Lighting for seasonal depression

Contents

8 best SAD lamps to get you through the dark winter months

SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder, and SAD lamps are designed as a form of light therapy to help alleviate things.

The bright light in the SAD lamp hits the retina and sends nerve signals to the brain, affecting the chemical and hormone levels. In turn, this improves the mood of the sufferer.

To qualify as a SAD lamp it needs to have a brightness of at least 2,500 lux, though many are much more powerful than that, often 10,000 lux.

A brighter light means greater effectiveness in a shorter time – between half an hour and an hour a day is recommended.

A SAD light needs to be medically certified for treating the disorder.

Some are lightweight and portable, others can sit on your desk.

Since the light needs to fall on both your eyes, positioning the light correctly is important.

One brand dominates this category, Lumie, which not only makes SAD lamps but also alarm clocks that wake you with light and even, as you’ll see on the company’s website, a cute nightlight for children.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Philips EnergyUp light: £150, Philips

Brightness: 10,000 lux equivalent

This energy lamp uses blue light, not white, aiming to give an effect similar to a sunny day, but without UV rays. Because it’s blue light, the lux level is lower than some here but described as being the equivalent of 10,000 lux. It’s simple to use – one big power button on the front – and the diffusers and filters mean there’s a completely even light distribution. Philip says 20-30 minutes a day is enough to revitalise the user.

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Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300: £129, Lumie

Brightness: not applicable

This light promotes therapeutic benefits in a different way: it is designed to wake you up with light. As such, the lux levels are lower than on the pure SAD lamps here. It’s claimed that light at the beginning of the day can effectively reset your internal clock and metabolism, allowing you to wake up refreshed. It wakes you up with an artificial sunrise which can last anywhere between 15 and 90 minutes. You can also use the light to wind down at the end of the day with a sunset feature. You can add sounds to help you wake up or fall asleep, too. Lumie describes this as a complement to a lightbox for treating SAD, rather than an alternative.

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Beurer TL100 light: £150, Currys

Brightness: 10,000 lux

The Beurer takes a little more setting up than some here but is easy to use. As well as bright white light, the TL100 can change through hundreds of colours to work as a relaxing mood light – this is one of the features which is controlled by an app on a smartphone. The brightness is also adjustable to 10 different levels and preferred settings can be stored. Timers automatically turn off the light at set intervals from 15 minutes to two hours.

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Lumie Brazil SAD light: £149, Amazon

Brightness: 10,000 lux

The Brazil is large, standing 50cm tall, with three big broad-spectrum bulbs inside. It’s the largest SAD light that Lumie makes. Treatment time is 30 minutes because the light is so bright. The brightness is not adjustable – if you want it to be less bright, you need to move it away further than the recommended 35cm. There is a handle so you can move it around easily, though at 2.85kg while it’s technically portable, it’s certainly not light.

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Diamond 5 SAD lightbox: £292, SAD UK

Brightness: 10,000 lux

This is a big, hefty light and it’s quite expensive. But it’s a simple machine to use and the large display means it has an especially short usage time: just 20 minutes, which may be ideal for a busy lifestyle. Its 4.2kg weight means it can’t stand on every desk comfortably, but it is so big it will dominate smaller rooms and not necessarily in a good way. The light intensity can be varied so you can adjust it if it’s too bright. Having two or three of the five lights turned on means you can leave it on all day if you prefer.

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Lumie desklamp: £120, Lumie

Brightness: 10,000 lux

There’s plenty of flexibility in this lamp. The neck of the light can be moved to the exact point you need it at, so it can work as a reading light when you’re not using it as a SAD lamp. The recommended usage time is 30 minutes, though this can be done in stages rather than all at once. The LEDs have extra blue shades built in which is believed to be beneficial. A touch-control system gives access to four different light levels. There’s also a diffuser to make the light even easier on the eye.

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Lumie Vitamin L SAD light: £75, Lumie

Brightness: 10,000 lux

The simply designed, slim block of light that is the Vitamin L light works well and looks good. Because it’s so slim it’s easy to place on any table and easy to store. It works upright or on its side and is large enough to feel versatile and useful. A minimum of 30 minutes use per day is recommended, though this doesn’t have to be all in one go – shorter sessions are meant to have a cumulative effect.

