Many regions of Canada are not blessed with an abundance of sunlight, especially in the winter. For months on end, many of us find ourselves leaving the house for work before sunrise and exiting the office after sunset.
The lack of sunlight can be a real mood dampener, and for many, it leads to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depressive disorder that manifests when the days grow short. There are other circumstances that can lead to SAD, like living in an apartment that doesn’t get a lot of natural light or working the night shift.
If you find yourself turning sour, fatigued, depressed, or a little more irritable when you don’t get enough sunlight then a light therapy lamp could be an easy solution. They have been clinically proven to help with SAD, but even those who don’t have any official diagnosis find that they can uplift their mood in dark times.
There are some very specific criteria that are important to take into account when choosing a lamp, including light panel size and brightness level. You can’t just buy the cheapest lamp you come across and expect results! We’ve dug deep and done our research to find therapy lamps that have been designed with science-backed specifications that give real effects.
Best light therapy lamps
- Best overall – Carex Day-Light Classic Plus
- Best budget pick – Verilux HappyLight
- Best for style – Circadian Optics Lampu
- Best made in Canada – Northern Light Technologies Boxelite Desk Lamp
Hours of Research
Best light therapy lamps comparison
|Carex Day-Light Classic Plus||Verilux Happylight Lucent||Circadian Optics Lampu||Northern Light Technologies BOXelite|
|Size (cm)||30.5 x 40||16.5 x 21.6||22 x 22||47 x 30|
|Brightness||2 settings, 5000-10000 lux||10000 lux||3 levels, 3500-10000 lux||10000 lux|
|Warranty (years)||5 limited||3 limited||2 limited||7 unlimited|
Best overall – Carex Day-Light Classic Plus
- Size: 30.5 cm x 40 cm
- Brightness level: 2 settings, 5000 and 10000 lux
- Warranty: 5-year limited warranty
- Bulb: LED for post-2018 version
- Large enough to be effective from over a foot away
- Angle and adjustable leg perfect for getting light from above
- 2 light settings offer flexibility
- Energy-efficient and long-lasting LED bulbs
- The most affordable option at this size
- Large and slightly unwieldy
This large lamp delivers its full 10000 lux impact at up to 35 cm away, which makes it convenient for daily use and definitively effective. We love that it comes with a movable leg which makes it very easy to position so the light comes from above.
This lamp has a second, weaker light setting that delivers 5000 lux. This can be useful for newcomers to light therapy who don’t want to start with full brightness, and it can also be useful for those who would rather have longer sessions under the lamp while working or reading.
All in all, it’s clearly built by people who understand what makes a lamp effective at reducing the symptoms of SAD, and user experience shows that it really works.
Style and convenience
This lamp takes up a lot of space, which is a small price to pay for such a sturdy, effective design. It’s best to keep it in one permanent location, and it’s most convenient as a desk lamp.
The metallic design is modern but a little industrial, so it might not fit the aesthetic of your house or office. If you do need to move it, the stand can be removed and then re-attached.
Considering the size and the sophisticated design features, we would say that this lamp is priced very reasonably and offers great value. We couldn’t find a comparably sized option for a better price.
Best budget pick – Verilux HappyLight Lucent
- Size: 16.5 cm x 21.6 cm
- Brightness level: 10000 lux
- Warranty: 3-year limited warranty
- Bulb: LED
- Bright enough to have an effect
- Lightweight and easy to travel with
- Very affordable with energy-efficient bulbs
- You have to be very close to it to benefit from its full effects
The light this lamp emits is bright enough to sufficiently counter the negative effects of lack of sunlight. However, Verilux loses points for not being transparent about the distance from which users can receive the full effect of the light. After quite a bit of digging, we discovered it was 15 cm. For most, staying this close to the lamp might be difficult, but you can sit slightly further away and just leave it on for a longer period of time.
Style and convenience
This is the smallest lamp on our list, and as a result, it’s also the most convenient for those who are always on the move. It is lightweight and flat, so it’s quite easy to travel with, but it’s not so small that it’s ineffective.
