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For most people with only mild seasonal mood disorders (some 14% of the US population), the risk of using a therapy light is relatively minimal; eyestrain and headaches (especially in migraine sufferers) are the most commonly reported side effects. However, as New York Magazine reported in its 2016 article on SAD lamps, people with a history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder may suffer an exaggerated response while using a light box and should consider this therapy only in close consultation with a physician.
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Because we are not qualified or equipped to evaluate SAD lamps for efficacy, we focused instead on how easy they were to use, how much space they took up on a tabletop, and whether they met their stated specs, including their total size and weight, light-face dimensions, cord lengths, and approximate light intensities. In a nonscientific test, we compared lux readings obtained with a commercial luxmeter to check for any significant inconsistencies between stated light intensities and real-world readings.
Although the Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar 10,000 meets the recommended criteria for a light therapy lamp and has excellent customer reviews, at a typical price of $300 it costs over two times as much as our top pick.
Anna Perling is a former staff writer covering kitchen gear at Wirecutter. During her time at Wirecutter, she reported on various topics including sports bras, board games, and light bulbs. Previously she wrote food and lifestyle pieces for Saveur and Kinfolk magazines. Anna is a mentor at Girls Write Now and a member of the Online News Association.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs each year during fall and winter. Use of a light box can offer relief. But for some people, light therapy may be more effective when combined with another SAD treatment, such as an antidepressant or psychotherapy, also called talk therapy.
Light boxes are designed to deliver a therapeutic dose of bright light to treat symptoms of SAD. There are many different types of light boxes. All light boxes for SAD treatment are designed do the same thing, but one may work better for you than another.
It's best to talk with your health care provider about choosing and using a light box. If you're experiencing both SAD and bipolar disorder, the advisability and timing of using a light box should be carefully reviewed with your health care provider. Increasing exposure too fast or using the light box for too long each time may induce manic symptoms if you have bipolar disorder.
A light therapy box mimics outdoor light. It's thought that this type of light may cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD, such as being tired most of the time and sleeping too much.
You can buy a light box without a prescription, but it's best to use it under the guidance of a health care provider and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Your health care provider may recommend a specific light box. Most health insurance plans don't cover the cost.
The light produced by a SAD lamp is measured in lux. A lux is a measurement of light intensity combined with area. A SAD lamp should offer a brightness of 10,000 lux. The viewing angle of a lamp should allow it to be positioned above the eyes and at a slight downward angle to minimize glare.
Although light therapy is helpful for people who bipolar disorder, be sure to consult with a doctor before introducing it daily. A medical professional who is familiar with your physical and mental health history will be able to help you figure out if light therapy is a good option for you.
The University of British Columbia found that people can start to respond to light therapy within a few days and you should see improvements within 2 weeks. Be sure to speak to your doctor if your body does not respond to a SAD lamp after 2 weeks.
Major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, previously known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a condition caused by lowered exposure to sunlight or a change of seasons. Women and young adults are most affected by this condition.
Wang S, Zhang Z, Yao L, Ding N, Jiang L, Wu Y. Bright light therapy in the treatment of patients with bipolar disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2020;15(5):e0232798. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0232798
Designed using clinical trials, the Carex Classic Plus emits light at a downward angle, mimicking the way natural sunlight shines. It also features two brightness settings and an adjustable base that allows you to change the height and angle as needed.
The Lavish Home Floor Lamp is a great option for folks looking for function as well as relief from seasonal affective disorder. It emits a bright light well-suited to rooms larger than 350 square feet. Plus, it can be easily adjusted with its flexible neck.
For severe seasonal affective disorder, multiple treatment options may be needed to see results. Combining light therapy with medication, vitamin supplements, or therapy can be far more effective than using one treatment method on its own.