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Beurer TL30 ultra portable daylight: £59.99, John Lewis & Partners

Brightness: 10,000 lux

This simple lamp looks good and extremely easy to set up. It’s similar to the Lumie Vitamin L above, though this one is smaller. However, Beurer recommends a much longer usage time: two hours per day. It’s neatly designed with a clip-on piece designed to hold it upright which slides into a pocket on the back when you’re done. It can clip in different places so you can angle it as you wish. Although it is light and portable, it’s mains-only.

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The verdict: SAD lamps

The Philips EnergyUp light is powerful, portable and effective. The Lumie range is extensive with something for everyone. The Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 is a tremendous alarm clock with therapeutic benefits and the same company’s Vitamin L SAD light is compact but potent.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Light Treatment for SAD: What You Need to Know

Do you find in the depths of winter you don’t feel like yourself? Your energy level might be lower. You might feel irritable. Maybe you have difficulty sleeping. If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression but only during wintertime, you could have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder in which a person’s depression occurs repeatedly in a particular season of the year – most often people with SAD get depressed in winter when days are short. SAD is a form of depressive disorder and has the usual symptoms. What is unique to the specific SAD diagnosis is the seasonal timing. Evidence-based treatments for SAD include light therapy. This requires the use of a specific type of light box to mimic some features of natural sunlight. Today’s post, written by Janis L. Anderson, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some tips for choosing the right type of light box to treat SAD. Dr. Anderson has conducted clinical SAD research since 1985.

What is the best light box to buy? Do I need a special blue or full-spectrum light?

Many products have been developed since the 1980s, and several have been used in clinical research studies where they were demonstrated to be effective. However, no one type of bulb or device has been demonstrated superior to all others. The main considerations are cost and safety. In the absence of FDA regulation, it is up to the consumer to look into claims made by vendors. Some wavelengths of light can be hazardous to eyes or skin, so major research centers have avoided ultraviolet-containing “full-spectrum” bulbs and have used blue light only after careful examination of safety data for the specific device. In general, cool-white fluorescent or some LED bulbs have been used successfully by many clinical research centers.

Can I just put special bulbs into my light fixtures at home?

It is difficult to safely construct an effective light treatment device on your own. The high level of light required for daytime use is achieved by using specific reflectors, ballasts, and other components that the average household would not have on hand. Simply putting brighter bulbs into existing light fixtures is likely to be a waste of money. In addition, electrical safety and wavelengths of the lights are important technical concerns affecting safety that many users are not equipped to evaluate.

One form of light treatment that has been studied to some extent is called “dawn simulation.” This treatment uses less intense light in the bedroom as a person is waking up. However, the light needs to gradually increase in intensity so special equipment is used to produce the gradual increase over a period of an hour or so. Also, it must be acceptable to bed partners.

How do I figure out when to seek bright light exposure and how do I know how much is enough?

The “dose” of a light for affecting SAD is determined by the intensity and wavelengths of light coming from the device, the distance of the user from the device, the time of day relative to the user’s normal schedule, and the length of time the exposure goes on. It is possible to get too much light, which can produce discomfort including feeling “wired,” such as after consuming too much caffeine. Working with an experienced clinician, and starting with general guidelines, many SAD patients arrive at a “dose” that works well for them. Some patients benefit from regularly increasing their exposure to outdoor sunlight after awakening, but the cold weather makes that a challenge.

Here at BWH, we are exploring ways to use input from smartphones to inform decisions on when to begin light treatment, and to aid users in selecting the most helpful dose. For many individuals with SAD, the shorter days of fall and winter bring early changes in functioning, such as difficulty getting up in the morning, which can be effectively addressed by starting properly-timed supplemental light exposures.

In summary, light therapy is one proven treatment for controlling symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during fall/winter months. Specialized lights are recommended for therapy to be effective, and prices can approach $200 or more. Some specific features to consider:

  • UV light – Look for lights that block or filter UV light.
  • Illumination “dose”– The recommended dose depends on your distance from the light device and the time of day you are using it. It is important to not wake up extra early in order to get a strong dose of light, as that can upset your daily body rhythm.
  • Light type – White light has been more widely studied.
  • Physician recommendation – Consult with your physician or health care professional. They can help determine whether you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder and evaluate your eyes to make sure that light exposure will be safe for you.

Beneficial Solutions for Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

Full Spectrum Solutions Offers Beneficial Solutions for Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Jackson, MI–November 10th, 2014 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a seasonal type of depression that affects up to 20 percent of Americans every fall and winter. Symptoms of winter-onset depression (SAD) usually begin in late fall or early winter and gradually go away by summer.