As another bonus, since it is fitted with LED bulbs instead of fluorescent ones it’s quite energy-efficient and long-lasting.
This is the most affordable lamp on our list, so if you’re feeling uncertain about shelling out for light therapy, this might be an easier commitment to make. We still expect that you’ll see results from this lamp, despite the low price. After experimenting with this you might decide to switch to an option with a bigger panel, and this one can be relegated to travel times.
Best for style – Circadian Optics Lampu
- Size: 22 cm x 22 cm
- Brightness level: 3 levels, 3500-10000 lux
- Warranty: 2-year limited warranty
- Bulb: LED
- Effective and aesthetically pleasing design
- Multiple light settings great for light-sensitive people
- Efficient, long-lasting LED bulbs
- Quite affordable
- Full lux only from a fairly short distance
- The upward angle isn’t ideal
This lamp works, putting out a light that mimics the sun and that gets effectively bright. With three light settings, it’s conducive for both short, extra bright sessions, and longer sessions on a lower setting.
It doesn’t have the largest panel, so to truly receive 10000 lux of light you have to be 23 cm from the lamp at the furthest. We appreciate that Circadian Optics disclose this information, although finding it required a bit of searching through their website.
The angle of the panel isn’t adjustable which might make finding a comfortable and effective position difficult.
Style and convenience
Circadian Optics went into the light therapy game with the goal of making attractive options. This is probably the most elegant lamp on our list, so we recommend it if style is important to you.
It’s also quite convenient and lightweight so it’s easy to move around, and it comes with a long cord so you can plug it in anywhere. We also appreciate that it’s made with efficient LED lights.
This lamp is quite affordable, especially considering it’s large enough to be effective and it comes from a reputable brand. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good choice.
Best made in Canada – Northern Light Technologies BOXelite
- Size: 47 cm x 30 cm
- Brightness level: 10000 lux
- Warranty: 7-year unlimited
- Bulb: fluorescent
- The large light panel offers effective light at the furthest distance
- Elegant and easy to place despite the large size
- Excellent warranty
- Fluorescent lights can occasionally flicker and are less energy-efficient
- Angling isn’t very flexible
This Canadian-made light therapy lamp is made with gloomy Canadian winters in mind. The design is research-backed and, as a result, very effective. You can get the full 10000 lux when sitting up to 35 cm away from the box, which is more manageable than smaller options. We do wish the angle of the panel was adjustable.
The brand is extremely transparent about all of these details, which we find reassuring. Occasionally, some models get damaged causing the light to flicker, but that’s where the warranty comes in. We would have preferred LED bulbs to fluorescent ones since they die more quickly and take away from the energy efficiency of this lamp.
Style and convenience
Boxelite is designed to sit on a surface like a desk or a shelf and emit light. It’s easy to move around, and the only thing that would make it even more convenient is if there was a way to hang it or adjust its height. This powerful unit is meant to be plugged into the wall, but the cord is long so you shouldn’t struggle with placing it. The rectangular design is inoffensive and should fit with most decor.
Considering the size and effectiveness of this product, you definitely get what you pay for. It’s still on the higher side of the list for us, so if you’re on a budget you may want to compromise on size and distance for effectiveness.
What to consider when looking for a light therapy lamp
There are two major criteria that determine whether a light therapy lamp will be effective for preventing SAD: whether it can get bright enough to reach 10000 lux and whether it is large enough for that light to have an effect from a reasonable distance. Almost all brands will say that their lamps can reach that level of brightness, so we look for proof that the company can be trusted, like distance disclosures.
In general, a lamp with a larger panel of light will always get better effectiveness ratings. We also appreciate lamps that offer special features like multiple light settings, though never instead of adequate brightness.
Flickering is a common defect in these lamps, and it can be irritating or even lead to headaches. We left out of this list any lamps that commonly have this defect, and also prioritized lamps that come with a warranty should the defect occur.
