During winter months, those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are shopping for one thing: the best light therapy lamps. Designed to help improve the changes in mood and behavior that come with the darker, colder months of fall and winter, these lamps are a great purchase for anyone struggling with SAD this time of year. But what is SAD, and how do these light therapy lamps work? Let’s break it down.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD for short, is a condition that causes people to experience mood changes in conjunction with the change of seasons. Most common in the fall and winter, SAD is much more than just the “winter blues.” According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD is linked to, “a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter.” As summer turns to fall and the days become shorter, this change can affect your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, leading to those off-kilter, and often sad, feelings. For many, SAD presents itself in symptoms like sadness, loss of interest, lethargy, and restlessness. But with a little light therapy and some mood boosting supplements, brighter days are on the horizon.
How do light therapy lamps work?
So, how do light therapy lamps actually work? Light therapy lamps work by emitting light that mimics the look and feel of natural sunlight. Typically done sitting down in front of one of these lamps for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, light therapy is usually performed first thing in the morning to help get your day started off right. To get the most out of your lamp, it’s important to make sure light is entering your eyes indirectly (do not stare at your lamp as this can damage your eyes), which is why it’s common to see people sit in front of these lamps with their eyes closed during sessions. While light therapy is not an immediate cure for SAD, the American Psychiatric Association also notes that “most people see some improvements from light therapy within one or two weeks of beginning treatment.”
Are light therapy lamps safe?
As a whole, light therapy is safe and one of the most recommended treatments for seasonal affective disorder. But while safe, it’s still important to use these lamps under the guide of a physician, especially if you have lupus, bipolar disorder, or currently take any medications that increase your sensitivity to light. For those worried about UV damage, you can rest easy. Unlike other indoor light devices, like tanning beds, light therapy lamps use non-UV bulbs (usually at 10,000 LUX for the best results) that are completely safe for you and your body.
The Best Light Therapy Lamps for SAD
If you’re experiencing symptoms of SAD, remember that your first step should be to seek out the help of a trained professional for a proper diagnosis as well as to ensure that there are no other medical conditions contributing to your symptoms. As always, health and happiness are the ultimate goals here. Ready to get your hands on one of these lamps and help kick seasonal affective disorder to the curb? Keep scrolling for FIRST’s picks for the best light therapy lamps for SAD on the market today.
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Sad Light Therapy Lamps Reviews
1. Best Light Therapy Lamp for SAD
For the best light therapy lamp around, the Verilux Full-Size Bright Light Therapy Lamp is the way to go. At 13 inches, this lamp is the perfect size for anyone looking for an effective lamp that won't take up too much space. Complete with 10,000 LUX wattage, this lamp features a customizable component thanks to its high and low settings, and also includes two easy-to-install, no-glare lenses for high energy or comfort support settings. So, what are customers saying? Amazon buyer Janet says, "I had considered buying a light therapy box for years, but I was skeptical. My SAD is pretty bad, as I live in Ohio and our winters are notoriously long, dark, and bitterly cold. I decided to give this a try after reading some of the excellent reviews. The results I felt from day one were incredible! I had much more energy, my mood was greatly improved, and I sleep better at night. The daytime drag I had been feeling since the colder, darker days of winter arrived lifted almost immediately. They call this a 'happy light' for a reason! I highly recommend this to anyone suffering from the winter blues, whether mild or severe. My only regret is that I didn't get one of these a long time ago!"
Where to buy: $79.95 (Originally $99.95), Amazon
Best Light Therapy Lamp
2. Best Adjustable Light Therapy Lamp
Next on our list is the Center for Environmental Therapeutics' pick, the Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp. The most unique design on this list, it features a glare-free curved light surface for optimal light projection from all angles. With a powerful, long-lasting light, two settings, and a height-adjustable flexible stand, it's easy to see why this lamp is so beloved.
Where to buy: $101.23 (Originally 114.95), Amazon
Portable Light Therapy Lamp
3. Best Portable Light Therapy Lamp
Want a light therapy lamp that can go anywhere you do? Pick up the HappyLight Compact Portable Light Therapy Lamp from Verilux. Coming in at around seven inches with 5,000 LUX wattage, this lamp is the perfect size whether you're looking for something to keep on your desk or in your suitcase while traveling during winter months.
Where to buy: $39.95, Amazon
Seasonal Affective Disorder Lamp
4. Best Light Therapy Lamp Box
Looking for the most powerful light therapy lamp on the market? The five star reviews don't lie — it's the Bright Light Therapy Box from Alaskan Northern Lights. While providing 10,000 LUX wattage like most lamps on this list, its two-foot surface area is what sets it apart from the rest. With a proven track record of over 20 years of success, this lamp is effective and built to last. As for those scores of glowing reviews, it's no wonder it's a best-seller. Diane P. calls it "life changing." She explains, "Last winter was a very difficult one for me. I was tired all the time, had trouble sleeping at night, and didn't want to do anything or go anywhere. So this year I used Bright Light. I spent 30 minutes in front of it every morning. I have energy all day and sleep well at night. And I'm happy to take on projects and go out and socialize. It's changed my winter life."
Where to buy: $299.77, Amazon
Best Sad Lamps
5. Best Sunshine Simulating Light Therapy Lamp
Want a bright light therapy lamp that will work in any room of your home? Featuring a large surface, the Verilux HappyLight Deluxe is the perfect option for you or anyone you know dealing with SAD. Filling any room with natural spectrum lighting, this lamp will provide users a soothing and energizing illumination, guaranteed to be the perfect pick-me-up. And with a convenient stand, this lamp can be propped up in any space for the best light therapy wherever, whenever.
Where to buy: $159.95, Amazon
Light Therapy Lamp For Sad
6. Best Minimalist Light Therapy Lamp
For a light therapy lamp that's small in stature but big on style, pick up TaoTronics Light Therapy Lamp. Emitting a full-spectrum pure white light, this lamp uses clean lines and a minimalistic design to help you feel your best without disrupting your surrounding decor. With three adjustable levels of brightness and 33 LEDs that deliver full brightness at only 12 watts, this circular lamp will feel like your own personal sun, making each day brighter than the last.
Where to buy: $33.99, Amazon
Light Therapy Glasses
7. Best Light Therapy Glasses
Love the idea of light therapy, but aren't too keen on investing in a lamp? Then you'll love the Premium Light Therapy Glasses from AYO. Designed to help those dealing with jet lag, insomnia, and, of course, SAD, these glasses work by gently emitting a special blue light made to help shift a person’s body clock while suppressing melatonin (the sleep hormone) for better energy and fewer symptoms of SAD. Best of all, they're easily controlled through AYO's corresponding app, goAYO, which allows you to personalize your pair for your needs. And those dealing with SAD are loving it for its ease of use, with one happy customer raving, "You don’t have to worry about sitting close enough to the table top light for it to be effective. Highly recommend!"
Where to buy: $249 (Originally $299), Amazon