Top-Rated Light Therapy Lamps for When You're Stuck Indoors
The Basics On Seasonal Affective Disorder
There's no denying that winter's lack of sunlight really sucks. The dreariness of it all can even have clinical repercussions, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a subset of depression that's characterized by the increase of depressive symptoms during the winter months, according to Neeraj Gandotra, M.D., chief medical officer at Delphi Behavioral Health Group. If you feel exhausted 24/7, don't want to see your friends anymore or do any of the things that bring you joy, there's a chance that SAD is what's getting you down. (Keep in mind that just because you're depressed during the winter doesn't automatically mean you have SAD.)
The good news: Whether you're clinically diagnosed with SAD or just feel like a winter curmudgeon, you can do some easy things to help boost your mood. And, yes, one of them is to invest in a seasonal affective disorder lamp or a light therapy lamp. "Your body makes natural chemicals (including vitamin D) that fight off depression — and some of those chemicals are generated through exercise and through direct exposure to sunlight," says Dr. Gandotra. (Here's more on how to combat seasonal depression, and when to see your doctor about it.)
Also great? Light therapy lamps can not only ease the symptoms of SAD, but can also help to create a better environment for those working from home or stuck indoors — especially if your space lacks large windows or is not drenched in sunlight.
Treating SAD — or Just the Winter "Blahs"
The first course of treatment in battling the winter blues is to increase exercise and eat healthier, says Dr. Gandotra. If you're already doing those things or want a quicker fix, there's also light therapy lamps — either via a lightbox (one that you turn on/off and use while you're awake) or dawn initiation lamps (which slowly light up before your alarm goes off in the a.m. to help wake your body naturally). Both types mimic the effects of sunlight and can help better your mood, along with helping you transition between seasons. The point of a light therapy lamp is that it mimics outdoor light, thought to then cause a chemical change in your brain to lift your mood and ease other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. "If you've tried your best to exercise and get your vitamin D supplements, light therapy is a more immediate fix," explains Dr. Gandotra. In one 2009 study published in the International Journal of Disability and Human Development, using a seasonal affective disorder lamp for just 20 minutes a day resulted in significant mood improvement in people with SAD.
FYI, in order to get the effects, "the light box needs to be of sufficient brightness, about 10,000 lux," recommends Dr. Gandotra. Seasonal affective disorder lamps are usually 10 to 20 times brighter than regular light bulbs, according to the American Psychological Association. Luckily, you can snag a pretty good one right on Amazon.
Although light therapy lamps can seriously help people with SAD, it's clear that everyone can benefit from a little more brightness whether you're stuck inside during the cold, dark winter months or work from home often. To get started, here are the best light therapy lamps you can buy on Amazon, plus reviews from real users.
This brand specializes in mood-boosting light therapy technology, so it's no surprise that one of their products is the top-rated light therapy lamp on all of Amazon, with over 2,700 five-star ratings.
One reviewer wrote: "This is a GREAT light! I have never had a HappyLight before, and this is really a game changer! I live in NYC where it feels like it is gray all the time, and in the past I have certainly felt the effects. This season I noticed that my energy never lagged and I was still able to hop out of bed even though it was dark. I use it for about 30 minutes per day while eating an early breakfast and it keeps me going all day! I cannot say enough good things about this light. Also it is small enough to be portable which is very convenient, it would fit anywhere in my apartment. Highly recommend!"
Another HappyLight fan said: "The long New England winters make the Verilux HappyLight a must! Using it for about half an hour each morning while checking my emails and having my morning coffee has made a huge difference in my mood. The lack of sun during this extremely long winter had me feeling down and unmotivated. It’s amazing how bright this small light is and I love that it is portable; very easy to pack and take to the office."
Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0 Light Therapy Lamp
This is the best seasonal affective disorder lamp if you plan to take it with you on the go. It's adjustable via three different hinges — making it easy to position in any way you need it. (Related: Do You Have Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder?)
"I use it for about an hour each morning. I love that it's so adjustable. I can get it in just the right spot. The sun sets very early here in midwinter (4 p.m. or earlier) so I've also been doing another half hour around sunset to keep my brain in the right schedule. Some days I'll use it more or less depending on how dark it is outside. When I do put it away, I love that it folds down compactly with the light protected. I would feel comfortable traveling with it if need be. I'm so pleased with this product. It's well made, it works well as a therapy light, and it was worth every penny," noted a shopper.
Alaska Northern Lights Bright Light Therapy Box
This briefcase-lookalike seasonal affective disorder lamp has a handle that you can use to move it effortlessly. It also lights up a room like no other: The light shines a full two feet away, where most light therapy lamps only reach 6 inches.
