Not just a SAD light, this lamp also has active and relax settings. These three settings (with the third being therapy) are easy to toggle between using the sensitive buttons at the bottom of the box. Looking first at the therapy mode, which is what we’re really here for, the brightness is a cool white light that is about 6,500 kelvins (k) – kelvins relate to the temperature of the light, if you’re interested. This mimics midday light, and the lamp is meant to be placed about 20cm from you for best results. We can attest this feels very brilliant and definitely made us feel, well, sunnier after using it.
When the autumn and winter months of the year roll around, you may find that the longer evenings and dark mornings leave you feeling slightly gloomy. The severity of this reaction can vary, and that can lead to a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Whether your symptoms are moderate or severe, SAD lamps can help manage them by providing you with a blast of light.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, says: “If you have SAD, you might experience some of the signs and symptoms: lack of energy, finding it hard to concentrate, not wanting to see people, sleep problems, feeling sad, changes in appetite, being more prone to colds and infections, loss of interest in sex or physical contact or other signs of depression. But it’s different for different people, and can vary season to season.”
SAD lamps are special bright lights that you sit in front of. It’s thought the bright lights hit your retina and trigger the brain to stop making so much melatonin, which will help lift your mood.
It’s often recommended to use a SAD lamp during the dark mornings, so it doesn’t cause insomnia, but it’s also a case of trying different times of day and durations to find what fits best for you. You need to use the light consistently, but the good news is that if light therapy is going to work for you it should work within the first week.
When choosing a SAD lamp, think about how you might use it. If you’re sitting at a desk, you may want one that fits in a small space. Or perhaps if you’re using it in a lounge, you’ll have more space for something larger.
For light therapy to work, you need a specific SAD lamp – sitting in front of a regular household lamp won’t do the job. You need the light to be more than 10 times the intensity of a normal domestic light (around 2,500 lux at least, but 10,000 lux is optimal if using it for 30 minutes a day).
It is important to check whether light therapy is right for you. You can ask your GP for more details, but it’s not suitable for those with certain conditions, such as eye damage, light sensitivity and bipolar affective disorder, as well as people on certain medications.
How we tested
We put a series of SAD lamps through their paces over more than 30 hours, to find the ones that made us feel, well, lighter. We were particularly interested in the lux levels, but also kept an eye on the design and if it looked nice in our home, or if we found we tucked it away after use. And, of course, how easy they were to use. So, let’s see which ones lightened our mood.