Light therapy lamps try to mimic the extra hours of sunlight from spring and summer that we don't get in fall and winter. For this, you need a lamp that emits about 10,000 lux of light, which is higher than the artificial light from your home's fixtures and other lamps. A bright sunny day exposes you to about 100,000 lux or more, while you might get only about 2,000 lux of light exposure on an overcast day. A light therapy session can mimic the experience of a sunny day -- minus the ultraviolet rays -- if only for a few minutes.
We've tested and evaluated some of the most popular light therapy lamps on the market. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to selecting a light therapy device -- they vary in intensity, and some even offer adjustable brightness. Because we aren't physicians or psychiatrists, we can't tell you if these lamps will be effective for treating your depression, winter blues or SAD symptoms.
Verilux is one of the biggest names in light therapy lamps -- you'll find them all over Amazon and the company has a large catalog of models. The HappyLight Luxe has a simple design with a large light panel that takes up nearly the entire lamp. Simple is not meant as an insult here -- the Luxe light therapy lamp has everything you need at a fair price.
Most experts recommend using a lamp with a large light panel -- ideally 12 by 15 or 12 by 18 inches -- to get the full benefits of light therapy. A smaller light therapy lamp can provide the same benefits, but you might need to move it closer to your eyes and leave it on for longer than you would with a large panel. At 6 by 9 inches, the Luxe's light panel gets close to the recommended size without taking up too much space.
It offers four brightness settings and three color temperature settings, which allow you to make the light warm, neutral or mimic daylight. There's also a built-in timer you can set at 5-minute intervals, up to 1 hour. You can mount the light panel on the wall, or use the included stand, which tilts the lamp at an angle. You can also remove the stand and conveniently hook it to the back of the light panel for travel.
If you're not sure if light therapy is right for you, start with a smaller and less expensive lamp. This model is just like the Luxe light therapy lamp, but more compact and with fewer features. This LED bright white light therapy lamp comes with three brightness levels. Bright light therapy can improve sleep, boost mood and increase energy.
The three brightness settings, each delivering slightly different amounts of lux -- 5,000, 7,000 and 10,000. Like the Lux, it comes with a stand that sets the light panel at an angle. The simple design takes the guesswork out of using a therapy lamp. Just set it on a surface close to your face and turn it on.
We liked this lamp out of the box. It's slim enough to fit in any tight space or crowded desk, and it feels solid. It has a modern look to it that doesn't scream "I am a therapy light," and it folds down when you're not using it. It has a simple power button that cycles through three light levels: low, medium and high.
What makes the Lumos different from the rest is that you can fold and rotate the light many different ways to get the perfect angle. You want the light to be at eye level and this lamp makes that easy to accomplish.
The only knock we have against this light is that it has the smallest light panel out of all the lamps we tested, at just 1.37 by 6.25 inches. Again, consult with your doctor on how long you should use a therapy lamp each day -- with the smaller panel on this light, you might need to use it longer.
Depending on where you live, how many hours of sunlight you get each day and your individual mental health needs, your doctor might recommend you get a large light panel. In that case, get the Boxelite.
It's a 12.25 by 15.25-inch light therapy box that's one giant light panel. Despite its size, it manages to be sleek with a design that doesn't demand you hide in a closet when it's not in use. The Boxelite light box doesn't have any frills -- there's just an on-off switch -- and we don't mind that at all. What's unique about this light therapy box is that you can change the bulbs when they burn out.
The round shape is a departure for Verilux, which traditionally makes rectangle panels. At just 5.5 by 6.5 inches, Alba has a smaller light panel than the VT31. Given that bigger light panels are considered better for delivering as much light as possible in the least amount of time, we're inclined to pick a bigger lamp, such as the HappyLight Luxe or VT31, over this.
However, you can't beat this lamp for features and price. For $10 more than the VT31 (and you can save $5 right now with the on-page instant coupon), you get the color temperature settings and a timer that neither of those lamps have. Plus, you get a larger light panel than the Lumos. If those settings really call to you, then this lamp is a good buy. 041b061a72