Best Light Therapy Lamps – How to Choose?

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03/07/2024
Best Light Therapy Lamps – How to Choose?

by Eric Delloye — Posted in Luminette

Learn factors to review to pick only the best light therapy lamp for your needs, and discover seven top options to get started.

In the mid-1980s, Rosenthal and his team were the first to describe what we now refer to as winter blues formally.

It was also Rosenthal and his team that demonstrated that subjecting individuals with winter blues to bright white light significantly reduced their symptoms.

Since then, many researchers have explored bright light therapy for winter blues and other health conditions. Their research forms the foundation for modern light therapy lamp designs.

If you’re wondering how to choose the best lightbox for your needs, you’re in the right place.

Below, we have compiled a list of factors to consider when choosing a light therapy lamp and provided seven options to help you start your research.

We’ll discuss factors like safety, efficacy, ease of use, style, and design to help you choose a durable and effective lamp that will serve you long-term.


Overview of light therapy lamps

Light therapy lamps, also known as light boxes, are devices used to mimic natural sunlight.

These lamps produce bright light with intensity similar to outdoor light, usually between 2,000 and 10,000 lux, which is significantly brighter than what you can get from most indoor lighting.

Moreover, the effect of light therapy lamps depends not only on the light intensity but also on the wavelength of the light waves. As such, light therapy lamps are more than light bulbs; they are carefully designed products for winter blues and other health challenges.

The key principle behind light therapy is its ability to influence the body’s internal clock, which regulates many functions, including sleep-wake cycles.

The internal clock ensures there’s a rhythm to when specific actions are triggered, like ensuring the body produces enough melatonin at night in preparation for sleep.


  1. Winter blues

The most well-known application of light therapy lamps is in treating winter blues, hence why it’s also known as SAD lamps, after the condition’s scientific name.

During the winter months, shorter days and reduced sunlight can disrupt your internal clock and the rhythm cyclic nature of some bodily functions, leading to symptoms like feelings of deep sadness, lethargy, fatigue, and sleep problems.

Light therapy helps reset your internal clock despite external disruptions.

In a study to evaluate the effectiveness of light therapy in primary care, researchers subjected 57 participants with winter blues to four weeks of bright white or dim red light lamps. The findings show that the score for winter blues symptoms was reduced by 40% in both groups.

The authors concluded that primary care patients with winter blues improve after light therapy.


  1. Non-seasonal feelings of sadness

Light therapy has also been found effective in treating non-seasonal feelings of deep sadness.

According to Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, using a light therapy box offers the same effectiveness against seasonal and non-seasonal feelings of sadness.

He continued that the effectiveness is akin to that of “antidepressant medications, or popular forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy.”


  1. Sleep problems

By exposing individuals to bright light, light therapy can help reset their internal clocks, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at desired times.

One study evaluating the efficacy of light therapy for treating sleep problems divided participants into two groups. The first group used a light box for at least 25 minutes every morning for two weeks, while the other group received a placebo.

The light therapy group showed “significant improvements” in three critical sleep quality metrics: The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

This result manifested just after two weeks of treatment.


  1. Jet lag

Frequent travellers to regions in multiple time zones also use light therapy to alleviate jet lag . By strategically timing light therapy lamp exposure, travellers help their bodies adjust to the new time zone more quickly.

One study that exposed participants to light therapy found that it “can effectively reduce the effect of the phase-advance jet lag syndrome on alertness during daytime, improve short-term memory task performance, and reduce visual fatigue.”


How light therapy lamps work

As stated earlier, light therapy lamps simulate natural sunlight, offering benefits such as improved mood, higher energy levels, and overall mental and physical well-being. The primary aim of using light therapy lamps is to keep the internal clock working at optimal accuracy and rhythm .


Overview of the body’s internal clock

Light plays an integral role in regulating the body’s internal clock, which is like a manager that ensures functions are triggered when they ought to be.

For example, the body initiates specific processes in preparation for sleep, such as lowering body temperature and releasing melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness.

The internal clock governs the body’s sleep-wake cycle and controls other activities, such as hormone release, cell cycle control, mood regulation, and more.

The internal clock is influenced by external cues, primarily light and darkness. Exposure to natural sunlight helps maintain a synchronised clock.


Light therapy lamp mechanism

When you’re exposed to light therapy lamps, the retina receives the light waves.

Within the retina are cells known as retinal ganglions that do nothing but communicate to the central nervous system, whether it’s night or day. Since the light therapy lamps mimic sunlight, the retinal ganglion signals that it’s daytime.

