Best SAD lamps: light therapy lamps for winter months

The best SAD lamps for mood-boosting light this winter

Included in this guide:

Woman sitting in front of the best SAD lamps
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to the best SAD lamps, lifting low spirits is the name of the game. Simulating the mood-boosting properties of summer sunshine, sad light therapy from the best SAD light attempts to replace some of the natural light that we miss out on in the winter. This is all with the goal of shrinking any symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition that stems from the darker days and poor sunlight in the winter months.

The idea is that the best SAD lamps should work their magic in the same way as the sun, by boosting our mood, limiting excessive drowsiness, and helping to dampen down other symptoms associated with depression. That’s why the best SAD light is often paired with one of the best sunrise alarm clocks, which copies the natural effect of sunrise to gently get your mood on track for the day. SAD lights have similar mood-boosting properties, so the best light therapy lamps might help to take the edge off any irritable moods or help to banish comfort eating, other behaviors that are commonly associated with SAD.

With so many people reporting symptoms of SAD in the winter, these light therapy lamps can come in handy for a range of lifestyles. Better yet, you can get your hands on SAD lights without an official diagnosis or prescription. So, even if you’re more interested in how the best SAD light could bring a little more light and life to your living space, rather than reaping the benefits of SAD light therapy, that’s okay too. 

There are heaps of budget-friendly options out there, as well as colors and styles that will add a splash of comfort or glamor to your room. However, if you are looking for the best SAD light that will tackle any SAD symptoms head-on, you’ll need a lamp that dishes out at least 10,000 lux, such as the light and easy-to-use Lumie Vitamin L.

The best SAD lamps you can buy right now

Lumie Vitamin L SAD lampFit&Well Approved

(Image credit: Lumie)

1. Lumie Vitamin L

The best SAD lamp for most people

Specifications
Brightness: 10,000 lux
Light settings: None
Timer: No
Reasons to buy
+10,000 lux output+Can easily change orientation+Rippled face for effective light distribution
Reasons to avoid
-No additional features or timers

The Lumie Vitamin L is an effective 10,000 lux SAD lamp for emulating natural light and boosting your mood. The company is well-known for its range of SAD lamps and wake-up lights. 

Reputation is essential when choosing a light therapy lamp, as these aren't regulated medical devices. Notably, Lumie hasn't attempted to fill the Vitamin L with features and has focused solely on the light itself.

You can position it horizontally or vertically using the rear side stand. The unit plugs into the mains for power, so you won't need to recharge the light constantly. The face plate is rippled for more effective light distribution. 

At a distance of 16cm, the company estimates that 30 minutes of light therapy should see you through the day. If you have it positioned at arm's length, then you should increase your exposure time to 60 minutes. 

Emibele Light Therapy SAD lampFit&Well Approved

(Image credit: Emibele)

2. Emibele Light Therapy Lamp

The best budget SAD lamp

Specifications
Brightness: 10,000 lux
Light settings: 5 brightness options
Timer: Up to 1 hour
Reasons to buy
+Five brightness settings+Four timer options+Memory function stores most recent settings
Reasons to avoid
-Adjustable kickstand not durable and may slip on certain surfaces

The most crucial aspect of any SAD lamp is that it emits light at 10,000 lux. However, if you're after some other useful options, too, it's worth considering the Emibele Light Therapy Lamp.

This light is one of the most customizable SAD lamps available, with adjustable brightness, timers, and a memory function. You can even physically adjust the height and orientation of the lamp. 

The Emibele Light Therapy Lamp comes with five brightness levels and several color temperatures. You can set the lamp to turn off automatically after 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes and the memory function stores your most recent settings, so you can power it back on where you left off. 

Verilux HappyLight LuxeFit&Well Approved

(Image credit: Verilux)

3. Verilux HappyLight Luxe

The best premium SAD lamp

Specifications
Brightness: 10,000 lux
Light settings: 4 brightness options, 3 color temperatures
Timer: Up to 1 hour
Reasons to buy
+Four brightness settings+Three color temperature options+Portable at just 2 pounds
Reasons to avoid
-Small surface area so the lamp has to be quite close for full effect

Many people use SAD lamps first thing in the morning, but you may want a more flexible option for light therapy throughout the day. The Verilux HappyLight Luxe is a portable SAD lamp offering 10,000 lux light and a handful of settings to customize the experience. 

It comes with a detachable stand, allowing you to move it around your home with ease. It only weighs two pounds, making it ideal for travel as well. If you'd prefer to make it more of a fixture, there's a mounting insert on the backside too. 