Seasonal Affective Disorder results from a lack of exposure to natural sunlight, which is why most sufferers experience SAD during the fall and winter months. The reason this happens is because as light levels decrease, the pineal gland in the brain begins producing higher levels of melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep, and less serotonin, which has a major impact on mood.

Loss of motivation, a desire to oversleep, feeling fatigued, the inability to tolerate stress, a desire to avoid social contact, and change in eating habits are symptoms of SAD and can result in depression and weight gain.

Full Spectrum Solutions, Inc. offers light therapy solutions to combat the onslaught of SAD. Studies show that light therapy is a natural and non-medical solution to treating depression caused by the absence of sunlight. Full Spectrum Solutions offers light therapy products such as BlueMax 70w desk and floor lamps and UltraLux® light boxes that provide 10,000 Lux (a measurement of light intensity) of full spectrum light that duplicates the visible wavelengths of sunlight and alleviates symptoms of SAD.

Scientists that study the effects of artificial daylight on the human eye have found that full spectrum lighting stimulates the eye’s photoreceptors and enhances the production of serotonin (mood hormone) and suppresses the level of melatonin (sleep hormone) in the brain, which results in a better sense of wellbeing for SAD sufferers.

For Patricia Hippie, a sufferer of SAD for nearly 20 years, finding the BlueMax 70w Light Therapy Lamp was a godsend. In a letter written to Full Spectrum Solutions, Mrs. Hippie stated, “I found the BlueMax light therapy desk lamp last year and it has enabled me to finally live in St. Louis during the winter months in comfort.”

Think about this for a moment. We spend most of our time indoors. Most of us work during the day, and attend to household duties in the evening. During the winter months when the days are shorter and nights are longer, the lack of sunshine poses a threat to our sleep pattern, stress level and overall happiness.

Full Spectrum Solutions, Inc. is the manufacturer of BlueMax and UltraLux® full spectrum light therapy products. For more information, visit www.fullspectrumsolutions.com or call 888-574-7014. For press inquiries, contact Drew Stella at [email protected]

If you would like to support Full Spectrum Solutions, Inc. please visit them on Facebook.

6 Types of Light Therapy for Seasonal Depression

It’s that time of year again when the highly sensitive types among us who thrive with lots of sunlight begin to wither with the plants as the sun begins to hide.

Not only do we get less vitamin D (and deficiencies have been linked to depression), but the change in sunlight affects our circadian rhythm — the body’s internal biological clock that governs certain brain activity and hormone production. In some people, the change of mood-related chemicals can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter blues or seasonal depression.

For an episode of major depression to be classified as SAD, a person will have had at least three episodes of mood disturbances in three separate winter seasons — at least two of which were consecutive. There should also be no association between the episode and a significant situational stressor, such as a death, divorce, or unemployment.

Fortunately, for those struggling with the winter blues or maybe even just a mild case of seasonal sadness, there are many bright light treatments that can help regulate melatonin and other hormones affected by circadian rhythms to treat mood.

People with bipolar disorder should only use light therapy under the supervision of a doctor, because the treatment might trigger or aggravate episodes of mania or hypomania.

I would definitely not use any bright light treatment at night, as it may very well interfere with your sleep, which could worsen your depression.

Here are details on six types of light therapy:

1. Dawn Simulators

Dawn simulators mimic the gradual rising of the sun. There are two kinds:

  • Those that simulate a naturalistic dawn representing a springtime sunrise
  • Those that simulate a sigmoidal-shaped dawn, which lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours

Usually you would sleep through the dawn and wake up at the simulated sunrise. These lights are so effective because early morning light signals are much more powerful than light signals at other times of the day. Dawn simulators can be separate alarm clock devices or small computer systems that you plug into your table lamp.

2. Light Boxes

Light boxes are the standard light system used for SAD in clinical studies. They’re flat screens that produce full-spectrum fluorescent light, usually at an intensity of 10,000 lux. It’s important to position a light box according to the manufacturer’s instructions and use it at the same time each day.

You would typically use a light box for 30 to 60 minutes each day. Some health clubs offer light box rooms where you can go sit in front of the boxes if you can’t afford to buy one for yourself.

3. Natural Spectrum Light Bulbs

While the science on the benefits of full-spectrum light bulbs is mixed, some people with SAD who have tried them say they’ve gotten good results using full-spectrum bulbs with an intensity of at least 10,000 lux. They reportedly help to adjust your circadian rhythm and lift your mood.

