We all experience happy and sad moments in our lives, but have you been feeling gloomy, exhausted and depressed during the winter months?
You may be suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD)—a form of depression which is triggered when the seasons change, and occurs cyclically during winter and sometimes in the fall.
Some other common symptoms of SAD include, increased appetite, irritability, increased sleep, weight gain, and interpersonal issues .
The recommended solution for this issue is light therapy via the use of SAD lamps which emit bright white light similar to natural sunshine.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about SAD lamp therapy.
We’ll also review 10 of the best SAD lamps on the market, and then chose our top pick from the list.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Some people have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression that hits during the dark days, typically around December, January and February.
The NHS has listed these symptoms of SAD:
- Persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy throughout the day
- Sleeping for longer hours and finding it harder to get up in the morning
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
Typically the treatment for SAD is to try to increase natural sunlight to optimal levels.
The Importance of Sunlight
Although it sounds like only people suffering from SAD need to increase their sunlight exposure during the winter, this is not the case.
Everyone who lives in parts of the world with limited light during winter should increase their sunlight exposure whether you are diagnosed with SAD or not.
Insufficient sunlight exposure is associated with decreased levels of melatonin and serotonin.
These hormones are released by your brain and help to improve your mood, keep you focused and calm, and also help to regulate your sleep cycle.
When low levels of these hormones are produced, it has adverse effects on your overall health, specifically your mood – leading to feelings of sadness and depression.
Light therapy can also treat jet lag, sleep disorders, dementia, and other types of depression as noted by Mayo Clinic.
Sunlight has so many benefits that we lose out on if we don’t get enough.
- It helps us stay in a positive mood (whether we have SAD or not)
- Decreases depression and anxiety
- Improves quality of sleep
- Increases red cell quantity and boosts our immune system
- Helps Vitamin D production
The following list emphasises why you should be looking to increase their sunlight exposure during winter especially if you want to maintain a positive mood and high productivity levels.
What is Light Therapy?
We can’t ask the sun to stay out longer but we can create our own artificial sunlight that mimics the same type of light emitted by the sun.
The process involves the use of a special lamp that emits different levels of lux light – replicating natural sunlight.
These special lamps come under different names such as SAD lamps, light therapy boxes, sun lamps and bright lightboxes.
In essence, a SAD lamp creates a simulation of sunlight rather than ordinary yellow light like you may get from an everyday lamp.
To use a SAD lamp you would place it in front of you at a certain distance and bathe in the light. You don’t have to look directly at it, you could place it on a table beside you as you work.
Light therapy sessions are best done daily; usually early in the mornings for a specified time.
The time span is dependent on the lux light capacity of your device but usually, exposure for 30-60 minutes a day in the morning is all you need.
Light therapy devices are considered safe and effective without any addictive properties or harmful side-effects.
Types of SAD Lamps
There are different types of light therapy lamps available, so let’s explore some popular options.
Blue Wave technology
Also known as blue light, similar to the light emitted from your phone or tablet, this option is deemed superior to other kinds in its ability to suppress melatonin levels, regulate circadian responses and shift circadian rhythms .
It is used for mood and sleep disorders as well or to treat skin conditions such as acne.
Full-Spectrum Light Box
Often used in clinical studies to treat SAD, these offer 10,000 lux output via full-spectrum fluorescent light.
They may also offer UV protection and require 30 to 60 minutes of use daily.
They can improve mood, boosts mental awareness and help persons suffering from SAD and anxiety disorders.
These may offer up to 5000 lux light, which is like bringing the natural daylight indoors without the harmful rays.
They are designed to help with fatigue, adjust your circadian rhythm and improve your mood and may require longer periods of use than full-spectrum since they emit less lux light.
What to Look for When Choosing a Light Therapy Lamp
Not all light therapy lamps are created equal, so keep these important features in mind before purchase.
Light therapy lamps are often placed on a flat surface, but some can be mounted on your wall like a TV.
There are also remote control options, while some products offer no-glare lenses, UV protection, built-in timers and adjustable stands.
You may not get all these features in one device, so decide what is most important to you.
These lamps are available in different sizes; if you want something to travel with (home, office, and vacation) opt for a light, compact option.
Also, some devices may only work with U.S voltage so keep this in mind if you plan to travel out of country with the device.
Furthermore, if the lamp has to be plugged in during use, rather than charged first you’ll need to be near a socket every time you want to use it, so keep these details in mind.
It’s always a good idea to purchase a product that offers buyer protection.
Make sure you read and understand the warranty guideline and timeframe so that you’ll know beforehand whether you are eligible for a refund or exchange.
The Best SAD Lamps and Light Therapy Boxes
In this section, we’ll look at a variety of the best and most popular light therapy boxes currently on the market.
1. Verilux Full-Size 10,000 lux HappyLight
This compact, full-spectrum light therapy lamp promises to bring the daylight indoors – by providing 10,000 lux, UV blocked bright, white light.
Verilux can be modified to your personal preference; high or low to suit your mood.
Furthermore, the broad surface area emits more light per square inch guaranteeing you effective light therapy sessions.
The device also comes with two easy to install, no glare lenses for added comfort.