The HappyLight Luxe comes with four brightness levels, which you can toggle using the touch controls on the front of the unit. There are three color temperature options if you want a different light style, alongside an up to a 1-hour timer, which you can set in 5-minute increments. 

TheraLite Light Therapy LampFit&Well Approved

(Image credit: TheraLite)

4. TheraLite Light Therapy Lamp

The best practical SAD lamp

Specifications
Brightness: 10,000 lux
Light settings: None
Timer: No
Reasons to buy
+Great for smaller spaces+Can be angled and height-adjusted
Reasons to avoid
-No additional features-Bulkier design than other portable options

The TheraLite Light Therapy Lamp is a budget-friendly 10,000 lux SAD lamp for your home. The light is adjustable, with a screw on the rear, allowing you to toggle between vertical and horizontal placements. The foldable stand means you can angle the light too. 

This customization is ideal if you're hoping to squeeze a SAD lamp onto a crowded desk or table without taking up too much space. The stand also doubles as a screen protector, closing over the lightbox when not in use. 

Northern Light FlamingoFit&Well Approved

(Image credit: Northern Light)

5. Northern Light Flamingo

Best SAD lamp to free up desk space

Specifications
Brightness: 10,000 lux
Light settings: None
Timer: No
Reasons to buy
+Large lightbox+Floor lamp frees up desk space
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for so few features

If you're after a SAD lamp that doesn't take up desk space, then consider the Northern Light Flamingo. This free-standing floor lamp comes with a larger lightbox than many tabletop options, so you can place it further slightly further away and still be within the 10,000 lux area. 

The lamp is four feet tall, and the lightbox is adjustable, so you can move it into a position that suits your setup and doesn't cause glare on your screens. Because of its size, the company also suggests placing the lamp next to indoor exercise equipment for brighter winter workouts. 

How to choose the best SAD lamp for you

The essential part of any SAD lamp is its brightness. To be medically certified, the light needs to achieve a brightness of at least 10,000 lux. That's why each option on our list reaches this level. Additionally, you're looking for a lamp without UV light, so it doesn't damage your eyes. 

It's also worth considering where you want to place the SAD lamp. Some are designed to be set in a single location, whereas others are more portable, so you can move them about the house, bring them to the office, or take them on your travels. 

You need the light to enter your eyes, so look for a model that is adjustable as well. This gives you more freedom on where to place the lamp, which is ideal if you're trying to fit it onto an already full desk or table.

While some of the best SAD lamps are single-function, focused solely on emitting 10,000 lux light, others come with additional features or settings, allowing you to adjust the brightness or set timers. Generally, adjusting the brightness reduces the lamp below 10,000 lux rather than above it. 

SAD lamps are also distinct from wake-up or sunrise lights. Although they perform similar functions, wake-up lights are generally used as alarm clock replacements, gradually bringing you around by gently increasing the light. But, they tend not to reach 10,000 lux. 

Do SAD lights really work? 

One thing is for sure, SAD lights are pricier than your standard shop-bought lampshade, so it’s natural if one of the first questions that are on your mind is whether they do what they say on the tin. While it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms associated with SAD, such as a low mood, irritability, or drowsiness in the winter months, studies on the effectiveness of SAD lamps have turned out some hopeful results.

A study on bright light in the treatment of SAD and other mood disorders by Julia Maruani and Pierre Alexis Geoffroy suggested that such an approach can act as a standalone remedy for SAD symptoms – and there’s a handful of other benefits they found in their study, from better sleep quality and increased alertness to solving abnormal heart rhythms. Interestingly, another scientific study on how light affects behvioral despair involving the clock gene in mice came to the conclusion that SAD light therapy could mimic the effect of antidepressants, especially when done in the early morning.  

So, there’s a lot that can be said about the potential of SAD lamps for fighting off symptoms of SAD. That being said, it’s unlikely that an hour of light therapy will cause your symptoms to vanish completely, and Harvard scientists have emphasized that the line of treatment won’t work exactly the same for everyone, so it’s always worth checking in with your doctor first, especially if you have any other conditions.

Maddy Biddulph
Maddy Biddulph

Maddy is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Closer. She also manages Fit&Well's Instagram account.

 

Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them). She makes a mean margarita and has twice won awards in previous staff jobs as the “office feeder”.

 

Maddy is currently completing a diploma in Level 3 personal training and can’t wait to help other busy mums like her feel energized and confident in how they look and feel.