according to the Finnish Food Authority, so people need another source to get it.
What does it mean for your health? Vitamin D helps to prevent bone's problems, such as fractures. In worst cases, a deficit of this vitamin could increase the possibility of suffering osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children.