Best Light Therapy Lamps Reviews
Winter has its redeeming moments -- steaming mugs of hot chocolate, sledding, and curling up under a down comforter -- but it can be a dreary season both literally and figuratively.
Along with cold weather comes shorter days, and the further north you live, the less sunlight you’ll see during the winter months. For some people, it’s dark when they leave for work in the morning and already dark again when they get home.
Regular exposure to light, especially sunlight, plays an important role in our health. Light exposure promotes a healthy biological clock that contributes to quality sleep and overall wellness. Decreased daylight can cause a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Most artificial light is not strong enough to replace the lost exposure to the sun’s light. But specialized, high-powered lights can generate enough illumination to help realign your circadian rhythm and combat SAD. Light therapy lamps may also provide relief to people who may struggle with SAD outside of the winter months and for people with other circadian rhythm disorders.
If you’re in the market for a light therapy lamp, our list of top picks leads you directly to options that offer ample illumination. Many lamps have additional features and design elements, and our guide can help you find the choice that fits best with your needs.
In addition to our choices for the best light therapy lamps, we’ll give an introduction to SAD, the uses of a light therapy lamp, and the key considerations when you’re shopping for one.
Our Top Picks
|Lumine Light Therapy Lamp||Up to 10,000 lux||3 brightness settings that are easily adjusted; 50,000 hour lifespan; stylish design||$39.99|
|Light Therapy Lamp||3,500 to 10,000 lux||3 brightness settings ranging up to 10,000 lux; light is 100% UV-free; built-in interval timer||$103.89|
|Day-Light Sky Light Therapy Lamp||Up to 10,000 lux||Flicker-free design; 10,000 lux at 11” distance; provides light from higher angle||$107.57|
|HappyLight||Up to 10,000 lux||Weighs less than 2 pounds; flicker-free illumination; easy tilt adjustments||$79.95|
|Boxelite OS Desk Lamp||Up to 10,000 lux||High-powered bulbs give 10,000 lux at 14”; tall design with 5 adjustable angles||$196.56|
Circadian Optics Lumine Light Therapy Lamp
The Circadian Optics Lumine Light Therapy Lamp uses an LED light to provide up to 10,000 lux of illumination. Circadian Optics does not specify the exact distance from the light at which 10,000 lux is achieved.
In total, the lamp has three light settings, so it’s usable for more than light therapy alone.
The light is 99.9% UV-filtered to eliminate harmful rays, and the bulb has a 50,000 hour lifespan.
- Sleek, minimalist design
- 3 brightness settings, adjusted with one touch
- Extended durability with 50,000 hour lifespan
The Lumine lamp does not have a built-in timer.
The price for the Lumine lamp is $39.99, which is lower than most other light therapy lamps on the market.
If you purchase this lamp from Amazon, you are covered by the company's 30-day return window.
Each Lumine light therapy lamp comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
- Affordable price point
- One-touch adjustments within three light settings
- Extra-long bulb lifespan
Aura DayLight Light Therapy Lamp
The Aura DayLight Therapy Lamp uses a compact fluorescent bulb. It can be adjusted between three brightness levels ranging from 3,500 to 10,000 lux. The 10,000 lux level provides this illuminance at 8” from the light.
The light from this lamp is 100% UV filtered.
- 100% UV-filtered light
- Three brightness levels to use depending on your needs
- Two angles -- 70 or 85 degrees -- to choose from
The Aura DayLight lamp has a built-in timer. You can set this timer for 10 minute intervals up to 60 minutes in total.
The price for this light therapy lamp is $103.89. This places it on the higher end of the price range for these products.
This product is covered by a 30-day return policy if purchased from Amazon.
Aura offers a 2-year warranty for the DayLight lamp.
- Built-in timer for up to 60 minutes
- Multiple brightness levels, including 10,000 lux
- 100% UV-filtered light
Carex Day-Light Sky Light Therapy Lamp
The Carex Day-Light Sky uses compact fluorescent bulbs to provide up to 10,000 lux of white light at a distance of 11” from the lamp.
It can also be set at half-power, 5,000 lux at 11”, for uses other than light-therapy.
The light has UV filtration to eliminate 99.3% of UV rays.