Natural spectrum light bulbs provide the spectrum of natural daylight and can easily be used as desk and floor lamps. They’re not as cumbersome as light boxes.

Many manufacturers of traditional light boxes sell full-spectrum light bulbs. You can also get them at lighting stores, home improvement stores, and art supply stores.

4. Bluewave Technology

Studies have found that bluewave technology, or blue light, is superior to other kinds of light in shifting circadian rhythms, suppressing melatonin levels, and regulating circadian response. Harvard researchers compared the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to 6.5 hours of comparably bright green light. They found that blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light, and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much.

But the strength of blue light can become a real liability at night, including blue light from electronic devices like tablet computers and phones. Not only did Harvard researchers find that it interfered with sleep: Exposure to blue light at night has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and several types of cancer.

5. Bright Light Sun Visors

Functioning as your own personal light box, these are worn as a hat. Physicians are less likely to recommend visors because of the close proximity of bright light to your eyes, so you must use them with caution. They also tend to be expensive: $200 or more.

6. A Light on a Timer

This kind of light therapy can be helpful for a person with SAD who has difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. I did a quick search on Google and found some timed lights for as cheap as $6. Since the transition from dark to light can be abrupt, it’s best not to use a timed light as a bedside lamp.

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Does full spectrum lighting help seasonal depression?

The weather is shifting. The days are getting shorter and our time every day under natural sunlight is greatly diminished. For some of us, this time of the year is nostalgic and cozy. For others, the time leading up to and through winter is a difficult one: some of us start to feel unmotivated, tired, and sad. Feelings may vary from slight to extreme, but many of us will feel the effects of less time under the sun. Today we thought we’d set out to answer a question we get asked a lot during this time of the year: will full spectrum light bulbs help with the winter blues?

Let’s first define a few terms:

What are the winter blues:

The winter blues refers to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD for short), a type of seasonal-related depression. Though most of us have a tendency towards feeling a bit more lethargic during the fall and winter months, SAD is a diagnosis in which people consistently start to display symptoms of malaise and sadness in the fall, continuing into the winter months.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

Common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling depressed or hopeless

  • Feeling low energy, sluggish, and agitated

  • Having sleep problems

  • Having difficulty concentrating

What causes SAD?

During the fall and winter, we don’t get enough of the sunlight exposure needed to stimulate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain linked to our body’s internal clocks controlling sleep-wake schedule, among other things. Without enough bright light stimulation from the sun, our brain may increase its production of the sleep hormone melatonin, while decreasing the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that helps regulate mood.

What are full spectrum light bulbs? What is a light therapy box? Are they different?

A full spectrum light bulb emits a light spectrum that simulates the full visible light spectrum of natural sunlight. You can learn more about full spectrum lighting here. A full spectrum light bulb is a light bulb like any other in that it may be used without restrictions, but the light emitted is pure, beautiful, and more pleasant to live and work under.

A light therapy box provides striking white light using fluorescent or other bulbs in a color temperature of 6500K (color temperature of the sun at noon), consisting of bluer, more energetic wavelengths. These boxes produce very powerful light, and are meant therefore as therapy – not as a source for general illumination. The goal is to sit in front of a box for up to 30 minutes per day, to allow your eyes and body to receive a simulation of sunlight it would otherwise not receive during this time of the year.

As you can see, full spectrum light bulbs and light therapy boxes are different. Use full spectrum light bulbs as you would a normal light bulb – that is for general illumination, but much more enhanced! Light therapy is precisely as its name describes – a therapy – and offers our eyes and bodies therapeutic bright doses of “sunlight” to regulate our body’s processes and start feeling like our normal selves again during these duller months.

So … will full spectrum light bulbs help with seasonal depression?

Of course, though not as prescribed by a doctor for the standalone treatment of SAD. We like to think of full spectrum light bulbs as the complement to therapeutic doses of bright light therapy. Full spectrum light bulbs on their own make us feel better due to their superior color and making spaces look more pleasant, but that is one part of the puzzle towards feeling better during these times of the year. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms of SAD, or generally don’t feel like yourself around this time of the year, you’ll need to supplement with a bright light therapy box to help eradicate those feelings.