Information from the retinal ganglion passes to the retinohypothalamic tract and then to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus.

The SCN controls the pineal gland, the production base of melatonin. When the SCN receives information that it’s daytime, it inhibits melatonin secretion. It does the reverse when the information says it’s night.

By reducing melatonin levels in the morning, light therapy makes individuals feel more awake and alert. Additionally, it increases serotonin secretion , a neurotransmitter that enhances mood and promotes a sense of well-being.

This dual effect of light therapy lamps on melatonin and serotonin helps alleviate symptoms of SAD and improves overall mood.


How to use light therapy lamps

Aside from the quality of the lamp, which we’ll discuss extensively later, timing, duration, and consistency also matter in getting the best out of light therapy boxes.

For many SAD lamps, the recommended duration is between 20-60 minutes in the morning, as using the lamp too late may interfere with sleep.

Duration may vary depending on the lamp’s design, particularly the light intensity. The higher the light intensity, the shorter the session. It is imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum ROI.

Furthermore, consistency is critical to getting the best results from light therapy. Missing sessions can reduce the benefits or delay the desired improvements.


Factors to consider before choosing a light therapy lamp


  1. Safety

The first factor you should consider is how safe the lamp is for your eyes and overall health.

For starters, your chosen lamp must be free from ultraviolet (UV) light, which can be harmful to the eyes and skin. Check the product description and specifications to confirm that the lamp does not emit any UV light. This feature is essential for safe, long-term use.

Additionally, avoid lamps that emit short-wavelength light. This type of light focuses not on the center of the retina but in front of it. Short-wavelength blue light has been associated with eye defects such as myopia and damaged retinal cells .

Additionally, look for certifications that show that the manufacturer adhered to specific industry standards and regulations. Check if the lamp has been certified by recognised bodies such as the CE.

More importantly, ensure the lamp has the IEC 62471 standard badge, which indicates that the product does not present any risk. Lamps that carry CE and IEC 62471 certifications have third-party approval that they are safe for the eyes.

The Luminette is certified safe with an IEC 62471 standard badge. Additionally, the SGS, an independent inspection organisation, reviews the device annually.


  1. Light intensity

The effectiveness of a light therapy lamp largely depends on its brightness, measured in lux. While most lamps used for treating winter blues emit 10,000 lux of light, many other great products have been proven to work at lower intensities.

The Luminette light therapy glasses emit 2,000 lux of light, which has been proven to be as effective as 10,000 lux lamps.

It is crucial that the light emitted by the lamp has characteristics similar to natural daylight to function as intended. A full-spectrum lamp should emit a broad range of wavelengths, covering the entire visible spectrum. Therefore, you should choose a lamp capable of reproducing this range of wavelengths rather than a lamp with a specific wavelength.

Lastly, avoid lamps that produce excessive blue light, which can cause eye strain and disrupt sleep patterns.


  1. Efficacy

You want to ensure the lamp you’re buying is designed for treating seasonal winter blues and not for skin issues.

Both require different technical features. Lamps for treating skin disorders mainly utilise ultraviolet (UV) light, which is very damaging to your eyes.

You also want to see if the lamp has been subjected to scientific rigour to determine whether it improves winter blues symptoms. Ensure that these studies have been carried out by independent scientists not tied to the manufacturer.


  1. Adjustable brightness settings

Different individuals may have varying sensitivity to light. Adjustable brightness settings allow you to customise the light intensity to your preferences and needs.

Beyond that, you may only be able to spare less than 30 minutes on certain days. The intensity being adjustable gives you some flexibility.

Additionally, it’s more prudent to start with a lower intensity and gradually increase it. Doing this allows your eyes to adjust to the lamp and find the intensity that works for you.


  1. Style and design

The size and design of the lamp can influence its usability and convenience. If a lamp fits well into your daily routine, you will likely use it more consistently.

For example, if your main reason for using the device is to reduce the effect of jetlag, you need a portable light therapy lamp that you can carry with you anywhere.

Another consideration is how many people will be using the product. If more than one person will be using it simultaneously, it may be more cost-efficient to buy a panel-type lamp.

Also, consider the required duration. Can you block out 25-30 minutes daily, or do you need a design that allows you to do other things during the session?

All these considerations are essential. As we stated earlier, the efficacy of a light box lies in daily, consistent use, so get one that’s super convenient for you.

The Luminette features a patented system that ensures light enters your eyes optimally in the most comfortable manner.


  1. Angle and positioning

Although this is also under design considerations, we think it’s important to highlight this factor separately.

