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- Best adjustable SAD lamp: Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Light Therapy Lamp
- Best UV-free SAD lamp: Northern Light Technologies Boxelite
- Best portable SAD lamp: Circadian Optics Lattis Light Therapy Lamp
- Best SAD lamp for leisure: Flamingo Floor Lamp
- Best affordable SAD lamp: TaoTronics Light Therapy Lamp
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), now known clinically as major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns, is a condition that causes sadness or depression when the seasons change.
It most typically occurs during the fall and winter, when days become short and exposure to sunlight decreases. It’s most common in women and young adults.
Counseling, therapy, and medication may all be effective for this condition. Light boxes — also referred to as SAD lamps or light therapy lamps — are another option that can reduce symptoms and provide relief. They work by replicating natural daylight.
Symptoms of SAD
There are two types of SAD: wintertime and summertime. SAD affects people differently, but the symptoms may vary based on the type of SAD.
Symptoms of wintertime SAD include:
- daytime fatigue
- difficulty concentrating
- feelings of hopelessness
- increased irritability
- lack of interest in social activities
- reduced sexual interest
- weight gain
Symptoms of summertime SAD include:
- difficulty sleeping
- increased restlessness
- lack of appetite
- weight loss
In severe cases, people with SAD may experience thoughts of suicide.
Treatment options for SAD
Counseling and therapy are treatment options for both forms of SAD. Some people may also benefit from medications such as antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and bupropion (Wellbutrin). People experiencing SAD should speak to their doctor about which medication is the best course of treatment.
Light therapy can also be used as a treatment for wintertime SAD. This involves using a specialized light box or visor for at least 30 minutes each day to mimic natural light. Light therapy should only be used under a doctor’s supervision and on approved devices. Other light-emitting sources like tanning beds, are not safe for use.
Another type of treatment is a dawn simulator which uses a time-activated light to mimic the sunrise as a way to help stimulate the body’s clock.
Adopting some healthy lifestyle habits can also help minimize SAD symptoms. This can include:
- a balanced diet with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables
- regular sleep
A SAD lamp uses light therapy to replicate sunlight and trick the body into thinking it is the warmer months and trigger the body to release serotonin.
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.
Typically, SAD lamps or lights should be used for 30 minutes to an hour. They can be used at any time of the day although they are usually used first thing in the morning.
SAD lamps are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
(Video) 5 BEST Tactics to BEAT SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
SAD lamps simulate sunlight, which helps trigger the brain to release serotonin, often called the feel-good hormone.
show that using light therapy during periods when daylight hours are short can help adjust your circadian rhythm, the body’s process for regulating your sleep-wake cycle. This is beneficial for improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression.
Light therapy has become an accepted practice for alleviating SAD and other conditions such as:
- jet lag
- circadian rhythm sleep disorders
We chose these lamps based on their effectiveness in treating SAD, as well as user reviews and price point.
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100–$200
- $$$ = over $200
There are many lamps and light boxes marketed as SAD or light therapy lamps. Not all of these products are effective or appropriate for this use.
SAD lamps aren’t regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to buy one that provides enough light and is designed to treat SAD.
Here are some features to look for:
- Don’t get a light box that’s designed to treat skin conditions. These devices aren’t meant to treat mood disorders and they won’t be effective.
- Make sure the lamp filters out ultraviolet (UV) light and is labeled UV-free. UV light can damage your eyes and skin.
- The lamp should generate 10,000 lux of cool-white, fluorescent light. An output of 10,000 lux is approximately 20 times greater than the light output generated by most indoor lighting. Lamps with less lux may need to be used more often than brighter ones.
- Opt for a glare-free lamp or a lamp that can be positioned at a downward angle that reduces or eliminates eye glare.
- Look for a lamp with a light surface area of around 12 by 15 inches. The larger the surface area, the higher the lux. Larger lamps also provide you with the option of moving around more, so you can be farther away from the lamp without compromising its effectiveness.
- Smaller lamps aren’t as effective and may need to be used more often for longer sessions. That said, you may wish to purchase a second, smaller lamp if you travel a lot. Your doctor can provide individualized lamp use guidelines.
