For many people, as the seasons change from sunny summer days to cool autumn nights, feelings of anxiety and depression can begin to creep in. Fortunately a wide range of light-therapy lamps are available as a tool to help treat these seasonal mood disorders—as well as other issues like sleep interruptions—by using artificial light to mimic the brightness and intensity of natural outdoor light. And they don’t need to cramp your style; there are plenty of options on the market that are functional and good-looking enough to display in your living room.
Learn more about what to keep in mind when selecting the best light-therapy lamps, and check out our picks, below.
- Best display-worthy: Sunrise Sensations DayBright Light Therapy Lamp
- Best portable: Olly Light Therapy Lamp
- Best compact: Verilux HappyLight
- Best minimalistic design: Circadian Optics Lampu Light Therapy Lamp
- Best value: YeeBright Light Therapy Lamp
- Best splurge: Sunlight Inside MySun
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Light intensity and color: Pay attention to the lamp’s color temperature, which is measured in kelvin, as well as its brightness, which is measured in lux. For color temperature, a number closer to 1,700K will result in light the shade of a lit match, while 5,500K and above is an approximation of daytime sun. For brightness, aim for at least 10,000 lux: It’s the full spectrum of light that’s been found to regulate melatonin and boost serotonin.
Size and shape: Depending on your usage plan and whether or not you’re taking your light-therapy lamp on the go, there are a range of designs to suit your lifestyle, from coffee cup–shaped therapy lamps for easy packing to eco-friendly pieces that double as room decor.
Adjustable settings: Many light-therapy lamps offer a timer component to track optimal exposure time in front of the lamp, which can range from 20 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the individual light and settings. Some also have dimmer switches to allow users to switch gradually between colors and brightness levels. Your own unique needs will dictate which of these features will help achieve the best results.
Our Top Picks
Best Display-Worthy: Sunrise Sensations DayBright Light Therapy Lamp
If you’re in search of a light-therapy lamp that doubles as an art piece, look no further than the DayBright from sustainability-focused company Sunrise Sensations. Made with a biophilic wood base and UV-free LED light, the pentagonal prism shape and relatively large size means you’ll receive full-spectrum light that mimics the range of the sun throughout the day from an elegant, eco-friendly source. This model can transition from bright white to a softer yellow. Sunrise Sensations recommends using it for 20 to 30 minutes upon waking to help the body’s circadian rhythms, but if you’re interested in using it more frequently, don’t worry about the lamp losing its shine: If used for up to five hours a day, each LED bulb would still last for 27 years without needing to be replaced.
Best Portable: Olly Light Therapy Lamp
Compact, portable, and available in a range of adorable ice cream–hued pastels, Olly’s lamp is ready to help you restore balance whether you’re at home, at work, or on the open road. Powered by a rechargeable battery, once turned on, this coffee cup–size lamp will light up gradually and stay at the selected brightness for 25 minutes, when a timer shuts it off automatically. Thanks to a magnetic switch with two brightness options, users can choose the best level according to their current environment and time of day, ensuring the lamp won’t interfere with melatonin production at night while emitting a warm orange color temperature, and providing a bright white color temperature during waking hours.
Best Compact: Verilux HappyLight
This daily boost of sunshine comes in a small square package. Verilux’s HappyLight weighs in at just 1.5 pounds, and it’s a compact 6.3 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall. This particular model delivers up to 10,000 lux full-spectrum white-light intensity from a 20-square-inch lens. Sized perfectly for easy packing in a briefcase or backpack, it can mimic morning light or provide a mood-boosting, late-afternoon pick-me-up. Using this therapy lamp for 20 to 60 minutes achieves the quickest and most impactful results, whether you’re looking to avoid the winter doldrums or get back into good sleep habits after pulling an all-nighter.
Best Minimalistic Design: Circadian Optics Lampu Light Therapy Lamp
Sleek, unassuming, and easy to incorporate into any room’s decor, the Lampu is like a mood-boosting spotlight and will fit easily on your countertop. Providing 10,000 lux of white, full-spectrum, UV-free light and three levels of brightness to help regulate sleep and increase focus throughout the day, this selection has an easy-to-use, one-touch power button and is durable enough to move with you throughout the house. With a brightness of 5,500K color temperature—the same as the noonday sun—the Lampu’s minimalistic, rounded shape and ideal light settings will help create the rhythm-regulating feeling of actual sun exposure, even if you’re stuck inside all day.
Best Value: YeeBright Light Therapy Lamp
If you’re in search of a highly-quality, thin, customizable light-therapy lamp at a budget price, look no further than the YeeBright. With 10,000-lux intensity and UV-free LED light, this model mimics the full spectrum of daylight to help keep you feeling energetic and focused. It’s also easily programmed depending on your unique needs and the environment around you: There are five levels of adjustable color temperature for maximum optimization at the click of a button, and a smooth dimming function that makes it easy to adjust brightness levels from 20 percent to 100 percent with zero hassle. Slim and unobtrusive, this lamp is priced under $20, making it a deal so good that some customers report buying one for every room of their house.
Best Splurge: Sunlight Inside MySun
With a statement-making design suited for anywhere from a home office to bedside table, the MySun desk lamp offers a wide range of light-therapy color temperatures depending on individual needs, environment, and time of day. Available in oak, walnut, and black metal finishes, and with a 28-inch adjustable arm, this lamp actively mixes six colors to replicate the full range of natural light, including daytime sunlight, sunset, and candlelight. It is also Bluetooth-enabled and comes with a light source that’s able to provide up to 50,000 hours of use, so you’ll never have to worry about changing a bulb or running out of mood-boosting light.
Does light therapy have any side effects?
Individuals with a sensitivity to sunlight or who take medications that can cause a sensitivity to sunlight should check with their health-care provider before using a light-therapy lamp. Eye strain, headaches, or nausea can also be a concern if a person has an ocular condition that makes them vulnerable to light damage.
Does light therapy help with anxiety?
“Anxiety is a common byproduct of depression and can be markedly reduced with light therapy, along with mood improvement,” says Dr. Michael Terman, president of the Center for Environmental Therapeutics. “However, anxiety can also be a primary disorder exclusive of depressed mood. Clinical trials are still lacking here, and light therapy is not a validated treatment modality in these cases.”
Pro Tips for Using a Light-Therapy Lamp
Consistency is key. “It’s very important to choose a lamp that integrates seamlessly into your daily routine,” says Konrad Jarausch of Sunlight Inside. “Light therapy works best when you have regular daily exposure to the cycles of natural light.”
While the brightness of the lamp and its color temperature will help determine how long you need to sit in front of it, always look at the light indirectly—not directly—with your eyes tilted slightly above the lamp for best results (and to avoid eye strain).
If you’re not sure where to start when selecting a light-therapy lamp, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics has a handy beginner’s guide to help you understand the (somewhat complicated) scientific basics in-depth.
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