- Taller design provides light from above
- Swivel-action of arm lets you adjust angle of light
- Flicker-free design is easy on the eyes
- 10,000 lux at 11” distance
The Day-Light Sky does not have a built-in timer.
The Day-Light Sky costs $107.57, which is above average but not the most expensive among light therapy lamps.
If you are unsatisfied, you can return this product within 30 days if you buy it through Amazon.
The Day-Light Sky comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
- Powerful light offers 10,000 lux at 11” away
- Two light settings
- Extended 5-year warranty
- Higher, adjustable angle
The Verilux Happy Light provides brightness using compact fluorescent bulbs. It reaches 10,000 lux at 6” from the lamp.
Two brightness settings are available, and the lamp comes with no-glare lenses to make the light easier on the eyes.
UV filters prevent these rays from reaching your body when using the light.
- Extremely lightweight, weighing only 2 pounds
- Tilt of light is adjustable
- Flicker Elimination technology keeps light stable
- Two brightness settings
The Verilux HappyLight does not have a built-in timer.
At $79.95, the Verilux HappyLight is around the average price for light therapy lamps.
Your purchase is covered by a 30-day return policy if the lamp is purchased through Amazon.
Verilux provides a one-year limited warranty for the HappyLight.
- Low profile, lightweight design
- Consistent lighting without flickering
- High and Low brightness settings
Northern Light Technology Boxelite-OS Light Therapy Lamp
The Boxelite OS lamp uses compact fluorescent bulbs to provide 10,000 lux at a distance of 14”. Their lamp has no graded light settings: it is either on or off.
The light has UV filtration and a lifespan of 20,000 hours.
- Extremely powerful lamp lets you get 10,000 lux even when 14” away
- Designed to eliminate flicker and hum
- 5 elevation settings with added angle adjustability
The Boxelite OS does not have a timer.
The Boxelite OS costs $196.56. This is more expensive than the majority of light therapy lamps.
If you purchase the lamp through Amazon, you have 30 days to return the product for a refund if you are unsatisfied with it for any reason.
Northern Lights Technologies offers a 7-year warranty on the Boxelite OS.
- Delivers 10,000 lux at further distance -- 14” -- than most lamps
- 20,000 hour bulb and 7-year warranty
- Adjustable height and angle
Guide to Light Therapy and Light Therapy Lamps
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy uses powerful lamps that are able to produce illumination levels close to that of natural light. Exposing the eyes to this level of light can affect a person’s circadian rhythm and the production of different chemicals in the brain.
Light therapy is most commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is related to limited daylight exposure in winter months. It can treat circadian rhythm disorders that arise when a person’s internal biological clock becomes misaligned with their local day-night cycle.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a specific kind of depression. It is defined by changes in the seasons, and the most common type occurs during the winter months. Shorter days and less sunlight are a trigger for SAD.
SAD can occur in the summer, but this is rare and believed to affect less than 10% of people with SAD. The terms summer SAD or reverse SAD may be used to describe people who experience heightened depression during the summer months.
What Are Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Not every person who has SAD experiences the condition in the same way. The symptoms tend to be different for winter and summer types of SAD.
In winter SAD, people tend to have feelings of depression, experience pronounced fatigue, sleep too much, crave carbohydrates, gain weight, and withdraw socially.
In summer SAD, people also experience feelings of depression but are more likely to suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. Appetite tends to decrease, and people with summer SAD often lose weight. Summer SAD can be associated with violent outbursts.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The exact biological cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown, but it appears to be closely related to changes in the day-night cycle. Given the importance of sunlight to our well-being, it is believed that reduced sunlight exposure in winter is a primary cause of winter SAD.
Winter SAD is more common in people who live further from the equator and who experience greater loss of sunlight during the winter. People who are younger, female, and have a personal or family history of depression are at a higher risk of SAD.
In terms of biological explanations, recent research has found that winter SAD may be related to problems with overproduction of melatonin, regulation of serotonin, and lack of vitamin D.
The causes of reverse SAD are less clear. Some researchers believe it is related to exposure to too much sunlight and to rising temperatures. Others believe it to be socially related as people may stay up later to participate in summer activities or may feel anxiety about missing out on summer fun.
