Does winter gloom affect you too? Dark, short winter days, ridden of substantial sunlight may cause us to feel tired, lethargic, dizzy, and depressed.
The lack of sunlight may cause you to have trouble falling asleep at night. Where I live winters tend to last from September until mid April and it messes up my Circadian rhythm.
People who work night shifts may suffer from the same symptoms ( Shift Work Disorder (SWD)/ Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS))
Insomnia and feeling down during the winter period cause many people to use antidepressants but something less invasive may be a better solution.
In the absence of sunlight we can rely on SAD therapy lights to ensure our brain releases seratonin as a result of (sun)light exposure. Seratonin helps us wake up, feel energetic and positive, thus combat winter depression and nocturnal work-related side effects .
Doctor recommended SAD lights that emit full spectrum (white light) and a specific bandwidth of blue light help combat winter depression by imitating sunlight.
With so many lamps to choose from, how do you know which one to pick?
Most lamps do what they’re intended to do. As long as you make sure it provides the recommended 10k lux you’re good to go.
Other things to keep in mind are bulb replacement (light intensity degrades after years of use) and size and features. More in a bit.
SAD Light = a science-backed medical light treatment device that treats the root cause of SAD (lack of sunlight).
SAD Light Box Types and Differences
- Many devices feature incandescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes.
- Some SAD box devices small light emitting diodes instead of bulbs.
- LED vs traditional lights. Both are equally effective according to Mayo Clinic and other medical institutions.
LED SAD lights use very little electricity considering the bright light they produce. The energy consumption is comparable to a 45 watt incandescent light bulb.
- Most SAD therapy boxes emit white light, some (mostly the LED’s) utilize blue light. White light is often perceived as milder.
Blue light mimics natural day light. If you’re sensitive to bright light you may want to opt for white light since blue light is known to cause eye strain in some people.
- Some SAD lights can be used all day, others are meant to be used from 30 minutes to 1 hour daily.
Features – What to consider in a SAD light?
A few things to keep into consideration before purchasing.
- Portability. Do you want a device that you can take with you, that you can move rather effortlessly to another room or location?
- Make sure to get a lightweight, modest-sized light.
- Carrying handles that make SAD light boxes portable
- Brightness adjustment ability.
- Stands that allow for using the therapy light while working on the computer or doing desk work. Basically you have the option between desktop models /panels and models on stands. The latter offer the benefit that you can use them as a task lamp.
- A lens that blocks ultraviolet radiation. Pretty much all devices do but be sure to check before purchasing.
- Location of on/off switch. Preferably on the front. Some (mostly older) devices have the switch on the electric cord.
- Battery-operated vs power cord. Need to use it where you don’t have a power hookup?
SAD Light Therapy Box vs Artificial Dawn Alarm Clock
Because they are often mixed up it’s crucial to understand the difference between the two. To put it simply, SAD light alarm clocks do not exist.
For the sake of clarity, and to avoid you will be purchasing the wrong device, here’s the difference.
You basically have two types of products:
- SAD light therapy boxes.
Although these are recommended to use during the first few hours after waking up in the morning they are not alarm clocks.
Sometimes, when talking about winter depression, people are referring to artificial dawn alarm clocks a.k.a. wake up lights.
These can help a little bit with seasonal affective disorder but are different from a SAD light box.
2. Wake up lights (artificial dawn alarm clocks or dawn simulators)
These are bedside lights that wake you up by gradually emitting a stronger light. By simulating naturally in intensity increasing sunrise light they wake you more naturally, from a lighter sleep phase which has all kinds of benefits.
SAD sufferers often use wake up lights in conjunction with a SAD light but the first doesn’t function as a full-fledged winter depression treatment device.
Keep in mind that when products are advertised as SAD sunrise alarm clocks they are probably not the item you’re looking for.
Which is the best SAD Light Box to buy?
This depends on your specific situation and needs. Below are the most popular, well-reviewed devices, each with its own distinctive features.
Top 5 best rated SAD Light Therapy Boxes
1. Lightphoria, 10,000 Lux Energy Light Lamp
If you’re looking for a truly portable, small device this light by Sphere Gadget Technologies is the way to go.
- portable, it’s lightweight and small so it can be used as a travel SAD box too
- the smallest of the top models, (tiny actually compared with some of its competitors) taking up almost no desk space
- emits the required 10,000 lux
- 15, 30 or 45 minutes timer feature
- energy-saving LED bulbs that don’t heat up
- ‘plasticky’; not as robust as one would expect from a device that comes with a travel pouch
2. SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp
It has the looks of a facial UV tanning light but no worries, it has an UV filter, emits the required 10,000-lux of white light and offers an optional aroma therapy feature.
- Replacement bulbs are pricey and will increase cost of use over a period of a few years
- Comes with an ion therapy lamp which may emit harmful ozone. This feature can be turned off though.
- Similar to Himalayan pink salt lamps that are praised for their negative ion emitting abilities, this feature is merely based on bunk science.
3. Philips GoLITE BLU Energy Light
Opting for a blue SAD light? Studies show blue light is the most energizing hue on the spectrum. The goLITE BLU emits 200 lux of blue light which is proven similar to 10,000 lux of white light. No worries about light intensity, it is extremely bright and does its job.
This device with its soft blue LED is energy-efficient, completely UV-free and can be used both cordless as well as plugged in.
- low energy costs
- rechargeable battery-operated and corded version
- no timer
- stand could be more robust
4. Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000 LUX Natural Spectrum Energy Lamp
This device is especially suitable for those who want to adjust light intensity. It has four different levels of light strength to help you combat the winter blues.
- multiple light intensity settings
- glare cover
- you don’t have to sit directly in front of it
- no timer
5. Carex Day-Light Sky Bright Light Therapy Lamp
If you’re looking for a therapy / task light combo this may be your best bet. When turned on for treatment it will, after a set time, automatically fade to a lower task light setting. Moreover, some research indicates that the light coming from above (similar to sunlight) increases efficacy.
- functions as a task light
- high quality light; no glare or flickering.
- sturdy build.
- flicker free
- heavy, which makes it stable, and bulky
FAQ: What you should know SAD light therapy devices
Don’t be tricked into buying so called SAD bulbs. If you search on, for instance Amazon, for ‘SAD light bulb’, a wide range of full spectrum bulbs pop up. This may cause the impression that these day light bulbs function as SAD therapy devices but they do not. This is because they do not emit the standard 10k lux needed for effective SAD therapy.
Make sure to get a doctor recommended / ‘prescription strength’ 10,000 LUX light therapy box. Less light intensity is not sufficient for treating seasonal affective disorder. Research indicates that 15-30 minutes at 10,000 lux typically offers the therapeutic value. This does not go for all devices.
Inform at your insurance company about coverage. They may cover purchasing a light therapy lamp.
Energy use. If this is an issue for you consider getting an eco-friendly LED powered SAD light.
Here’s how to sleep better at night during winter
Similar to exposing yourself to artificial daylight it is crucial to shield yourself from energizing blue light during the evening.
Computers, smartphones and other electronic devices emit this awakening blue spectrum light and thus keep us up. Make sure to block the blue light that is interfering with a healthy Circadian rhythm.
Often used in combination with SAD therapy lamps: