Everyone gets the winter blues from time to time, but if you find yourself feeling super tired and just dismal day after day in the winter, it might be something more than winter blues. It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder AKA SAD. Yep, it’s actually called SAD. And it’s estimated that about 10 million Americans are affected each year. Part of the reason why SAD happens in the winter is that there’s less access to direct sunlight. Cue light therapy lamps.
Sometimes called sun lamps or happy lamps, these bright glowing accessories have more intense light than regular indoor lighting. They can boost your mood and even help you get better sleep by regulating your body’s circadian rhythm. Of course, light therapy lamps don’t fix everything. (If you’re suffering from SAD or general depression and anxiety, it’s important to talk to your doctor.) However, combined with professional talk therapy and exercise, a light therapy lamp can really help you reset your internal system and increase your disposition through those dark months. It’s not a cure-all, but it is a great tool. And there are tons of options to choose from for every budget and style. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite light therapy lamps plus highlighted features to look for when shopping for a light therapy lamp. Take a look at our top picks below and give one of these lamps a try this winter.
When shopping for a light therapy lamp, the most important number to look for is the lux count. Sometimes product descriptions will wax on about light temperature and the light’s color temperature and while that definitely creates a cozy, relaxing vibe, what you’re looking for — especially if you want to curb SAD — is a lux count of at least 10,000 or more. Also, a light therapy lamp is not the same as “light therapy” alarm clocks that gently wake you up with a gradually brightening light because those lamps typically only have about 250-300 lux. A light therapy lamp should also not be confused with a light therapy mask as those do not have a lux count and are used to allegedly treat wrinkles.
Once you buy a light therapy lamp, it’s important to know how to use it as too much light stimulation can cause irritability. As a general rule, you should only use a light therapy lamp for about 20-30 minutes each day when you first wake up. This is because light therapy affects your circadian rhythm, or the cycle of being alert and awake in the day and relaxed and sleepy at night, and using a light lamp too late in the day can accidentally keep you up too late.
When using, position yourself close to the lamp — about two feet away — with your eyes open. But do not look directly into the lamp. Typically, light therapy lamps are great for kids and teens, too, though it’s important to make sure your kiddo never looks directly into it. Think of these like a very happy solar eclipse as staring directly into the light can hurt your eyes. Also, if you have any skin cancers or light-sensitive skin caused by medication, talk to your doctor first before using a light therapy lamp. Additionally, some behavioral disorders, such as bipolar disorder, don’t always mix with these lamps as the light stimulation can cause irritability. It’s also important to note that even though these lamps are sometimes called sun lamps, they don’t actually give you vitamin D or encourage your body to make vitamin D.
You may not know Verilux, but you’ve probably heard of its product: The HappyLight. These days, Verilux has several different HappyLight lamps ranging in size and style but they all feature 10,000 lux. We love the Lumi Plus for its size (not too big, not too small), advanced light settings, timer options and affordability. Plus, right now Amazon is offering a $2 off coupon just for clicking a box on the product page.
And for 10,000 lux under 30 bucks, check out the compact HappyLight VT10. It packs the same lux and fan praise, but it’s smaller and $10 cheaper. And Amazon is also offering a $2 off coupon for this model, too.
For something super compact and travel-friendly, Circadian Optics has a fold-out 10,000 lux light therapy lamp just a little larger than a deck of cards. Not only is it pack-friendly for suitcases and carry-ons, but you can also easily toss this lamp into a backpack or purse, too.
Dark cubes are so draining. However, you probably don’t want a beacon of light coming from your desk like the Bat-Signal. For something more discreet that will brighten your workspace without creating a floodlight situation, check out this mini lamp from Olly. The 25-minute timer will also help if you have to rush to a meeting.
Light therapy lamps are highly effective, but the most-popular lamps aren’t exactly cute. And they can be eyesores in common rooms. But, if you’re willing to splurge, there are some stylish light therapy lamps with 10,000 lux. We love this DayBright lamp from Sunrise Sensations. The trendy geometric design and light wood make a lamp that looks like any other accent piece. You’d never know it’s a therapy lamp.
But if you don’t want to drop $230 on a lamp, we spotted this little, modern sphere from Circadian Optics. It’s under $35 and also not a plain, white box.
The HappyLight Alba has everything we love about Verilux’s other lamps, but it’s incredibly lightweight compared to other models at just over a pound. The shape also reminds us of a little sun and that’s fitting as the name means sunrise. With its lightweight design and whimsical shape, this would be perfect for a kids’ or teen’s room.