We’ve all heard of the winter blues. During the coldest season of the year, all those short, gray days can really do a number on our mental state, especially for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that’s related the the change of the seasons. While there is no magic cure for SAD, people who experience its symptoms can greatly benefit from light therapy lamps.
Designed to help improve the changes in mood and behavior that can come with the darker, colder months of the year, light therapy, or phototherapy, is considered to be an effective treatment for anyone struggling with SAD. But how do they work? Let’s break it down.
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
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 days become shorter, the 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 such as sadness, loss of interest, lethargy, and restlessness. But with a little light therapy and some mood-boosting supplements, brighter days will soon be on the horizon.
How do light therapy lamps work?
Light therapy lamps work by emitting a light that mimics the look and feel of natural sunlight. Sitting down in front of one of these lamps for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day first thing in the morning can help to get your day started off right.
The American Psychiatric Association notes that “most people see some improvements from light therapy within one [to] 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. It’s important to use these lamps under the guide of a physician, however, especially if you have lupus, bipolar disorder, or currently take any medications that can increase your sensitivity to light.
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.
It’s important to make sure light is entering your eyes indirectly, however, as staring at your lamp can cause damage.
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 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 for Women’s picks for the best light therapy lamps for SAD on the market today.
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Where to buy: $69.95 (Originally $79.95), Amazon
For the best light therapy lamp around, Verilux 's HappyLight is the way to go. At 13 inches, this lamp is the perfect size for anyone looking for effective treatment that won't take up too much space. Complete with 10,000 LUX wattage, this lamp also features a customizable component, thanks to its high and low settings, and comes equipped with two easy-to-install, no-glare lenses for high energy.
Amazon buyer Janet writes, "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!"
Carex Day-Light Classic Light
Where to buy: $114.95, Amazon
Next up on our list is the Center for Environmental Therapeutics' pick, the Carex Day-Light Classic. As the most unique design on this list, this lamp features a glare-free, curved light surface for optimal light projection from all angles. It's got a powerful, long-lasting shine with two different settings and a height-adjustable flexible stand, making it easy to see why this lamp is so beloved.
Verilux HappyLight Compact Personal
Where to buy: $29.95 (Originally $39.95), Amazon
Want a light therapy lamp that can go anywhere you do? Pick up this HappyLight compact personal therapy lamp from Verilux. Coming in at around 7 inches with a 5,000 LUX wattage, it's the perfect size to keep on your desk or in your suitcase while traveling during winter months.
Alaska Northern Lights North Star
Where to buy: $299.77, Amazon
Looking for the most powerful light therapy lamp on the market? The five star reviews don't lie — it's the North Star from industry vets Alaskan Northern Lights. Though its 10,000 LUX wattage is comparable to most lamps on this list, its 2-foot surface area is what sets it apart from the rest. In fact, its span is so great, it's considered large enough for two-person use!
Diane P. calls it "life changing," writing, "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 [North Star]. 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."
Verilux HappyLight Luxe
Where to buy: $99.95, Goop
For a bright light therapy lamp that will work in any room of your home, try the Verilux HappyLight Luxe. Filling any room with natural spectrum lighting, the Luxe provides a soothing and energizing illumination that's guaranteed to be the perfect pick-me-up. Its convenient stand means it can be propped up in any space for the best light therapy wherever, whenever, and it's got an included timer, dimmer, and color selector for totally personalized sessions.
TaoTronics Light Therapy Lamp
Where to buy: $27.99, Amazon
This therapy lamp may be small in stature, but it's big on style. Emitting a full-spectrum pure white light, it uses clean lines and a minimalistic design to help you feel your best without disrupting your surrounding décor. With three adjustable levels of brightness and 33 LEDs that deliver full brightness at just 12 watts, this circular lamp will feel like your own personal sun, making each day brighter than the last.
AYO Light Therapy Glasses
Where to buy: $249 (Originally $299), Amazon
If you love the idea of light therapy, but aren't too keen on parking yourself in front of a lamp, you'll love these 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 that's designed to shift your body clock and suppress melatonin (aka the sleep hormone) during the day 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.
One happy customer raved, "You don’t have to worry about sitting close enough to the table top light for it to be effective. Highly recommend!"