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Published Sep 11, 2023 12:55 PM
When the dog days of summer give way to the darkening skies of fall, the never-ending grays of winter, and the rainy doldrums of spring, a light therapy lamp can really save the day. Options for recharging indoors with simulated sunshine have proliferated, with everything from tiny desktop lamps to floor lamps available to boost your mood. There are some generally recommended times to use them: soon after waking, for about 30 minutes, about 1.5 to 2 feet from your face, and with your eyes open but not looking directly at the light. In short, the best light therapy lamps to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can help to reset your biological clock via the body’s natural circadian rhythms, boost the happy chemical serotonin, and provide a mental health lift to support a healthy mood, appetite, and sleep—and an overall healthier, happier you.
How we choose the best light therapy lamps
With so many light therapy lamps on the marketplace, the best light therapy lamp will fit your space and bath your face to help treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). We narrowed the list by looking for lights that provided the recommended 10,000 lux of light and produced as little UV light as possible. We also wanted the light therapy lamps to be easy to use (if stepping outside into the sun during the summer is simple, so should turning on or adjusting your lamp) and easy on the eyes—no need to have an ugly light in this day and age of cute, clever design. We also wanted to highlight a range of products, from desktop setups to lamps that double as furniture. The chosen light therapy lamps come in a range of prices, and we cut the price off at $200 to keep the recommendations within reach of most consumers. And don’t miss our best sunset lamps and sunrise alarm clocks on the way to bed, either.
The best light therapy lamps: Reviews & Recommendations
You may need something very specific in your lamp, perhaps a certain size or one that can be used at a certain distance from your face. If our top pick isn’t just right for you, scroll down to find the perfect fit for you.
Best overall: Verilux HappyLight Luxe
Why it made the cut: It’s bright, good-looking, and easy to move around.
- Brightness: Adjustable brightness
- Color temperature: Adjustable color temperature
- Dimensions: 11.8 x .5 x 7.5 inches
- Compact size and lightweight for easy portability
- Intuitive adjustable brightness and color temperature
- Countdown timer to take the guesswork out of light therapy
- Non-adjustable stand
- For 10,000 lux, you’ll need to be at a 6-inch distance
The Verilux HappyLight Luxe is an economical light therapy lamp with a retail price that comes in well below $100 that’s also loaded with important features. The sleek, slim design is more reminiscent of an iPad than a medical device, with a modern look that fits into most people’s home decor. It doesn’t vie to be a centerpiece, either, offering a nice balance when it comes to function and form. For the truly looks conscious, the frame comes in white, marble, and champagne.
At 11.8 inches tall, 7.5 inches wide, and a slender half-inch in depth, the lamp can sit unobtrusively on a desk or table, delivering the benefits of light therapy without drawing attention to itself. It’s also small enough to slip into a backpack or overnight bag so you can take the benefits of light therapy to the office, on the road, or on vacation. The two-pound lamp comes with a detachable stand, or it can be wall-mounted. It is corded.
On the function side, the powerful LED, full-spectrum light panel reaches up to the recommended brightness of 10,000 lux. With a push of a button, you can adjust the brightness in four settings or the light color in three settings. Note that for the full 10,000 lux exposure you’ll need to be about 6 inches away from the lamp. Its built-in countdown timer (up to one hour, down to five-minute increments) ensures you’ll get the recommended amount of light without keeping track of it yourself. You can also pause the timer if you get up for a coffee break. This light therapy lamp is UV-free, as too much UV light can damage your eyes and skin.
Controls on the Verilux HappyLight Luxe are simple and straightforward. There’s an on-off button on the top of the device. All other controls are on the front-facing panel, below the light screen. The left button allows you to switch between three color temperatures (measured in Kelvin): warm white (3,500K), medium white (4,250K), and daylight (5,000K). The right button toggles you through four brightness levels: 2,500, 5,000, 7,500, and 10,000 lux. The brighter the light, the shorter you’ll need to sit in front of it for maximum effect. The center button is the automatic count-down timer, which you can set for up to an hour and which shuts the lamp off, so you don’t have to remember to turn it off when your session is done. The general recommendation, whether to combat SAD or to get a mental boost, is to start at the lowest brightness for a short period of time, say 10 minutes, and then work your way up to the one-hour mark from there.
The lamp uses Flicker Elimination Technology and Optix Glare Control to make the light easier on your eyes. No matter which light therapy device you use, it’s recommended that you place the light at an off-center angle from your body so you’re not looking directly into the light. Your eyes do have to be open to receive the effects, so it’s best to use the lamp while working on the computer, reading, or doing stationary hobbies. Napping next to any light therapy lamp, including this one, won’t deliver the physical and mental health benefits.
Best for light intensity: Carex Day-light Classic Plus Light Therapy Lamp
Why it made the cut: It’s powerful enough that even at 12 inches away, you’re getting full “sun.”
