Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition associated with reduced exposure to sunlight, especially in the fall and winter months. It's more common in women and young adults, mainly manifesting in prolonged sadness and depression. While the actual cause remains medically unknown, it is believed that less access to natural light interferes with the circadian rhythm, therefore affecting the body's internal clock.
At the biological level, people with SAD tend to experience a reduction in serotonin production, the brain's "happy chemical," which may cause some people to feel drowsy, withdrawn, or depressed. There are several ways to treat this condition, and light therapy is one of the most common methods. Light therapy boxes emit natural lighting, similar to morning sunlight, which helps adjust the body's natural circadian rhythm. This provides a feel-good mood, even for people with other sleep problems, such as insomnia or jet lag.
Here are the top three best light therapy lamps for overcoming the winter blues:
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The Circadian Optics Lumos epitomizes a travel light therapy lamp. Sporting a modern design, this foldable lamp is slim enough to fit just about anywhere, making it ideal for on-the-go use.
This lamp is remarkably articulate, and you can fold and rotate it into several positions to get the ideal angle. It comes with three brightness settings and a maximum output of 10,000 LUX. At only 1.5 inches wide, the light panel is certainly not the biggest, but even so, it still comes with a UV filter to block out harmful rays.
Most of the SAD lamps on the market don't meet the recommended size guidelines, but this is as close as it gets. The Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp measures 13.5 by 15.5 inches. More surface area translates to more LUX, which helps in achieving the ideal 10 000 LUX light intensity. The manufacturer recommends placing it 12 inches away to achieve the optimal intensity.
This lamp comes attached to an adjustable stand to help you get the most comfortable angle. It also projects light from above, giving you the desired downward angle, and comes with an anti-glare screen and filter that combine to shut out 99.3% of the emitted UV light.
This lamp is targeted at users who prefer a floor-length option, particularly for those with large spaces. It stands 4 feet high at full height, with a rotating head that helps you achieve the most comfortable angle.
It produces 10,000 LUX of light from 12 inches away and 6,000 LUX when 16 inches away. The panel has a parabolic lens reflector that minimizes glare. It also comes with a UV filter to block UV rays. In addition, this floor lamp boasts remarkable energy efficiency, using only 48 watts of power.
You should always seek medical advice from your doctor before beginning light therapy. This is especially vital for people who take prescription medications or have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or eye problems. There have been recorded cases of light therapy triggering manic symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. Similarly, some medications can cause the patient's skin to be photosensitive, making light therapy a risk factor.
Your doctor will advise you accordingly on the proper way to use a light therapy box. They can also guide you on the correct way to wean off light therapy as natural sunlight increases.
How to Choose the Best Light Therapy Lamps
The Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate light therapy boxes. Consequently, you'll find plenty of products on the market marketed as SAD lamps, but some of these options might not be as effective as you need them to be. As such, you should ensure you only buy a light therapy lamp that's precisely built to treat this condition.
Additionally, you should consider the following aspects of a light therapy device before buying:
The most effective SAD lamps measure at least 12 by 18 inches, translating to 20-30 minutes of exposure for maximum benefits. However, most manufacturers produce smaller versions of their light boxes. The smaller size can be compensated for with longer sessions or reducing the distance from the lamp within the given recommendations.
It is not recommended to look at a light therapy box directly to avoid glare. At best, it should be placed above eye level, somewhat at a downward angle. Fortunately, manufacturers provide plenty of options to get an ideal angle:
- High-end models come with stands to adjust elevation.
- Standard models are built slightly angled below eye level, ideally placed on an elevated flat surface.
- Floor and mountable lamps are perfect for people who don't have surface space.
3. Light Intensity
Most standard options have a maximum brightness level of 10,000 LUX, the equivalent intensity of morning sunlight. You would need 20-30 minutes of daily sessions to get the most out of this amount of light intensity. However, some products might come with lower intensities, which can be made up for by extending the duration.
It is worth noting that the ideal time frame varies from one person to the other. Therefore, you'll need to experiment to find what works best for you.
Overexposure to therapy light can have adverse consequences, such as headaches, nausea, and insomnia. A timer then becomes a nifty feature to ensure you only use your light therapy lamp for the recommended amount of time. However, if you go for an option that doesn't have a timer, you can always use an alarm clock.
Generally, this revolves around your personal needs and preferences. For instance, you can get a lamp with multiple brightness options to give your more control. At the same time, you can also go for a particular design if it matches your decor.
With these tips in your pocket, you should have no trouble finding the perfect light therapy lamp for your needs.
1. 5 Best SAD Lamps for Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Use Them. (2021). Retrieved 10 March 2021, from: https://www.healthline.com/health/sad-lamp#how-to-use
2. Light therapy for winter depression. (2014). Retrieved 10 March 2021, from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Light_therapy_for_winter_depression
3. The 10 Best Light Therapy Lamps of 2021. (2021). Retrieved 11 March 2021, from: https://www.verywellmind.com/best-light-therapy-lamps-4172537