"I suffer from SAD so my husband bought me this light," shared a customer. "The changes were subtle at first but then I realized how much more motivated I had become and how much more I was engaging in activities that I typically avoid during the dreary winter months. It has been so liberating," wrote one reviewer.
Aura Day Light Therapy Lamp
This compact light therapy lamp has an integrated timer, which will immediately shut off the light after the indicated amount of time, between 10 and 60 minutes. (Related: The Best Weighted Blankets for People Who Are Always Cold)
One reviewer commented on how his wife uses it to help wake up each morning: "I read the reviews of the other lights offered on Amazon and purchased this one for my wife on that [basis]. She loves this lamp. She is greatly affected by the shortage of sunlight in the winter here in NE Ohio. Between the short days and the gray days, it is hard for her to get out of bed some mornings. She placed the light on her nightstand and turns it on for 15–20 minutes before she gets up in the morning and it makes a world of difference."
Northern Light Technology Flamingo Floor Lamp
This floor lamp doubles as a light therapy lamp — which means you can get your daily dose of light while preserving precious tabletop space.
"I thought this light was very expensive but wanted a light that I could leave out so I would use it every day. It works very well and appears that it will last a long time. I like the light and feel better when I use it. I have even considered using it as a room light after I have sat close to it for a half to one hour. I feel disappointed when I turn the light off because the tone of regular winter light is not as warming or encouraging," wrote a customer, who also mentioned they have SAD.
Philips Somneo Sleep and Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp
Dawn-initiation lamps can help you start your day on the right foot even if you normally have difficulty getting out of bed. You set the alarm for your desired wake-up time, and the room will start to brighten for a period of time leading up to your alarm, mimicking a natural sunrise. Dawn-initiation lamps are considered a less-intense treatment than your typical light therapy, says Dr. Gandotra. (Related: How to Wake Up Early for a Morning Workout, According to Women Who Do It at 4 A.M.)
"This light works as designed and wakes me up better than any other I’ve tried. I was told by a sleep specialist many years ago that there's a certain frequency of light that stimulates the 'feel good' hormones in the morning — in the red/orange frequency — this has those," noted a shopper.
NatureBright SunTouch Light Therapy Lamp
With over 3,500 five-star ratings on Amazon, this seasonal affective disorder lamp is a more affordable option that will even appeal to your fur babies.
One reviewer said: "I got this as a gift for my wife, but it turns out it was a gift for the whole family, and by whole family, I mean her, my dog, and my cat. We live in the Pacific Northwest and Nov–Mar don't get nearly as much sun as usual. Now, while my wife is sitting down and doing her coursework, the cat and dog will pile in next to her and edge each other out for a spot in front of the light! We are all very pleased with it."
FITFIRST Portable Light Therapy Energy Lamp
This light therapy lamp has an adjustable brightness level, so you can change it depending on comfort or the severity of your winter blues. Also great? The $25 price tag is perfect for anyone on a budget. (Related: Should You Be Using Vitamin D Skin-Care Products?)
"This product has already changed my life!" raved a customer. "If you're thinking about buying it, the answer is YES. MY STORY: I used to be so productive and bounced up in the morning. I fell asleep around 9 and sleep came easy. Then lately I, all the sudden, stopped being able to fall asleep and was kind of meh about approaching the day. I suspected it was because I wake up in the dark and then leave the office when it's dark. My office has no windows. So I bought the light therapy on a whim and I'm not kidding one bit. Yesterday I was awake without needing coffee and I slept last night!"
Lumie Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light
This light therapy alarm clock has a battery back-up so you're covered even if the power goes out. (Bonus: It also offers six different sound effects, including white noise and crashing waves.)
"This is a much more natural way to wake up than using a harsh alarm clock, especially when I have to be up way before the sun rises. I'm the farthest thing from a morning person, but the Lumie has really helped make getting out of bed not such a terrible thing," wrote a reviewer.
Miroco Light Therapy Lamp
This seasonal affective disorder lamp can be controlled with a touch of your finger, and also has a nifty detachable stand, which can be used for both vertical and horizontal positioning and tilted at different angles to best suit your home or work environment. Plus, it has over 11,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, so you know you'll be in good company.
One fan said: "I've had this light therapy lamp for almost 2 weeks and I'm loving it! I appreciate the 3 levels of brightness and the timer. It's so easy to use. I do it reading in the morning or when using the treadmill. It's just a touch for on/off and the timer in 10 min increments is great. That has helped me in the morning with time management. It's just the right size for portability and big enough to get a good amount of light. I don't think I would like a bigger size therapy light. Further time will tell, but since using it every morning for an average of 10 to 20 min, I've noticed a difference in mood and wakefulness. This will be my favorite thing I've bought this year."