How to Choose the Best SAD Lights to Cure Seasonal Affective Disorder
When the seasons change, so do many people’s moods and predispositions, and sometimes not for the better.
Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or more commonly as the winter blues, it affects a significant portion of the populations in the U.S. and Canada and other areas of the world such as Europe, Southern Australia, North Asia and Scandinavia.
Scroll to the bottom to see the top 3 best-selling SAD lights on the market today that have the highest ratings and most positive consumer reviews
Things to Know Before Buying a SAD Light
What Causes SAD? Although it’s usually referred to as the winter blues, SAD can start as early as autumn, when the days start to become shorter. Shorter days mean less exposure to natural sunlight, which in turn leads to several changes in the body. These can include a circadian rhythm or internal clock that gets thrown out of whack, lower levels of the brain chemical serotonin, and the hormone melatonin.
How Do I Know If I Have SAD?
All these chemical and biological changes in the body can trigger problems such as feelings of depression. You may find yourself becoming easily irritated at even the most minor inconveniences, being more sensitive to the behavior of other people or feeling anxious and agitated at events happening around you. Some people find themselves wanting to sleep more during the daytime while others start having trouble sleeping at night. SAD can also affect your appetite; some people find themselves craving carbohydrate-rich food, subsequently resulting in weight gain. Conversely, others may find themselves losing weight because of loss of appetite. It also isn’t unheard of for some people with SAD to turn to alcohol or recreational drugs in an effort to escape feelings of despair and hopelessness.
Should I See a Doctor About SAD?
Feeling lethargic or down and sad during some days is normal. But if you find yourself feeling so down that you can’t muster the motivation to do the things you normally enjoy doing, if your appetite and sleeping patterns have changed, and especially if you are feeling suicidal, then it’s best to see your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor may conduct a physical examination and ask you to undergo laboratory tests to see if there are any physical issues that may be causing your depression. Your doctor may also conduct a psychological evaluation assess your negative behaviors and thoughts and levels of stress.
How Is SAD Treated?
Treatment for winter depression can include medications, psychotherapy, and light therapy. Those with mild cases of SAD may need nothing more than a long walk at the start of the day or at least an hour of exercising outdoors in the morning. Those who suffer from more severe symptoms may need antidepressant medications such as bupropion. Sessions with a psychotherapist can also be beneficial by helping sufferers learn healthy ways to deal with SAD.
Using a Light Box or SAD Light to Treat Winter Depression
Another thing that is effective in combating the winter blues is bright-light therapy or phototherapy. This involves sitting close to a light box or SAD light, which contains a set of bright bulbs that simulates outdoor light, and focusing on activities such as eating, reading and writing while being illuminated by the light for at least thirty minutes.
Studies show that people with a history of SAD benefit greatly from phototherapy using SAD lights. Improvements in symptoms appear usually appear within one week or even sooner, with little or no side effects. Those who do experience some negative reactions such as headaches or eyestrain report that these side effects are often mild and disappear after a few days.
How to Choose the Best SAD Light
All light boxes for the treatment of SAD are designed with one objective in mind: to lift your mood and improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. But with all the available models you can buy online and in stores, how do you choose the best one for your needs?
Here are things you might want to consider when shopping for a SAD light box:
Light Intensity. The brighter the box, the less time you will need to use it each day, which translates to greater energy savings – especially those with LED lights -- as well as more time for you to accomplish your daily tasks. One that provides the right amount and intensity of light at a comfortable distance is also recommended. 10.000 lux minimum is recommended.
Safety. Just as you would avoid harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from natural sunlight, you should also make sure that no UV light reaches you from an artificial light source. Select a light therapy box with technology that filters out the majority of UV light and/or one that emits the least amount of UV light. You might also want to consider getting a SAD light that emits white light instead of one that gives off a blue light with a shorter wavelength, since the latter may pose a higher risk of eye damage.
Top 3 SAD Lights According to User Reviews
What works best for one person may be less effective for another person. That being said, reading consumer reviews and feedback about their experiences with their purchases can help guide you to choosing the best SAD lamp for you. The following are the most highly-rated SAD lamps on Amazon.com.
1. NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp
More than 60 percent of the almost 2,000 customers who wrote reviews for this SAD light on Amazon gave it five stars. It produces a very bright light of 10,000 LUX or 17,000 Kelvin without UV radiation. It also comes with a negative ion therapy feature that is said to promote a calm mood.
Here are some of this light box’s features that customers say are their favorite things about it:
• Recommended by health professionals
• It helps relieve SAD not just during winter but throughout the whole year
• Durable and easy to use
• Variety of timer options
• Intuitively angled
• Value for money
2. Carex Health Brands Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp
This bright light-box also provides 10,000 LUX of white light that is promised to be glare-free, in addition to filtering close to 100 percent of UV radiation. It isn’t the cheapest by far out of all the models available in the market, but for many customers, it’s well worth its price. Among its other selling points are:
• Recommended by physicians
• Solidly built
• Very bright white light that covers a large area
• Adjustable height and angle
• Can be mounted on the wall
• Works in general for depression
3. Philips GoLITE BLU Energy Light
With its light weight and small dimensions, the Philips GoLITE BLU Energy Light is a popular SAD lamp among travelers and those who are always on the go. Despite its size, it’s as effective as its much larger 10,000 LUX counterparts. It has a soft blue LED light that doesn’t emit UV rays and is comfortable to view. It isn’t an inexpensive product, but for many satisfied users, it’s worth every penny. Here’s what they had to say about it:
• It can run on a rechargeable battery or while plugged in
• Its compact size makes it easy to bring it to other places
• The light intensity can be adjusted through touch-sensitive controls
• Simple to use and attractively designed
• Recommended by sleep therapists
SAD lights are among the first lines of defense against the winter blues. With the input of your health professional as well as developing technologies in light therapy, it’s now easier and more convenient to have a happy and healthy winter.