Personal style and needs
- Think about what activity you would like to do while using the lamp and purchase one that will accommodate that purpose. For example, light boxes have been
shownto help with jet lag. So, if you travel frequently, you may want to choose a small, portable option.
- Lamp styles vary. You may be better off getting a lamp that’s attractive and matches your décor so that it can stay in position for use. For maximum benefit, you’ll want to use the lamp at least once daily, so having it out and easily accessible can be a plus.
Best adjustable SAD lamp
Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Light Therapy Lamp
This lamp has a large surface area of 15.5 by 13.5 inches. It generates 10,000 lux and projects light in a downward motion — this helps keep it glare-free no matter how it’s positioned.
The lampstand is adjustable, so chances are it will be comfortable to use no matter your height or chair type. Users say the lampstand doesn’t wobble and that the lamp reaches full lumens quickly for maximum benefit.
- large surface area
Best UV-free SAD lamp
Northern Light Technologies Boxelite
In addition to features such as 10,000 lux and a large surface screen, this SAD lamp is designed to last. Many users rave about it 7 or more years after purchase.
The lamp includes long lasting fluorescent bulbs and is UV-free. It also features five different height levels and is easily adjustable. Note that it weighs 11 pounds and is heavier than many other lamps.
- heavier than other options on our list
Best portable SAD lamp
Circadian Optics Lattis Light Therapy Lamp
If you love the look of modern decor, this lamp may be right for you. It features 10,000 lux of LED, UV-free, full-spectrum white light. It also boasts three brightness levels, so you can uptick or downtick the amount of light you receive.
Many users prefer LED to fluorescent light because it lasts longer. This lamp has a small surface area and a fixed position, which doesn’t allow for adjustment. Even so, it may be great for small spaces or as a lamp for travel.
- stylish look
- three brightness levels
- much larger than other options
- may not be everyone’s taste
Best SAD lamp for leisure
Flamingo Floor Lamp
This 46-inch-tall lamp is a great option for those who want to position their SAD lamp near a treadmill or glider. It also fits neatly into corners for use while reading or watching TV.
This floor lamp provides 10,000 lux of full-spectrum, UV-free, LED light. It’s also glare-free and adjustable. Users love the sturdy design and long lasting light bulbs, which typically last for about 5 years. Assembly is required.
- full-spectrum LED light
- comes with long lasting light bulbs
- assembly required
Best affordable SAD lamp
TaoTronics Light Therapy Lamp
While this portable option has a screen size that’s smaller than recommended, it still delivers a good value for its size and cost.
Designed for on-the-go use, this lamp provides 10,000 lux and one-touch controls.
- one-touch controls
- might be too small for some users
- Don’t start using a SAD lamp without your doctor’s approval. This is especially important if you have a diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, glaucoma, or lupus.
- Always get the green light from your doctor if you’re taking prescription medications of any kind, including antipsychotics and antidepressants. Keep in mind that some prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements can make your skin photosensitive, requiring an adjustment to your use of the lamp. These medications include lithium, some acne drugs, and St. John’s wort.
- Use the lamp daily. You can use it until daylight hours increase.
- Experiment with time frame. Many people find benefits from as little as 20 minutes of use. Others require 60 minutes, which is typically considered the highest exposure you should get.
- Consider when to use it. Many experts recommend using a SAD lamp first thing in the morning. Your doctor might also recommend that you use it during the day. Keep in mind that more isn’t always better. Overuse of a SAD lamp can produce insomnia or other side effects.
- Follow manufacturer recommendations for position. Your lamp should come with recommendations for how close you should position yourself to it. This is very important, as your distance from it will affect the lamp’s lux capacity.
- Position the lamp so that it’s providing you with downward light. This will ensure that it doesn’t shine directly into your eyes.
- Talk with your doctor about how to best stop using the lamp. It may be most appropriate for you to wean yourself off slowly. Spending time outdoors, especially in the mornings, can help this process.
Warning about light therapy and bipolar disorder(Video) Do SAD Lamps Actually Work?
Warning about light therapy and bipolar disorder
Although light therapy
Can SAD lamps damage your skin or eyes?
UV light should be filtered out of SAD lamps, so they shouldn’t damage your eyes or skin. However, light boxes used to treat certain skin conditions do emit UV light, so you should be sure that your light box is designed to treat SAD.