- Brightness: 10,000 lux at 12 inches
- Color temperature: N/A
- Dimensions: Large light size at 16″ x 13″
- Ability to angle downward to better mimic sunlight and for less glare
- Sit 12-14 inches away and still reap maximum benefits
- Light screen can be adjusted up to 31 inches from base
- Space hog
- Only two light settings
- Plastic base
This full-coverage desktop light therapy lamp goes where the sun don’t shine. You’ll get the recommended 10,000 lux of glare-free white LED light (at 4000K) whenever you flip the switch and sit 12 to 14 inches away from the large light area. Unlike many light therapy lamps on the market, this one does not skimp on the light surface size. Expect 16-by-12 inches of glowing light. Think of it as the equivalent of sitting in front of an oversized monitor versus working on a small handheld device compared to other models on this list. You’ll also escape the harmful effects of UV rays with this one. The ability to tilt the light downward is a big plus, which helps to mimic the direction of sunlight and generally allows for less glare.
While this larger lamp won’t work for tight desktop spaces, it is a good fit for those who want to bathe in manmade light without worrying about sitting too close to the lamp’s base. And it’s pretty good looking, with a silver base and center and a light area reminiscent of a pro photographer’s light rig.
Best floor lamp: Flamingo Floor Lamp II by Northern Technologies
Why it made the cut: It offers the benefits of light therapy in the design of a traditional floor lamp.
- Brightness: 10,000 lux of light at 12-inch distance
- Color temperature: Uses replaceable LED bulbs
- Dimensions: 4 feet tall
- Doubles as a regular floor lamp
- 4-foot height ideal for using next to a recliner
- Easy to assemble
- Non-adjustable height
- Only one light setting
- No timer, only on/off switch
The Flamingo Floor Lamp—with its skinny angled central pole—does bear a passing resemblance to one familiar long-legged wading bird, although it has neither beak nor is it pink. It is, however, one of the few traditional stand-up floor lamps that also work as a light therapy lamp available today. From Northern Technologies, the lamp leans into its 10,000 lux capacity as a big selling point, and you’ll get that brightness at 12 inches away.
The LED bulbs in this Canadian-made lamp are fully replaceable, full-spectrum, and UV-free, and they boast no hum or flicker when turned on. The lamp is also energy efficient, using two 18-watt LED bulbs. And while we don’t recommend knocking this lamp around too much, the light bulb cover isn’t glass, so any accidental tippage won’t send sharp shards skittering across your floor.
As a 4-foot-tall floor lamp, it looks right at home next to an easy chair or sofa, but it can also be used as a bedside stand-up lamp, next to a desk, or in a corner of a dark room to brighten a living space. The light fixture itself measures 13 by 7 inches, and it swivels. The lamp has no timer, but it is compatible with an external programmable light timer.
Best compact: Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0
Why it made the cut: This reading-style lamp offers superior brightness in a space-conscious design.
- Brightness: 10,000 lux and 3 brightness settings
- Color temperature: UV-free LED light
- Dimensions: 14.4 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches
- 3 brightness settings via a single touch
- LED light up to 50,000 hours
- Small design that swivels open
- Small area illuminated due to lamp’s size
- Bulb is not replaceable, rendering the lamp useless when the bulb burns out
- Small base leaves it prone to tipping when open
There’s a lot to like about this reading-style lamp, which is really a cleverly designed light therapy lamp. When in its “standing” position that resembles a tall, skinny speaker, it’s just 14 inches high, 3.5 inches deep, and 1.5 inches wide. From the closed position, a hinged arm swings from the top and opens the arm out like a fan so you can set the optimal light angle for your activity—reading, writing, computing, sewing, woodworking, or whatever desktop work you have in store.
A one-touch button lets you control the UV-free LED’s brightness, starting with bright, to brighter, to brightest, with the brightest setting delivering 10,000 lux. It’s a uniform, dot-free light comparable to full spectrum sun. There’s no timer, but the daily recommendations are to place the lamp 16-18 inches from your face for anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes for the full circadian rhythm reset.
And while an appearance on Shark Tank isn’t reason enough to buy a product, it’s worth noting that Circadian Optics founder Amber Leong appeared on season 11 of the show in 2019 with her idea for light therapy lamps. Sharks Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner believed enough in her idea to invest. And the company now has five light therapy lamp designs for sale.
Best budget: Light Therapy Lamp by Erligpowht
Why it made the cut: This powerful mini-sized light therapy lamp slips right into a pocketbook or small bag.
