Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive disorder that affects people during seasons with lower levels of sunlight, such as fall and winter. This type of depression may recur every year during these seasons or when the days are shorter.
If you notice an annual trend in which you feel sad or down, it's best to seek your doctor's help to determine if you suffer from this disorder. SAD has a variety of treatment options, such as phototherapy or light therapy, depression medicines, or psychotherapy. Your doctor may even recommend using a light therapy lamp to reduce your symptoms. These SAD lamps replicate natural sunlight to relieve your sadness or depression.
If you want to start using these lamps as part of your treatment, this article will share a list of the top options you can use, what features to look for when buying, and the best ways to use them.
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This SAD lamp from Circadian Optics will help you improve your symptoms while also enhancing your room's decor. It has a light panel integrated with asymmetrical segments, making for an ideal accent piece. It also features an easy-to-use, one-touch operation system and three light levels, so you can choose your ideal brightness.
Designed for light therapy, this lamp emits the recommended 10,000 LUX brightness to help you relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This lamp also features no UV rays and boasts quality features, such as a 5500K color temperature and full-spectrum sunlight.
This Circadian Optics lamp features LEDs that can last up to 50,000 hours, thereby eliminating the need to recharge or replace fluorescent bulbs. With a matte finish, this light therapy box includes a lamp, an adapter, and a user guide. The company's comprehensive 2-year warranty also covers the package.
From Carex Health Brands, this is a 10,000 LUX light therapy lamp with a large surface area of 15.5 inches by 13.5 inches. If you deal with SAD, this lamp will help you relieve the symptoms to improve your quality of life.
It can also brighten your world in a downward motion, so you don't need to worry about it glaring directly at you. This light therapy lamp features two brightness levels while effectively blocking UV rays. The LED therapy light also comes with a flexible angle stand and a glare-free screen to enhance light therapy from as far as 12 inches away.
This product is one of the most durable SAD lamps available and conveniently produces 10,000 LUX from a large surface area for a shorter light therapy session. Your perfect companion through bad winter blues, this SAD light features long-lasting, glare-free fluorescent bulbs to offer therapy from 14 inches away, so you won't need to sit close for effectiveness.
Additionally, the lamp blocks UV light and boasts five easily adjustable height levels. It also features a robust metal construction that guarantees durability.
This portable SAD lamp is ideal for traveling, producing full-spectrum light to mimic natural daylight at a 10,000 LUX intensity. Additionally, at 6500K color temperature, it can filter UV rays to offer you healthy light therapy.
It is a lightweight lamp that features a rotatable stand, which can help you choose your lamp's ideal position. It also comes with easy-to-use controls that let you adjust brightness and an easy-set timer with an LED indicator that blinks when the therapy session is over.
From Circadian Optics, the Lumos Lamp is ideal for those experiencing SAD symptoms. The lamp produces 10,000 LUX light intensity for the best light therapy outcomes. It offers a 5500K color temperature, UV-filtered light, and three brightness levels.
Lumos is a stylish SAD lamp that can add fashion and atmosphere to any space. Since it's an LED light, it can produce 50,000 hours of dot-free light that mimics natural daylight. It's an easy-to-use lamp with a one-touch operation system that delivers fast and effective results.
How to Use SAD Lamps for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Before buying or using a SAD lamp, make sure you discuss it with your doctor, especially if you've been diagnosed with other conditions, such as:
- Bipolar disorder
Additionally, if you are taking medications, it is best to seek your doctor's approval. Some medications can leave your skin photosensitive, which may impact the effectiveness of light therapy.
Hot to use a SAD lamp
When you've consulted with your doctor and been recommended to use a light therapy box, you can follow these tips to get the best results fast:
- Plan a schedule that allows you to use the SAD lamp daily during seasons with fewer hours of daylight. Your doctor may recommend using it in the morning every day to get you ready for the activities ahead. Alternatively, you can use it during the day, but be careful not to overuse it, as it may cause insomnia or other adverse effects.
- Use your lamp for at least 20 minutes per session. If you don't feel relief after this period, you can extend the session up to 60 minutes. Consult your doctor if you don't feel relief after an hour's exposure, as using it for longer than this amount of time could come with side effects.
- Read your user guide. Every manufacturer gives recommendations of how to best use the lamp, like how close you should be to it during your light therapy sessions. It is vital to follow these recommendations for the best results.
