Feeling sad is not just an emotion, it’s a disorder—seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for dramatics, affects about six percent of the US population. While that might not sound like a lot of people, another 14 percent of the US suffers from mild seasonal mood disorders. In total, that’s an estimated 20 percent of the population with various forms of winter blues—and that is a huge portion.
There truly is light at the end of the tunnel for suffers, and it comes in the form of a lamp—a light therapy lamp. While it might feel like a placebo effect, light is actually incredibly effective. “Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms,” says a recent Harvard Medical School article. “Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.”
Make sure your lamp is between 2,500 and 10,000 lux, which is the measurement of light intensity. The higher the lux, the less time you most likely need to spend in front of it. When we say “in front of it”, we mean it. You need to be directly in front of the lamp and have your eyes open, but not looking directly at the light. Most people catch up on work or read a book and unwind during the suggested 30-minute uninterrupted time slot. (The general rule of measurement is 30 uninterrupted minutes per 10,000 lux lamp.) It won’t hurt to go longer, but you could possibly feel some mild side effects like headaches and eye strain.
Here are three light therapy lamps that can help you keep those winter blues away.
The Amazon-Approved Version
The light-therapy field is becoming so significant that Amazon has an entire page dedicated to the top 100 lamps. Its top-selling and most-saved version is this Verilux lamp with 5,000 lux intensity. The super-compact light (weighing only 1.5 pounds) is perfect on the go, but since it’s half than the suggested 10,000, you might want to sit longer than 30 minutes if possible.
The High-Design Version
This lamp says it’s clinically proven to improve your energy, sleep, and overall well-being. It can help you fall asleep easier with a light-guided breathing feature and helps you wake up naturally with a simulated sunrise feature. It also has white noise and ambient sound features to replicate a sound machine. The brand doesn’t list its lux intensity, so it’s most likely lower on the lux scale and is more ideal for mild seasonal mood disorders than full light therapy.
The Awarded Version
This Carex lamp comes in the recommended 10,000 lux and has a large, albeit less attractive, 250-square-inch face. It was just awarded Wirecutter’s Best Light Therapy Lamp after the team tested a huge variety of options for over 29 hours of research. It’s also the exact lamp recommended by the Center for Environmental Therapeutics, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental therapy research and education.
It’s worth noting this is still an emerging field, and you should consult with your doctor first to diagnose SAD or seasonal mood disorder.