Final thoughts

Everyone can benefit from the stimulating effects of bright light therapy, not just those clinically diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Grab yourself our medical-grade Aurora bright light therapy system, made of sturdy aluminum and a perfect desk or kitchen counter companion during these darker months. If you travel to an office, or just generally are on the move a lot, you might love the HappyMood Mini light therapy pad for portable light therapy with adjustable levels.

It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes, our sadness is programmed into us around this time of the year. You may start feeling relief from just shifting your focus during this time of the year to feelings of renewal and nourishment. Armed with a different mindset and a bright light therapy system, you may just start to see winter in a whole different light!

Blog > Fight SAD with Light This Winter

Shorter days and long, cold nights coupled with freezing temperatures and less-than-ideal weather can get to the best of us, but there are steps you can take if you find yourself suffering from the “winter doldrums” this season. Most of us feel the “winter blues” in some way each year, but when those feelings become more severe, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder. Luckily, you can start feeling better soon simply by looking into the light.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a real condition that affects about five percent of the population each year, and can manifest itself through feelings of moodiness and fatigue coupled with increased sleeping and eating. The disorder is actually caused by the lack of sunlight throughout the day, which interferes with our body’s natural clock telling us when to eat, sleep, be active, and relax. SAD is most common in northern states (like LightBulbs.com’s native Minnesota!), with up to half of these states’ populations reporting symptoms of seasonal depression.

The best way to combat the annoying lack of energy and urge to cuddle up with carbs is simply by getting more natural light. But for those of us with work or school during the winter’s shortened daylight hours, this can be a difficult task. The solution? Light therapy! ”Sunboxes” that use special fluorescent tubes that closely resemble natural daylight can be an easy and effective fix for SAD. Simply sitting in front of a sunbox for about 30 minutes while you go about your normal routine (applying makeup, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper, etc.) can help alleviate your seasonal depression symptoms. The trick is to get this extra light exposure first thing in the morning to fool your body into thinking it’s still on its spring and summer cycle, lifting depression symptoms and helping you get back to your old self. The best light bulbs for SAD are daylight full spectrum bulbs. Only full spectrum bulbs can produce the light that closely resembles true daylight, so don’t settle for anything less.

Of course, you could also take a trip to a tropical locale for a few weeks to beat the winter blues. But for everyone else, try a sunshine supplement lamp and get your summer glow back.

Note: The mentioned/linked products may be used for the treatment of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). LightBulbs.com does not diagnose, prescribe treatment nor guarantee results.

The symptoms of SAD usually start in the fall and continue through the winter months. Whether you’re diagnosed with SAD or not the light therapy can be useful to help to treat regular depression and anxiety. It also works to lessen the effects of the change of the season for people that have anxiety and depression but not full-blown SAD.

Research suggests that the cause of SAD or worsening depression and anxiety in the winter is related to your biological clock (circadian rhythm). By not getting enough sunlight there is a disruption to your body’s internal clock.

Light therapy (otherwise known as phototherapy) works to lessen your symptoms of anxiety and depression by mimicking the effects of sunlight. For light therapy to work you place the light on your office desk or in your home and you sit in front of it. It has to enter your eyes indirectly so you position it to the left or right of where you are looking. To maximize the benefits of the light therapy lamp you need to adjust:

1) Duration- Usually its recommended that you do 15 or 30-minute sessions.

2) Timing of use- Its usually more effective to do the session in the morning.

3) Intensity- You need to sit close enough to the light.

I’ve broken down some of the main advantages to using a light therapy lamp regularly here:

  • Decreases anxiety and depression
  • Improves energy levels
  • Reduces jet lag
  • helps to maintain chemical balance brain
  • regulates circadian rhythm
  • increases alertness and improves mood
  • a natural non-medication method to lessen severity of symptoms

Scientific research has shown that light therapy does in fact reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. I hope you find this report useful and are on your way to feeling better with the help of a light therapy lamp.

Dr Michael Holick is the world’s leading Vitamin D researcher. He recommends the use of light therapy lamps in the chapter on SAD in his book: “The Vitamin D Solution”. Light therapy is also recommended by the Mayo Clinic for treatment of SAD and for other conditions. Please keep in mind that these lamps do not affect your Vitamin D levels.

Whats the difference between a light therapy lamp and a normal lightbulb?

Normal lightbuls are usually much less powerful than light therapy lamps. They are usually no more than 500 Lux. Light therapy lamps usually start at 2500 Lux and go up to around 10,000 Lux. That more closely matches normal daylight which can be as high as 100,000 Lux. Also the light therapy lamps are more effective because they emphasis light that’s in the blue end of the spectrum (5000k-6200k).