Finally, a UV-filter is a non-negotiable feature that every lamp must include to ensure it won’t cause UV damage to the eyes or skin.
Style and convenience
If you’re going to hang up a massive lamp somewhere in your house or office, you probably don’t want it to be an eyesore. These days, many brands are designing their SAD lamps with appearance in mind, which we always appreciate.
The other thing we keep in mind is how convenient they are to use. This can be a question of portability or charging since unwieldy lamps or very short cords can make setting up a struggle.
A light therapy lamp is one of those items where if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is. There are a lot of super-cheap and seemingly well-reviewed options online, but more often than not the reviews are fake and the specs are not up to par.
So while we appreciate more affordable lamps, we understand that a realistic budget for one should be between $75-$200 depending on the size, type of light, and overall convenience.
Who should use a light therapy lamp?
If winter and darkness get you down then you might benefit from a lamp, even if you don’t have an official SAD diagnosis. Early research suggests that these lamps can also help those with bipolar disorder and non-seasonal depression.
Light therapy may also help with sleep disorders and insomnia, which are often exacerbated by irregular or insufficient exposure to sunlight. The lamps can help regulate the circadian rhythm and restore a more regular sleeping schedule. Many people report that they also help ward away regular mid-day fatigue.
It’s important to note that light therapy is not necessarily a cure or a replacement for more traditional therapies for mental health or sleep disorders. Don’t rely on light therapy instead of taking prescribed medications or seeing your doctor. Instead, talk to your doctor about it and consider introducing it into your life to complement the other medical care you receive.
If you are prone to migraines or have light sensitivity then you may want to avoid light therapy altogether.
When’s the best time to use a SAD lamp?
Most sources recommended sitting next to it in the morning, especially if you’re treating SAD. What’s more important is that you use it for a long enough duration (between 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the lamp) and with daily consistency.
If it’s easier for you to get that time to sit next to the lamp in the middle of the day, that’s okay. The only time when you may not want to use it (at least not at full brightness) is before bed since it could make it harder for you to fall asleep.
How to use a light therapy lamp?
Getting a bit of light therapy is as easy as clicking a button. The hardest part will be figuring out where to place your lamp in relation to you. Ideally, you should position the lamp slightly above you, so the light will come from above just like natural sunlight. Alternatively, having it at face level can also work. Many photos show people getting the light from below them, but that is not as effective.
While you do want the light to get into your eyes, you shouldn’t look directly at the lamp. Instead, you should have the light visible in your periphery, either from above or from the side.
Spend at least 30 minutes under the light, and potentially longer if the brightness level is less than 10k lux or if you can’t sit extremely close to it.
With most lamps, you need to be 15-35 cm away from the lamp (and no more!) in order to benefit from the full strength of the light. The further away you are from the lamp, the lower the lux, and the longer you should make your session.
Some people (especially office workers) find that keeping the light on at a lower level all throughout the day helps them with mood, energy, and productivity.
Are there any side effects?
Most people who try this therapy won’t experience any side effects, and of those who do, they will usually be mild enough not to outweigh the benefits. The most common side-effects are mild eye strain, blurry vision, nausea, and headaches. If the side-effects don’t go away after a week or if they are severe then light therapy may not be for you.
Do light therapy lamps produce vitamin D?
The skin produces vitamin D as a response to UVB rays, which these lamps do not radiate. UVB can also cause sunburn in the short term and skin cancer in the long term, so this is mostly a good thing. According to Health Canada, it’s better to get this nutrient from a healthy diet or to take a vitamin D supplement rather than exposing the skin to dangerous radiation.
What to read next
- Best Pajamas for Women in Canada
- Best Essential Oil Diffusers in Canada
- Best Weighted Blankets in Canada
- Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks in Canada
Over to you
Does your mood suffer when the days get dark? Have you tried light therapy, and if so, did it work for you? Do you have other tips for dealing with SAD? Share your experience in the comments!