- Protect your eyes. While these lamps are safe for your eyes, you should position your SAD lamp in a downward position, so it doesn't directly glare at your eyes. Doing so can allow you to do another activity, like reading, during the session.
- Wean yourself off as the seasons come to an end. As fall or winter wraps up, you can consult with your physician about how to stop using the SAD lamp.
How does a SAD lamp help relieve seasonal affective disorder symptoms?
When you suffer from this season-inspired depressive disorder, your brain struggles to release serotonin, a hormone responsible for stabilizing your mood and happiness.
According to Healthline, low levels of serotonin can lead to the following:
- Mood disorder
- Irregular sleep and wake patterns
- Weaker bones
- Poor bowel movement
When there's not enough sunlight in colder seasons, your body may produce lower levels of serotonin, thereby causing depression. To remedy this, you can turn to light therapy, which should trigger the release of this hormone. Doing so will not only improve your mood and depression but also adjust your body's circadian rhythm to regulate your wake-sleep cycle.
Factors to Help You Choose Your Best SAD Lamp to Relieve Mood disorders
When you want to buy a SAD lamp for light therapy, you need to understand its features that target Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since the lamps are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, you can consider the following features to guide you to the best one for your needs.
LUX is the unit used to measure the illuminance or light intensity of the lamps. Before buying a SAD lamp, make sure it has an output of at least 10,000 LUX, as this is 20 times stronger than the other types of lamps in your home. Additionally, with 10,000 LUX, you will need shorter therapy sessions to improve your mood.
b) Lamp positioning
During light therapy sessions, you should sit close to your SAD lamp. As such, it is best to choose a lamp that can be angled in a downward motion rather than directly at your eyes to reduce eye glare.
It is best to buy a lamp that filters UV light to protect your skin and eyes. As such, look for a lamp that is labeled UV-free or UV-filtered.
Your lamp's light surface area determines how close you need to sit in front of it and for how long. The larger the size, the shorter your therapy sessions will be, and the more freedom you will have to move around without impacting the effectiveness of the LUX.
You may also want to consider portability if you plan on moving the lamp around in the house or taking it with you while traveling.
You should consider purchasing a SAD lamp that fits your style. Since you need to use your light boxes regularly, it helps to have them easily accessible, which often means you place them somewhere visible. As such, it can be best to buy one that matches your room's theme and decor.
Possible Side Effects of Using a Light Box for SAD Therapy
According to this study, you may experience the following non-depressive symptoms after continued light therapy using SAD lamps:
- Skin irritation
- Poor vision
- Early morning elation immediately after your sessions followed by remissions in the evening
Alternative Remedies for Seasonal Affective Syndrome
As you use a light box to treat SAD, you can also consult your health provider on how to use alternative methods to relieve your symptoms, too. These may include:
- Paying more attention to your sleeping time. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can ease feelings of tiredness and lethargy.
- Spending more time outdoors. Even if it is cold, spending more time outdoors under natural light can help relieve your symptoms.
- Abstaining from substances, such as drugs and alcohol, that could affect your sleep time.
- Exercising. Being more active can be an excellent way to improve your mood and, thus, relieve your depression symptoms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when your brain is unable to produce enough serotonin, which regulates your happiness. Sunlight triggers your brain to release this hormone, but this becomes harder during winter or fall seasons when there are lower levels of sunlight and shorter days.
If you have this disorder, you can turn to SAD light therapy lamps that mimic natural sunlight to trigger serotonin release, which may improve your mood and relieve SAD symptoms. Before buying a lamp or starting light therapy, talk to your physician, so they can diagnose SAD and recommend light therapy as a possible treatment.
For light therapy, you need to sit in front of the lamp's light panels or the light therapy box for a period of time that's agreed upon by you and your doctor. Light therapy is also linked to relieving jet lag, circadian rhythm disorder, and other conditions. If it's right for you, this treatment can make a huge difference for your quality of life.
1. 5 Best SAD Lamps for Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Use Them: https://www.healthline.com/health/sad-lamp#how-to-use
2. Light therapy: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604
3. Bright light therapy: side effects and benefits across the symptom spectrum: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10584776/
4. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern): https://www.healthline.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder
6. Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamps: https://circadianoptics.com/
7. Interactions of the serotonin and circadian systems: nature and nurture in rhythms and blues: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21963350/
8. Jet Lag: Current and Potential Therapies: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3086113/#:~:text=Sunlight%20has%20a%20major%20influence%20on%20the,box%2C%20a%20lamp%2C%20and%20a%20light%20visor