How to prepare for light therapy

You don’t need a prescription for light therapy boxes but its always a good idea to run it by your doctor first. You may need to find out if you need to take any precautions.

What to expect

If you are using the light box to treat SAD you should start using it in the fall when the light changes and the days get shorter. its recommended that you continue to use it through to spring.

If you are using it to treat anxiety and depression and not SAD its a good idea to chat with your doctor and get their usage recommendations.

Its important to be consistent with the timing of your sessions and to track your mood and symptoms.

Remember not to look directly at the light of the lamp as this can damage your eyes

You may find that you don’t have to use the light every single day to feel the benefits of it. This is especially true if you are treating your depression or anxiety and not specifically treating SAD.

Light therapy isn’t mean to cure SAD or non seasonal depression and anxiety on its own. Its meant to be used in conjunction with other therapies like CBT, Meditation, Medication, and exercise.

The 5 Best Sunlight Lamps for Winter Depression and Light Therapy

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According to the US National Library of Medicine:

“Some people experience a serious mood change during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms.”

This once-disregarded issue is finally being recognized as a real problem. In the US, between 1.4 to 9.7 percent of people suffer from seasonal affective disorder—and the further north you live, the more likely you are to experience it.

Symptoms may resemble mental burnout:

  • Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or pessimism.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Fatigue, oversleeping, or difficulty sleeping.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions.
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

There’s a big difference between seasonal depression and clinical depression.

If your depression only comes during certain months of the year, then it’s likely seasonal—and in that case, it may be treatable with light therapy and sunlight lamps. If your depression is more than just seasonal, consult one of these online resources for depression to get help.

How Does Light Therapy Work?

In general, animals go through a period of reduced activity during winter months. Humans can also experience a slowdown during the winter, because sunlight regulates our biological clocks and reduced sunlight availability leads to hormonal changes that affect sleep and mood. However, the exact cause of seasonal depression is yet unknown.

Light therapy works off of the “reduced sunlight” hypothesis and attempts to address the issue through artificial sunlight (or at least something that mimics sunlight). The theory is that you can “reset” your biological clock during the winter by making up for lost sunlight exposure, which should avert seasonal internal changes.

Light therapy is a first-line treatment for seasonal depression—if you are diagnosed with winter affective disorder, then light therapy should be one of the first attempted treatments. If it works, great! If not, other methods of treatment should be considered.

Only certain types of light should be used in light therapy. Avoid all forms of full-spectrum light, ultraviolet light, tanning lamps, and heat lamps! When in doubt, always consult your doctor, especially if your case of seasonal affective disorder is self-diagnosed.

How to Pick a Sunlight Lamp for Light Therapy

Sunlight lamps go by many names: “light therapy lamps,” “light therapy devices,” “phototherapy boxes,” and even “lightboxes.” These devices tend to do the same thing—give off a bright light that mimics sunlight—but not all sunlight lamps are equally effective.

Some sunlight lamps aren’t meant for seasonal depression. Light therapy is actually used as a treatment for several other issues, including some skin problems like psoriasis and eczema. These kinds of light therapy lamps emit ultraviolet light, which can be dangerous. Stick to sunlight lamps that are explicitly labelled for seasonal depression.

Whiter and brighter is usually better. The brightness of a lamp is measured in Lux, and the higher the Lux rating, the more light it gives off. Brighter lamps require less exposure time per day, but they may be uncomfortable to use. Your distance to the lamp also matters—the further away you plan on sitting, the brighter the light should be. For best results, stay within the 2,500 to 10,000 Lux range.

You may also find that some sunlight lamps give off “blue” light while others give off “white” light. There’s no conclusive evidence that either is more effective than the other, but white light tends to be cheaper and is generally considered safer.

LEDs are the most energy-efficient. Sunlight lamps are available in incandescent, fluorescent, and LED varieties. The brightness of light is more important than the type of bulb, but if you have the option, go with an LED sunlight lamp which will consume much less energy than either incandescent or fluorescent.

Recommended Sunlight Lamps for Light Therapy

1. Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar

Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar Alaska Northern Lights NorthStarThe Brightest Seasonal Depression Lamp 10,000 Lux Buy Now On Amazon $299.77

If you want a sunlight lamp that’s effective, clinically-tested, doctor-recommended, and built to last for years to come, then it’s going to cost a pretty penny. It might hurt to shell out a few hundreds dollars on a sunlight lamp, but this one is worth it.

The Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar is a sunlight lamp specifically designed to combat seasonal depression. At 24 inches and a Lux rating of 10,000, you’re going to get a lot of light out of this thing—enough that you can sit up to 2 feet away (instead of the more common 1-foot distance).

This lamp has a 60-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty. It uses fluorescent bulbs, emits no harmful ultraviolet rays, and has been on the market for over two decades. Want something tried and true? This is the one.

2. Carex Day-Light Sky

Carex Day-Light Sky Carex Day-Light SkyBright Light Therapy Lamp 10,000 Lux Buy Now On Amazon $100.00

For an option that’s more affordable than the NorthStar but still built with quality and efficacy, consider this adjustable sunlight lamp from Carex Health Brands.

The Carex Day-Light Sky looks like something you’d find in a doctor’s office, but don’t let that scare you away. It produces a bright fluorescent light with 2 settings—7,000 Lux or 10,000 Lux—and emits virtually no ultraviolet light.

The lamp measures 24 inches in height, but the lightbox itself is only 12 inches. Both the lightbox and the extender arm can swivel to a noticeable degree, which is great when you need to reposition the lamp for whatever reason.

3. NatureBright SunTouch Plus

NatureBright SunTouch Plus NatureBright SunTouch PlusAffordable Light Therapy Lamp 10,000 Lux Buy Now On Amazon $68.99

If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend saving up until you can afford one of the two lamps above. But if you really need one right now without spending too much, here’s the next best thing: the NatureBright SunTouch Plus.

This thing comes with a plastic exterior so it won’t feel as robust as the alternatives above (which both have metal exteriors), but the light itself shines at 10,000 Lux so it’s still effective for light therapy against seasonal depression.

The light-emitting area is about 12 inches, which is large enough for home use, but doesn’t have any swivels or pivots for adjustment so it might be a bit troublesome to set up comfortably.

4. Sphere Gadget Lightphoria

Sphere Gadget Lightphoria Sphere Gadget LightphoriaPortable Light Therapy Lamp 10,000 Lux Buy Now On Amazon $99.00

Big sunlight lamps are great if you sit at a computer all day long, but if you work in an environment that has you constantly moving from place to place, a stationary lamp isn’t going to do you much good.

Which is why you might need a portable sunlight lamp. And as far as those go, nothing beats the value of the Sphere Gadget Lightphoria. The device is about 6 inches long but produces light at an impressive 10,000 Lux (it can be adjusted down if that’s too bright for you).

The kicker is that it has LED bulbs so it doesn’t use much energy at all, and it also has timer functions for 15, 30, and 45 minutes. No wonder this thing is a best seller in Amazon’s “Light Therapy Products” category.

5. Verilux HappyLight Liberty

Verilux HappyLight Compact Personal, Portable Light Therapy Energy Lamp Verilux HappyLight Compact Personal, Portable Light Therapy Energy LampAffordable and Portable 5,000 Lux Buy Now On Amazon $29.95

If you can’t get the Lightphoria for some reason (maybe it’s too expensive) or if you don’t like it (maybe it’s too small), then here’s another portable sunlight lamp to consider: the Verilux HappyLight Liberty.

At 7 inches, it’s slightly bigger than the Lightphoria, but only produces light at a maximum rating of 5,000 Lux. It’s still effective for light therapy, but you’ll just have to be exposed to it for longer periods of time and have it closer to you—about 8 inches away.

It’s not ideal, but it’s incredibly cheap. You won’t find another light therapy lamp at this price with the same level of effectiveness.

Light Therapy Doesn’t Always Work

Even though light therapy is a first-line treatment, it isn’t perfect. If you happen to buy a sunlight lamp and it doesn’t do anything for you, then you should consult a doctor and get a professional diagnosis.

Seasonal depression may not even be your issue. You may be suffering from too much stress as a result of working too hard (i.e. workaholism). Maybe you need to start exercising more. Perhaps your computer habits are interfering with your sleep habits.

If light therapy doesn’t work for you, these alternatives are worth considering—especially the one about sleep health. Check out our article on devices that help you sleep better 9 Gadgets to Help You Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happier 9 Gadgets to Help You Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happier The quality of sleep you get each night directly impacts your mood, health, and productivity the next day. Get better sleep than ever before using one of these smart gadgets! Read More .

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