The angle and positioning of the light source are crucial for maximising the lamp’s effectiveness. You want the emitted light to reach your eyes indirectly without causing glare. Glare is when light obstructs your visibility.


  1. Ease of use

Of course, you want to select a lamp that is easy to use. One that does not leave you wondering “if you’re doing it right.” Moreover, a user-friendly lamp encourages regular use, which is essential for achieving results.

Look for lamps with simple controls and clear instructions on setup and maintenance.


  1. Power source

The type of power source affects where and how the lamp can be used. Different models offer various power options, including plug-in, battery-operated, and USB-powered.

Again, this depends on your preferences, lifestyle, and personal context. A battery-powered lamp offers more flexibility and portability than a plug-in model, and the latter is best for stationary use.


  1. User reviews and ratings

Reading reviews provides more insights into the lamp’s reliability and performance from real users. Ensure you read the reviews from platforms like Amazon, which are from people who have purchased and are more likely to have used the product.

Pay attention to feedback regarding the box’s effectiveness, durability, and potential issues. Also, look out for how they address customer complaints.

Getting personal recommendations from friends, family, and healthcare providers is also a valuable way to gauge a lamp’s effectiveness.


  1. Price and warranty

The cost of a light therapy lamp can vary widely, so choose one that ticks all the boxes above and fits within your budget.

While more expensive models often offer additional nice-to-have features and use better materials, there are also affordable options that provide effective light therapy.

Additionally, a good warranty offers you peace of mind regarding the product's durability and reliability. Check the reviews to see if anyone has used the warranty and how easy it was to make the claim.

The Luminette

They like that it’s portable and that you can use it while doing other things like mild exercise, reading, and using your laptop. It has little to no interference in your daily routines. You can also use it while wearing your regular glasses.

Despite being a portable device, it has adjustable intensity to either shorten or lengthen the duration of exposure. They also like it because it comes in two variants: glasses and Drive .

You wear glasses on your head, and “light is sent into the eye from top to bottom (like the sun), without dazzling or obstructing vision.” On the other hand, Drive is a light therapy lamp perfect for your work commute.

Lastly, a few studies in top journals show the Luminette’s efficacy for mood-related blues and other indications. They include:


Top features

  • Certified safe with CE and IEC 62471 standard badges

  • No UV or infrared light

  • Adjustable light intensity with three light levels

  • Blue-enriched white light with wavelength peaking at 468 nanometres

  • Patented adjustable nose rest for comfort

  • Battery-powered with micro-USB charge system

FAQs

How long does it take for light therapy to take effect?

The answer to this question is not precisely straightforward, as several factors affect how soon individuals can start feeling the effect of light therapy.

The severity and type of symptoms being treated and the product quality are key factors that determine how soon it’ll take. That said, you should typically start seeing results for winter blues within 5-10 days, two weeks for advanced sleep phase disorder, and immediately for jet lag and adapting to working at night. 

What is the right way to use a light therapy lamp?

The most crucial factor is ensuring the light enters your eye from top to bottom without directly looking at the lamp or glasses, just like with the sun. Other than that, following the product manual for exact instructions is imperative.

Instructions typically limit each session to 30 minutes max. Lastly, if you are treating winter blues, use the lamp every day, especially during the winter months. Consistency is vital to seeing benefits. 

What is the ideal size for a light therapy lamp?

Research has shown that wearable light therapy devices like the Luminette with lower light intensity offer similar effects and performance to light therapy lamps with 10,000 lux.

The lamp's effectiveness lies in the quality of the design and the amount of light that enters the eyes, not necessarily the size of the light screen. 

Is 15,000 lux excessive for light therapy?

A light therapy lamp with 15,000 lux can be effective. Still, it’s generally considered higher than the standard maximum recommended intensity of 10,000 lux.

Such lamps offer more intensity and require shorter session duration, meaning you’ll typically use them for 15-20 minutes max. That said, we’d recommend buying lamps with 10,000 lux or below. 

Takeaway: Select the perfect light therapy lamp for long-term, optimal well-being

Choosing a suitable light therapy lamp can significantly enhance your mental and physical well-being, especially during the months with less sunlight.

Although light boxes are popular for treating winter blues, they also improve sleep quality, reduce the effects of jet lag, and boost energy during the day.

When selecting a lamp, consider factors such as safety, light intensity, efficacy, user reviews, price, warranty, and ease of use.

Banish winter blues with our Luminette Drive lamp. It is easy to use, effective, and won’t disrupt your daily activities. Get yours today! 

light therapy glasses