Verilux works in 3 simple steps; just plug in the device, adjust it to your liking and start with a 10-minute session.
Users were not pleased with the lack of return policy and some also complained that their bulbs died quickly.
However, if you want a compact device for easy travel and a UV- free option this is a good selection.
Pros: Compact size, no glare lenses, UV-free
Cons: No return option, bulb dies easily
2. Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0 Light Therapy Lamp
This lamp from Cardiac Optics will help you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle, boost your energy, improve your mood and help your concentration.
This updated 2.0 model has more efficient LEDs which means a cooler lamp and less heat production, plus it has an improved adapter plug-in as well.
It offers 10,000 lux light and has 3 levels of brightness. It is UV free, and its 5500K colour temperature is the colour of the noonday sun.
The lamp also has a 50,000-hour bulb lifespan and comes in a matte-textured, dark grey colour. There is a 2-year warranty with your purchase.
For some users, their lamp stopped working after a few months while others complained that the device uses a plug which limits where it can be used.
However, this product has 3 levels of brightness, a 50,000-hour bulb lifespan and comes with a 2-year warranty- a good pick for first-timers.
Pros: 2- year warranty, 3 level brightness, 50,000-hour bulb lifespan
Cons: Not portable, may stop working after a few months
3. Luminette 2 – SAD Bright Light Therapy Glasses
This one is different from all the others on the list; it is actually worn on the face.
Instead of having to sit in one spot while getting your light therapy, the Luminette glasses gives you the flexibility to read, watch TV, or work at your computer during the therapy session.
The glasses are worn above the brows not directly over the eyes. The device is made with a patented illumination system, providing ideal eyes exposure without discomfort or impact on your vision.
It emits a blue-enriched white light – equivalent to a 10,000 lux lamp and has 3 level settings.
Manufactured in Belgium, Luminette is certified as a “zero-risk” device according to European standards.
It comes with a lens cloth, protective case, micro USB and a U.S plug adaptor.
The downside is that it requires regular charging and can be uncomfortable.
However, if you are active in the morning, Luminette is a great option since you do not have to stay in one place during light therapy.
Pros: Portable and lightweight, can be worn while wearing glasses or contact lens, certified as “zero-risk” device
Cons: Has to be charged frequently, design is uncomfortable
4. Carex Day-Light Sky Bright Light Therapy Lamp
This safe, light therapy lamp is designed to combat jet lag, fatigue, circadian sleep disorders, and shift work adjustment.
It delivers 10,000 lux light and has two settings; one offers therapeutic glare-free white light while the other provides convenient glare-free task lighting.
This device is made with high-efficiency ballasts which eliminates flicker.
This clinically tested product is made with hi-impact polycarbonate and the lens filters 99.3% of harmful UV rays.
Furthermore, it meets the standards for safe full-spectrum light therapy and sun lamp therapy.
Some common complaints are that the bulb burns out quickly, plus the device is large and bulky.
Nonetheless, this Carex lamp delivers sun and full-spectrum light therapy and blocks harmful UV rays; a good selection to consider.
Pros: Glare & Flicker-free, filters UV rays, sun lamp therapy/full-spectrum light therapy
Cons: Bulb burns out easily, large and bulky
5. Aura® Day Light Therapy Lamp
Guaranteed to eliminate winter blues with its clinical strength lighting, this device has an adjusting dial, dual tilt angle of 85 or 70 degrees and a wall mounting option.
Furthermore, the unique built-in timer can be set at ten-minute intervals from 10-60 minutes and automatically shuts off after your programmed time.
Aura has a maximum setting of 10,000 lux and a minimum lux output of 3,500. It is certified as 100% UV free, and is ETL and FCC tested and certified.
The shortcoming is that this product was designed with only U.S voltage in mind, while some buyers complained about broken products after a few months of use.
Nevertheless, this adjustable and wall-mountable therapy lamp is FCC approved and comes with a timer so you can set your ideal period of light therapy.
Pros: Wall mountable, timer feature, ETL & FCC certified
Cons: U.S voltage only, some products broke after a few months
6. Aurora Lightpad – SAD Light Therapy Box
Aurora is designed to help improve your mood, increase productivity and reset your body clock for adequate sleep.
Use it for just a few minutes per day to increase cognitive performance, alertness and focus.
The lamp emits 10,000 lux broad-spectrum light on is safe and efficient.
The device uses UV free bulbs which mimic natural daylight and promises maximum results at a comfortable distance.
It boasts a slim modern design and is lightweight and compact, with a fully adjustable stand that offers 13 different angle options.
Plus the AC adapter is worldwide compatible.
A popular complaint by users is that the light is too bright; while some devices stopped working after a few uses.
Nonetheless, the lightweight, compact size, UV- free feature and adjustable options may be just what you’re looking for.
Pros: UV free bulbs mimic natural daylight, lightweight and compact, fully adjustable stand
Cons: Too bright, some stopped working after a few uses
7. Circadian Optics Lampu Light Therapy Lamp
This therapy lamp just received model upgrade and has an improved adapter, and upgraded light panel to radiate a uniform, fully diffused light.