How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of SAD requires establishing a pattern of seasonal depression over a long period of time. Typically the symptoms must be present for 2 years or more, and feelings of depression must be much more pronounced during distinct seasons.
Because it is a type of depression and not an independent condition, a diagnosis requires that a person meet the criteria of major depression.
This diagnosis cannot be made with a specific test, but medical tests may be used to rule out other potential causes of a person’s symptoms. A direct diagnosis of SAD must be made by a medical or psychiatric professional.
Anyone who is concerned that they have winter or summer SAD should speak with a health professional directly and especially before beginning light therapy or any other potential treatments.
How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?
According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the four main treatments for SAD are talk therapy, light therapy, medication, and vitamin D, and these may at times be used in combination.
Talk therapy, also called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), works to identify, analyze, and understand the thoughts and circumstances contributing to a person’s depression in order to change behavior and mood. A type of CBT has been developed specifically for SAD (CBT-SAD).
Light therapy attempts to correct for the loss of sunlight in winter with high-powered indoor lamps.
Medication includes prescription drugs generally used to treat depression such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and bupropion.
A less common treatment is with vitamin D supplements. The NIMH does not consider this a standard treatment because it has not generated consistent results in research studies.
How Does Light Therapy Help Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Light therapy can treat SAD by making up for the light exposure lost with winter’s reduction in daylight hours.
Most artificial light is much less powerful than sunlight. For this reason, standard indoor light does not produce the biochemical reactions in the body that come from exposure to daylight.
Lamps used for light therapy are far more powerful than normal lights. They produce a level of illuminance similar to daylight. The recommended level of illuminance is 10,000 lux.
Most people benefit by sitting near a light therapy lamp for 20 to 60 minutes, usually in the morning. It is important to sit close enough to the lamp so that the full 10,000 lux is delivered. A more powerful lamp will allow you to sit further away and still receive the same illuminance.
What Other Conditions Can Light Therapy Help Treat?
Light therapy is most often used with SAD but can be used with other types of depression.
It can work to correct circadian rhythm disorders that arise when a person’s biological clock is out of sync with the cycle of day and night where they live. Examples of this kind of disorder include jet lag and sleep disruptions from shift work.
What Are the Side Effects of Light Therapy?
Most people do not experience any serious side effects from light therapy. The most common side effect is eye strain and related headaches. The risk of this can be reduced by avoiding looking directly at the light.
A light therapy lamp should have UV filtration to protect against any side effects from excess UV exposure.
In rare cases, use of a light therapy lamp may lead to mania associated with bipolar disorder.
Some medications, including some antibiotics and drugs for psoriasis, make people more sensitive to light. If you take these medications, there may be greater risk in using a light therapy lamp.
What Are the Key Considerations When Shopping for a Light Therapy Box?
When shopping for a light therapy box, there are a handful of factors and features to evaluate.
- Lux Output and Distance: it is important to have a light therapy lamp that provides 10,000 lux of illumination. This lux level is provided at a certain distance. The greater the distance that you want to be from the lamp when you use it, the more powerful the lamp will need to be.
- Brightness Settings: while 10,000 lux is the recommended dose for light therapy, many lamps have lower settings that allow the lamp to be used for everyday purposes. If you want more flexibility in using your light, look for one with multiple brightness settings.
- UV Filtering: make sure to look for a light therapy lamp that filters all or virtually all UV to protect your skin.
- Size and Adjustability: depending on where you plan to use the lamp -- such as at a desk or on a table -- the overall profile of the lamp may be important. Some lamps have adjustable heights or tilt angles to make it easier to find a comfortable position when using the lamp.
- Cost: the price for lamps can range from around $50 to several hundred. Choose a lamp that fits your budget, but don’t cut corners on the amount of illumination it can provide.
- Timer Options: some people find that having a built-in timer is a useful feature. An automatic shut off after an hour is another feature offered by some lamps.
- Durability and Warranty: most of the bulbs used in light therapy lamps have long useful lives, especially since the lights are used at full power for only a short period each day. However, a warranty can protect your purchase against a bulb that doesn’t work properly or burns out prematurely.
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