Can SAD lamps increase vitamin D levels?
Whilst some people have found that SAD lamps can increase vitamin D levels over time, there is not enough research to confirm this.
However, other studies have shown that in order for light therapy to be used effectively to increase vitamin D levels, it needs to produce UV light, which most SAD lamps do not.
How bright are SAD lamps?
The recommended brightness for SAD lamps is typically 10,000 lux.
How long does it take a SAD lamp to start working?
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 to respond to a SAD lamp after 2 weeks.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t use a SAD lamp?
You should avoid using a SAD lamp if you have an increased sensitivity to light. This may be due to:
- macular degeneration
- a connective tissue disorder
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Seasonal affective disorder can often be alleviated with proactive lifestyle changes. These include:
- going to bed early and waking up at or near dawn
- going outside for extended periods of time, especially first thing in the morning
- avoiding substances that can adversely affect your ability to sleep, such as alcohol
- eating whole, nutrient-rich foods
Seeing a mental health professional and taking antidepressant medications, as advised, can also be beneficial.
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.
Using a SAD lamp, also known as a light box, can help alleviate symptoms, boosting your mood.
SAD lamps can be effective when used as a solo treatment or combined with other forms of treatment. Either way, always use these lamps under a doctor’s supervision.
What is the most effective SAD lamp? ›
1. Lumie Vitamin L: The best-value SAD lamp. The Lumie Vitamin L is one of the most energy-efficient SAD lamps around, but the biggest selling point for most people will be the fact that it emits a slightly softer light than other SAD lamps.What light bulbs are best for seasonal affective disorder? ›
A better solution is to use a full-spectrum LED light bulb to deal with seasonal affective disorder. Full-spectrum light bulbs mimic the spectrum of sunlight and provide the correct wavelengths at the right intensities throughout the day.How do I choose a SAD lamp? ›
The most important thing to look for in a SAD lamp is the correct amount of light intensity. Every expert agrees on this point: To trigger the brain to release serotonin, a true SAD lamp must have a brightness level of at least 10,000 lux of white light.What lamps are good for seasonal depression? ›
Best for SAD: Carex Day-Light Classic Light Therapy Lamp
Intensely bright, the Carex Day-Light Light Therapy Lamp was even more effective than our best overall pick. Our tester felt a big boost in energy every time she used it, which earned it a perfect score of 5 out of 5 for our energy-boosting effect rating.
Typically, SAD lamps or lights should be used for 30 minutes to an hour. They can be used at any time of the day although they are usually used first thing in the morning. SAD lamps are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).How long does it take for SAD light to work? ›
Response usually starts in a few days, and by two weeks the symptoms should be definitely improving. Most people need to continue light therapy throughout the winter until the springtime.Do SAD lamps give you vitamin D? ›
People commonly use sun lamps, also known as SAD lamps, to treat a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These lamps can also help a person's body make vitamin D, which helps ensure that specific body functions run smoothly.Can you use a SAD light too much? ›
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.Can SAD lamps damage eyes? ›
Most people can use light therapy safely. The recommended light boxes have filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so there's no risk of skin or eye damage for most people.Is blue or white light better for SAD? ›
Blue light emerges as another effective option for seasonal affective disorder. Narrow-band blue light is as effective as bright white-light for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), according to a recent study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
What time of day should you use light therapy? ›
The dose of light that has proved to be the most beneficial is 5000 lux hours per day, which could take the form of, for example, 10 000 lux for one half-hour each morning. Most studies indicate that early morning treatment (before 8 am) is optimal.Do light therapy lamps actually work? ›
Although light therapy is at least as effective as antidepressant medications for treating seasonal affective disorder, it doesn't work or isn't appropriate for everyone. Some people need more light, or brighter light.How many lumens do I need for a SAD light? ›
SAD lamps require a very intense light source with a high color temperature to help mitigate the effects of seasonal depression. These lamps are rated for 5,000 to 10,000 lux (or 10,000 Lumens per square foot), with the majority of lamps favoring 10,000 for good measure.Can you get vitamin D from LED lights? ›
It is possible to have an LED with a wavelength that can maximally produce vitamin D3 more efficiently than sunlight. These LEDs can be used for different functions including vitamin D3 production for patients with malabsorption syndromes.What kind of light is used for SAD? ›
While there are light therapy options like dawn stimulators and natural spectrum light bulbs, using a light box (a flatscreen device that uses full-spectrum fluorescent light) is the most common in treating SAD.Can you overdo light therapy? ›
Red light therapy is generally considered safe, even though researchers aren't exactly sure how and why it works. And there are no set rules on how much light to use. Too much light may damage skin tissue, but too little might not work as well.Do SAD lamps help with sleep? ›
Do SAD lamps work? SAD lamps simulate sunlight, which helps trigger the brain to release serotonin, often called the feel-good hormone. Studies show that using light therapy during periods when daylight hours are short can help adjust your circadian rhythm, the body's process for regulating your sleep-wake cycle.What does SAD stand for? ›
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.How do you do light therapy at home? ›
- Get the right light. Your light box should have a 10,000 lux exposure. ...
