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Everyone gets a little down after being stuck inside for too long. And with stay-at-home orders in full effect around the globe, that low feeling might be an epidemic on its own. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of adults say the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. So if you’ve been feeling especially low these last few weeks, you’re not alone.
On top of the coronavirus pandemic, many parts of the country are still in the throes of a rainy, cloudy early spring. For around 10 million Americans, these weather conditions lead to seasonal affective disorder (aptly abbreviated to SAD), which is characterized by depression, low energy, sleepiness and increased appetite.
Basically, we’re experiencing a perfect storm for poor mental health. But there is good news. A few effective home treatments for lifting your spirits are available online. One of them is light therapy.
Light therapy lamps mimic sunlight with a brightness level of at least 10,000 lux. When used for just 20 to 30 minutes a day, these lights offer the same effects as soaking up rays, including boosting your mood and improving circadian rhythms. It’s one of the easiest ways to lift your spirits, as you can use a light therapy lamp while working, eating or watching TV.
The best way to use light therapy is first thing in the morning. This will wake up your body and naturally improve your sleep cycle. Sit next to a light therapy lamp for about 30 minutes while eating breakfast or scrolling through your phone for best results.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Light Therapy Lamp
Because light therapy lamps are not regulated by the FDA, it’s important to check the specifications before buying. You’ll want a lamp with a brightness of at least 10,000 lux and UV-blocking technology. Otherwise, here are a couple of other factors to consider:
Size: The size of a SAD lamp will determine how far it can be from your face. The larger the lamp, the further its range, which gives you more space. On the flip side, smaller lamps are easier to store and more portable.
Position: Light therapy lamps come in every shape from desk lamps to floor lamps. A desk lamp is ideal if you want to get your therapy session in while working, while floor lamps or box lights are better for setting up next to your couch.
Style: Even though it’s a therapy tool, SAD lamps are still something you’ll have to look at in your home. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to consider the style of the lamp to make sure it fits your decor.
Whether you suffer from SAD or just need a mood booster in these crazy times, check out the best light therapy lamps we’ve rounded up below.
1. Carex Light Therapy Lamp
Carex is often used in clinical trials for SAD, making it one of the most-trusted brands for light therapy lamps.
This lamp is one of their best-sellers with impressive features to help people with SAD, as well as anyone looking to improve their mood. The lamp’s 250-square-inch face and clinical-strength 10,000 lux intensity make the lamp very efficient. 99.3% UV-blockage also means you don’t need to worry about safety or over-exposure (although 30 minutes a day is more than enough for results).
Although the Carex doesn’t score high in terms of style, the design makes up for it with functionality. The lamp stands 31-inches tall and can be angled at various positions for different activities. Place it on a desk and angle it down for reading, or put it on a side table while watching TV.
In short, the Carex is the most versatile option and should work great for almost anyone.
PROS: Wide surface, clinical strength, good brand.
CONS: Slightly unattractive design.
2. Verilux HappyLight
Smaller light therapy lamps might not be as effective as larger options, but the convenience can make them better for some users. If you’re looking for something smaller, we recommend this HappyLight from Verilux.
The Verilux packs the basic requisite features: 10,000 lux brightness and UV-free light. However, because it’s small, you’ll want to place it closer to your face (about 12 inches) or do therapy sessions longer than 30 minutes.
But the compact design of the Verilux is also its strength. You can easily set it up on your desk or dining table without cluttering, or place it on your bedside table. It’s also ideal for traveling (if that ever happens again), coming in handy for beating jet lag.
Another reason we like the HappyLight is its adjustability. You can choose from two brightness levels, meaning you can have some less intense light as an afternoon pick-me-up. The lamp also has two interchangeable lenses: one high-power and one more comfortable glare-controlled option.
PROS: Portable, plenty of settings, affordable.
CONS: May be too small for some.
3. Sunrise Sensations DayBright
Sunrise Sensations goes in a less clinical, stylish direction with this DayBright lamp. It’s a more casual way to enjoy some light therapy, but we don’t recommend it for people with SAD.
Instead of the typical flat-screen design of most light therapy lamps, the DayBright has a geometric design with multiple light-emitting panels. This gives the lamp a wider, less direct spread of light, making it a little more like a normal lamp than a therapy device. Plus, this geometric shape, combined with genuine wood trimming makes the lamp a home decor upgrade as well as a mood-booster.
The DayBright’s usability goes even further thanks to adjustable brightness and temperature settings. This means you can set it on low for a mellow session. And if you want more than one of these lamps, the included remote can control up to four of them.
The casual design of this lamp makes it ideal for people looking for more energy while cooped up inside, but it also translates to less effectiveness if you’re actually trying to treat SAD.
PROS: Stylish, wide range, remote-controlled.
CONS: Bottom-up angle, less effective for SAD.
4. Northern Light Flamingo
Floor therapy lamps are the most versatile choice, allowing you to place the lamp by a desk, bed, couch or workout space.
Our favorite floor lamp is this Northern Light Flamingo with a four-foot height and a rotating head for maximum adjustability in any room. The Flamingo’s screen has a 91-square-inch face, which makes it big enough for effective light therapy but compact enough to be discrete – even in small spaces.
The Flamingo also boasts some added hardware that most light therapy lamps don’t have: an electronically-powered ballast. This extra device keeps the lamp from flickering or humming, ensuring a much more reliable, pleasant experience.
Although it’s on the pricey side, the extra dough is money well spent. The materials are nice, the light quality is top-of-the-line, and a seven-year warranty ensures years of use.
PROS: Versatile positioning, large screen, quiet.
CONS: requires assembly, slightly pricey.
5. Alaska Northern Lights Northstar
This Northstar lamp from Alaska Northern Lights is the most heavy-duty option. It boasts an industry-leading 281-square-inch face that’s large enough for multiple people to use at once. This also means the lamp works at a much further distance, so you can get effective light therapy treatment at up to two feet. If you have a cluttered desk space or just want a more comfortable experience, this light is ideal.
Another reason why we highly recommend this lamp is it comes from Alaska Northern Lights, an established brand that’s been selling lights since 1993. In a market not regulated by the FDA, this kind of brand reliability is important.
The Northstar also features an electronic ballast, so you can expect quiet, flicker-free light. Although it’s not dimmable, the lamp includes a diffuser for softer, more comfortable light. The only possible downside for some buyers is the lamp’s bulkiness, but that’s a worthy sacrifice for the large face.
PROS: Incredible power, long-range, quiet.
CONS: Bulky, expensive.