It delivers 10,000 lux of full-spectrum, UV free white light, and offers 3 brightness levels to help beat the winter blues, fatigue and circadian sleep-related issues.
Created for longevity the bulb has a 50,000-hour lifespan, and the product comes with a 2-year warranty.
Designed with a minimalist aesthetic in mind, the lamp was created with flowing curves, clean lines and no sharp angles.
The light was too dull for some users, while others experienced their device shutting off for no reason.
Despite this, Circadian is still a good pick; the upgraded model offers 50,000-hour bulb lifespan plus, UV protection and a 2-year warranty with purchase.
Pros: Upgraded model, 50,000-hour bulb lifespan, 2- year warranty
Cons: Not very bright, light shuts off after a while
8. NorthStar 10,000 LUX – SAD Light Therapy Box
Northstar is as a natural remedy for the winter blues. It is safe and efficient; offering 10,000 lux of light to help with jet lag, sleep disorders, SAD and even non-seasonal depression.
The device uses UV- free, broad-spectrum bulbs which mimic natural daylight and it also has a fluorescent option for those sensitive to LED lights; this has a lifespan of 3-4 years before a replacement is needed.
Weighing 12 pounds, the device offers a full 24 inches – noting this as the perfect distance for light therapy.
It stands horizontally or vertically on any flat surface and can also be mounted to a wall.
It has a quiet electronic ballast and a low-glare, prismatic light diffuser, plus there is 7-year product protection with your purchase.
This is not a travel-friendly option due to the large, size plus it’s one of the most expensive options on the list.
However, if price is not an issue and you want a large device to use at home, this is the one to consider.
Pros: Fluorescent option for LED light sensitivity, 7-year product protection, can be mounted to a wall
Cons: Large and bulky, not travel-friendly, expensive
9. Verilux HappyLight Compact Personal Portable Light
Weighing just 1.5 pounds this tiny yet powerful lamp provides safe, natural spectrum light therapy – offering 5,000 lux moderate, UV filtered output.
Durable, long-lasting, and safety tested to the highest standards of compliance, this compact product can help to combat jet lag, fatigue or winter blues.
The small portable device can easily fit in your bag or suitcase and travel with you wherever you go.
Another great feature is the cheap price tag!
Some users noted that the light from their device flickered while others found it too bright.
However, if you want a cheap, travel-friendly option that still offers quality and effectiveness, this is the one for you!
Pros: Small and portable, UV filtered output, cost-effective
Cons: Light flickers, too bright for some
10. Sunrise Sensations – DayBright Light Therapy Lamp
Functional, stylish, and effective are often used to describe the DayBright Light Therapy Lamp from Sunrise Sensations.
The unique pentagonal shape made from natural, sustainable rubberwood certainly makes this the most stylish on our list.
Another unusual feature is the remote control option that allows you to adjust the colour warmth and brightness settings to your comfort level.
The remote allows you to easily toggle through pre-sets that match the sunlight at different times during the day.
The device uses powerful, energy effective LEDs which have a 27- year life expectancy.
These LEDs provides the benefits of full-spectrum light without the harmful UV rays.
You can adjust the light from 5000 to over 10,000 lux for your comfort. Plus, there is a 1-year warranty with purchase.
Some users noted that their remote was unresponsive, but your purchase comes with a warranty for situations like these.
If aesthetics and style are important then this will certainly make a statement in your home or office.
Pros: Remote control, natural, sustainable rubberwood material, 5000 and 10,000 lux option
Cons: Remote unresponsive to light
Best SAD Lamp: Verilux HappyLight Compact Personal Portable Light
Who said bigger is always better? Not quite true as proven by this compact, therapy light which takes our top pick today.
At less than two pounds, this device is not only one of the smallest on our list it’s also the cheapest.
A bestseller from Verilux, the HappyLight lamp offers 5,000 lux, moderate UV filtered light, and is durable and long-lasting.
It can fit in small spaces and is travel-friendly; so toss it in your bag or briefcase and take it with you anywhere.
It is recommended for extended daily use for help with SAD, jet lag, fatigue and sleep issues. It’s the perfect lightbox for your home or office.
Best Practices When Using Your SAD Lamp
Before this article ends it’s important to remind you to read the instructions on the product carefully to avoid any harm or injury, and only use the product for the recommended period of use.
If you’re feeling depressed, consult a doctor immediately to properly diagnose the condition and recommend the best mode of treatment.
Light therapy can cause mild side effects such as insomnia, irritability, headaches, eye strain and, sleep disturbances.
If you experience any of these, call your doctor immediately.
Also, be patient and give the device adequate time to take effect; you won’t start to feel better overnight.
Get a SAD lamp and see if it makes any difference.
All it takes is sitting in front of it for 30 minutes in the morning. Give it a try and with time, you may feel like a completely different person.
The recommended dose of light needed is 10,000 lux of light a day. On an overcast day, the sun only emits 1,000 lux and on a very overcast day, the figure is around 100 lux.
You can see why SAD lamps are so important.
Oh, and if on that rare occasion that the winter sun does manage to pierce through the thick cloud, turn off the lightbox and go outside.
Nothing beats going outside and getting the real thing!