- Avoid staring at the light. Keep the box just off to the side and about a foot away.
- Take your time. You should absorb light from your lamp for about a half hour a day. ...
- Start in the morning.
Treatment sessions can last from 15 minutes to three hours, once or twice a day, depending on individual needs and equipment used.
How do I stop SADS? ›
- Use your lightbox: Start using light therapy at the beginning of fall, before you feel SAD symptoms.
- Get out: Spend time outside every day, even if it's cloudy. ...
- Eat a well-balanced diet: Even though your body may crave starchy and sweet foods, stick to nutritious choices.
Low levels of vitamin D, caused by low dietary intake of the vitamin or not enough exposure to sunshine, have been found in people with SAD. However, it's unclear whether vitamin D supplementation can help to relieve SAD symptoms. Very little research has been done on dietary supplements other than vitamin D for SAD.Can SAD lamps help with anxiety? ›
SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter when there are fewer hours of sunlight. The light from a sun lamp is believed to have a positive impact on serotonin and melatonin. These chemicals help control your sleep and wake cycle. Serotonin also helps reduce anxiety and improve mood.How can I raise my vitamin D levels quickly? ›
- Spend time in sunlight. Vitamin D is often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best sources of this nutrient. ...
- Consume fatty fish and seafood. ...
- Eat more mushrooms. ...
- Include egg yolks in your diet. ...
- Eat fortified foods. ...
- Take a supplement. ...
- Try a UV lamp.
Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent that gives a close approximation of natural daylight, known as "white light." Colors appear sharper under halogen light and the bulbs can be dimmed.
With very few exceptions, light therapy is compatible with antidepressant meds, so don't stop them and risk worsening or relapse. Rather, add light therapy to your current regimen, and test whether it provides significant improvement. In a way, it's like adding a second (or third…)Can SAD lights cause headaches? ›
Even though this type of treatment is generally very safe, negative effects may occur. As a consequence of light therapy, patients can complain of irritability, headaches, eye strain, sleep disturbances, and insomnia. Mild visual side effects are not unusual but remit promptly.Should you look directly at a light therapy lamp? ›
Never look directly into the light. It's common to see improvement in your mood within two to four days if you use a 10,000 lux bulb for about 30 minutes every morning. “Light therapy via sun lamps is most effective in the mornings,” says Dr. Cain.”Try to use the lamp daily while you eat breakfast or have coffee.”Does light therapy work on your face? ›
Red LED light therapy may reduce inflammation and stimulate the production of collagen, a protein responsible for younger-looking skin that diminishes with age. Blue LED light therapy may destroy acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes).Can light therapy cause macular degeneration? ›
Although blue-light therapy is successful, research shows that excessive ocular blue-light exposure may contribute to age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems.
What color is best for depression? ›
The colour red is generally said to be associated with an increase in appetite, reduced depression and increased angry feelings, purple with boosting creativity and developing problem-solving skills, orange with optimism, blue with a sense of security and productivity, and green with a sense of harmony and effective ...What color is best for SAD? ›
Sad colors are colors that are dark and muted. Grey is the quintessential sad color, but dark and muted cool colors like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they're used.What color should I put my LED lights on when I'm SAD? ›
For this reason, yellow light has been clinically used to treat depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You might try switching your LED lights to a yellow hue during the dark winter months and when you feel down.Can I use a SAD lamp in the afternoon? ›
Five Essential Tips for Using Therapy Lamps for SAD
Light therapy is generally most effective when done early in the morning after waking up. It can also be helpful to use your light again in the late afternoon, especially if you get sleepy between 6-8 PM.