- Brightness: 10,000 lux capacity
- Color temperature: N/A
- Dimensions: 5.11 x 6.69 x .59 inches
- Adjustable among three brightness levels
- 90-degree rotation standing bracket to angle light
- Default turn-on starts at the brightest setting
- Unstable base may topple if jostled
The Light Therapy Lamp by Erligpowht is more short story than hero epic. It comes in at just over half an inch in depth, 5.11 inches wide, and 6.69 inches tall. For comparison, that’s smaller than an iPad Mini, and just the right size to slip into a small purse or desk drawer unobtrusively. Its 10.86-ounce weight means you won’t develop shoulder or back strain from adding this to your luggage, as that’s less than the weight of a standard-size battle of water.
Travelers who want to take a light therapy device with them on the road to help adjust to time changes or erratic sleep/wake schedules will appreciate this product’s compact size, as well as a price point that’s low enough that you won’t worry as much about accidents like forgetting it in your hotel room or spilling a cup of coffee on it in your morning haze. Likewise, apartment dwellers or workers using a small desk will appreciate the compact design that takes up very little room, whether in use or stowed away.
For the price, its features—three brightness levels and four pre-programmed timer settings—compete with more bougie brands. It’s also simple to operate. Use the angled kickstand to set the light up where you want it, and in the direction you’d like the light to shine, and then click it on to your desired setting, from 100% capacity to 50% to 30%. The timer button (both buttons are on the front, at the base of the unit) is preset for options. Simply click through to your desired time. The LED lamp is UV-free. A USB-C cord comes with the unit, but you can swap out your own if you’d like a longer or shorter cord.
To get the most out of your light therapy lamp, you’ll want to sneak a peek at the fine print on your chosen lamp. Here are a few things to consider before you put that lamp into your virtual shopping cart and click “buy now.”
What is the lux capacity of the lamp?
Most experts agree that a lux capacity of 10,000 is necessary to get your circadian rhythm, sleep, and mood in sync. Your circadian rhythm dictates your sleep/wake cycle, which helps to regulate the mental, behavioral, and physical changes that happen throughout a 24-hour cycle. Getting plenty of natural light during the day helps to regulate this cycle, whether for those traveling to different time zones or for people dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Most experts think that, among other things, too little light from the sun during fall, winter, and spring can lead to SAD. This concern magnifies in areas of the world where the daylight hours are especially short. A lamp that doesn’t put out the full recommended 10,000 lux may not deliver the full potential positive effects of a light therapy lamp.
Is the lamp’s brightness adjustable?
Unless you’re a pro therapy light user and you know you like your light bright, it’s wise to start with a lamp that has adjustable brightness. You may also find that in the dead of winter, you prefer the brightest setting, while on sunnier spring and fall days, you don’t need the full brightness. Choosing a lamp with adjustable brightness gives you more control over what kind of light you’ll be basking under.
Does the lamp have a preset timer?
Timers exist for a reason. It’s because humans easily lose track of time. The phone rings; a computer notification dings; a dog barks outside. Whatever the uncontrollable distractions are, it’s nice not to have to worry about how long you’ve been soaking up the rays from your light therapy lamp. With a built-in preset timer, the lamp turns off when your time is up, and you never have to lift a finger. While it’s not a necessary feature, it is a nice-to-have one.
Q: How long should I use a light therapy lamp?
Most experts recommend you use a light therapy lamp 20-30 minutes a day, although some people may use it longer or use it for several shorter sessions throughout the day. It’s best to start slowly and work your way up to more time. A medical or mental health professional can help guide you.
Q: What is the best time to do light therapy?
The best time to do light therapy, especially if you’re looking to help with mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder, sleep disorders, or depressive disorder, is within the first hour after you wake up. Some people also like to use them in the late afternoon.
Q: Is it OK to do light therapy every day?
Yes, there’s generally no harm in doing light therapy every day, although many people find it’s less necessary in the summer months when natural light is easy to get outside. Be sure you’re using a UV-free light to avoid eye health conditions or skin issues, such as burns.
Q: What is the best position for light therapy?
It’s best to position the light therapy lamp at a 45-degree angle to your body so you’re not staring directly at it. It needs to be close enough so you can reap the benefits. Different lamps specify different optimal distances. An angle-adjustable lamp can help with optimal positioning.
Q: How long does it take for light therapy to work?
Light therapy might start working after just a few days, but many people find it helpful within a few weeks. To keep the effect, most people use the light therapy lamp during seasons that lack natural sunlight. People adjusting to time changes from travel might use it for a shorter duration.
Final thoughts on the best light therapy lamps
The best light therapy lamps have light settings of up to 10,000 lux, can change the color temperature settings, and have adjustable brightness settings. Features that make keeping track of time easy, such as a countdown timer or programmable timer add appeal. The more intuitive and easy a light therapy lamp is to use, the more likely you are to use it every day, and daily use is key to getting your mental and physical health on track. Check out one of the above options if you want to try light therapy for yourself.
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