The Simple Guide to Choosing Light Therapy for SAD

light therapy for sad

SAD light treatment has become a first line treatment for seasonal depression, and was scientifically proven to be an effective drug-free treatment for SAD (“Winter Blues“) and even non-seasonal mild depression.

It seems simple to choose a  SAD light therapy home device, right?

Some very bright light, delivered through a light box, or light lamp, you place it near your eyes every morning and you’re done with SAD.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Light therapy for SAD has to be done the right way, using the right SAD light box/lamp. It requires a specific light intensity, it needs to be safe, it needs to be durable and of course for some of us the design and the price are also important factors.

So how to find the best SAD light treatment product?

We’ve done the research for you. Isn’t that comforting?:)

Here you’ll find all you need to know before you buy light therapy for SAD and how and where the highest quality product, for the lowest price.

Sound good? Let’s go.

SAD Lamp vs. SAD Light Box

Maybe you’ve heard about the 2 options, but if you haven’t, you should know that you can use either a SAD Lamp or a SAD light box.

A SAD lamp is exactly like is sounds, it looks like a lamp. A desk lamp, and its average size is like the size of a normal desk lamp.

Day-Light Sky SAD Lamp

Day-Light Sky SAD Lamp

When it comes to you and treating SAD, this means that you’ll need to be closer to the device during treatment, because the relatively small “treatment head” requires you to be closer to absorb the light properly through your eyes.

If you don’t have much space to spare and it feels more comfortable for you to treat yourself while you’re working on your computer or reading at your desk – A SAD lamp is a good fit for you.

A SAD light box is usually much larger than a light therapy lamp, which means you can be a little further away from it, because the treatment area on it is larger.

Naturebright Suntouch SAD Light Box

Naturebright Suntouch SAD Light Box

But, both SAD lamp and light box should emit the same light intensity for SAD – Which is 10,000 LUX (more on that below).

The 7 Important Factors in Choosing Light Therapy for SAD

First you’ll need to understand how SAD light therapy works, and why it works so well (if you do it right):

The light from a light box mimics outdoor light. This is thought to cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

(By the way, bright light therapy can also be used to help re-set sleep cycles (circadian rhythm), which may play a role in mood swings).

Light boxes are generally used for 30 minutes or longer each morning, with bright light shining indirectly toward your eyes.

But how bright should the light be? Is it fluorescent light? LED light? which one is better? The questions keep coming, and I’m here to answer them all:

Light boxes/lamps differ in light intensity, size, shape and features. They are all designed to be safe, but they are not regulated by the FDA.

These are the things you should consider to find the safest and the most effective light treatment for SAD:

1. Light Intensity

Only choose a light box/lamp that provides the right light intensity when you’re at a comfortable distance. For example, you can use a light box that produces 10,000 lux (a measurement of light intensity) 12 to 14 inches (30.5 to 35.6 centimeters) from you for 30 minutes each morning.

However, using a SAD lamp that produces 2,500 lux at the same distance may take two hours or more to achieve the same effect.

Generally, the “gold standard” for light therapy boxes is no less than 10,000 LUX (Like this one).

2. Blue Light/Full Spectrum Light

Recent research found that blue light at a certain range can be even more effective for depression and SAD than bright full spectrum light.

But, blue light may cause some damage to your eyes so avoid looking directly at the light source in any light box that you buy.

Right now opinions differ about which treatment is better for SAD but one thing is for sure – They can both work. If you want to know more – My post about full spectrum VS blue light is HERE to make things clearer for you.

One of the best-selling blue light therapy boxes is the Philips goLITE BLU, which I can personally recommend because I own one, and love it. Here’s my detailed review for it.

3. UV Rays

Make sure that the light box you buy fully filters UV rays. Thorough my research they all claim to do that, but checking again can’t hurt. If you’re not sure, contact the manufacturer for safety information.

4. Light Bulbs

Most bright light boxes for SAD use fluorescent light bulbs, which last about 8000 hours. This means you may need to replace the light bulbs every 2 years.

Blue light therapy for SAD uses LED light bulbs, which are more efficient and lighter weight than standard lights and fluorescent.

But, one of the most popular light boxes for last few years is the Naturebright Suntouch, which is a big fluorescent light box. It’s a good quality light box but I guess the relatively low price is quite an attraction as well.

LED technology is more expensive and LED light lamps, like this one, cost more. On the other hand, LED light bulbs last for 20 years with no problem. I’m lousy at math, so you’ll have to calculate which option has a better ROI.

5. Design and Extra Features

Make sure the size of the light box fits your needs. Keep in mind; most light boxes need to be positioned within 2 feet (61 centimeters) of you.

Some light boxes/lamps offer more than an Off and On switch – such as a timer you can program, adjustable brightness (to use as a reading lamp, for example), extended batteries and more.

Here’s my head to head comparison between the top 2 SAD lamps in 2014

6. Price

The cost of the different light boxes and lamps hugely vary. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, the Naturebright Suntouch is one of the most affordable ones, but uses fluorescent bulbs and takes up a lot of space.

You can sey my review for the Naturebright Suntouch HERE.

The 2 best SAD lamps cost more than a hundred dollars, but I like their design, they are small, portable, and can be used at work or when travelling.

My Personal Recommendation

philips goLITE BLU

Philips goLITE BLU



See my detailed reviews for them below:

Philips goLITE BLU Review

Lightphoria Energy Light Lamp

I really hope this simple guide to choosing light therapy for SAD has helped you make a good decision about your SAD light therapy helper, and if you have any other questions, I’m right here.

To your health & happiness,


Related Posts

The 2 Top Rated Full Spectrum Desk Lamps (Reviews & Cost)

The Best Light Therapy Lamps: Reviews & Comparison


PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

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