LED light therapy is mainly focused on skincare, promoting anti-aging effects and reducing inflammation. The purported benefits include an increase in the amount of collagen in the skin, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other stigmata of aging.Does light therapy increase melatonin? ›
The light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated natural light to your skin and cells. Clinical research is showing that red light therapy can improve sleep quality and duration, and help people produce more of their own melatonin. Light plays a major role in your sleep cycle.How long is Verilux Happy Light? ›
How long do I use my HappyLight® and how? Light therapy typically has the best results if used anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day, specifically in the morning.Do light therapy lamps work for depression? ›
“Light therapy is not a cure, but it has been shown to help reduce symptoms that come with depression such as lack of energy, trouble sleeping, anxiety, as well as feelings of sadness, hopelessness and irritability,” says Eric C. Alcera, M.D., a behavioral health specialist at Hackensack Meridian Health.Can you use a SAD light too much? ›
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.How many lumens do I need for a SAD light? ›
SAD lamps require a very intense light source with a high color temperature to help mitigate the effects of seasonal depression. These lamps are rated for 5,000 to 10,000 lux (or 10,000 Lumens per square foot), with the majority of lamps favoring 10,000 for good measure.
How do I know if light therapy is working? ›
Monitor your mood to see if it's working.
You should start to notice more energy and an improved mood within one to two weeks with daily use. Many people notice a more immediate response to light therapy. If you are thinking about trying Bright Light Therapy, talk to your doctor first.
Although light therapy is at least as effective as antidepressant medications for treating seasonal affective disorder, it doesn't work or isn't appropriate for everyone. Some people need more light, or brighter light.Do SAD lamps give you vitamin D? ›
People commonly use sun lamps, also known as SAD lamps, to treat a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These lamps can also help a person's body make vitamin D, which helps ensure that specific body functions run smoothly.Can SAD lamps damage eyes? ›
Most people can use light therapy safely. The recommended light boxes have filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so there's no risk of skin or eye damage for most people.What light bulb is closest to sunlight? ›
Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent that gives a close approximation of natural daylight, known as "white light." Colors appear sharper under halogen light and the bulbs can be dimmed.
Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. Multiplying the figure of 1050 watts per square meter by 93 lumens per watt indicates that bright sunlight provides an illuminance of approximately 98 000 lux (lumens per square meter) on a perpendicular surface at sea level.What color temperature is best for SAD? ›
For those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a lamp that replicates cool daylight has been said to work wonders during the darker months where natural daylight is limited. In those situations, it is recommended that a bedroom lamp which emits a temperature of 5000-6000K with a cool blue hue may work well.What Kelvin is best for SAD? ›
Most commercial SAD lamps use fluorescent bulbs, which are generally around 4500k, or rather greenish.Do SAD lamps help with sleep? ›
Do SAD lamps work? SAD lamps simulate sunlight, which helps trigger the brain to release serotonin, often called the feel-good hormone. Studies show that using light therapy during periods when daylight hours are short can help adjust your circadian rhythm, the body's process for regulating your sleep-wake cycle.How long is a light therapy session? ›
The treatment usually lasts about 20 minutes. LED light therapy is a non-invasive, painless treatment. During treatment, you might feel some warmth but no discomfort.
Can you use light therapy twice a day? ›
Treatment sessions can last from 15 minutes to three hours, once or twice a day, depending on individual needs and equipment used.Who should not use light therapy? ›
The major contraindications for the use of light therapy are diseases that involve the retina of the eye, such as diabetes, and the use of photosensitizing medications like lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.Can you overdo LED light therapy? ›
What Are the Risks? Red light therapy is generally considered safe, even though researchers aren't exactly sure how and why it works. And there are no set rules on how much light to use. Too much light may damage skin tissue, but too little might not work as well.Can Lighttherapy cause anxiety? ›
Can Light Therapy Cause Anxiety? Bright light therapy does not cause anxiety. However, the use of bright light may cause an individual to feel irritated. This sense of irritability can come from sessions that are too intense or too long.