The Light Therapy Lamps

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24/10/2023
The Light Therapy Lamps

by Eric Delloye — Posted in Light therapy lamps

Light therapy lamps have evolved since Niel Finsen created the first phototherapy light box in 1890. Modern lamps can generally be classified into three, namely: panel-style lamps, compact lamps, and visors.

Light therapy lamps are alternatives to traditional medical interventions. These devices harness the power of high-intensity light in treating various conditions.

Using high-intensity light to treat medical and physiologic conditions is not new. In ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures, exposure to natural sunlight was used to treat various conditions.

In modern times, the role of the sun in the remedy has been taken over by light therapy lamps.

What exactly are light therapy lamps, and how do they work? Read on for answers to these questions and more. This article will tell you everything you need to know about light therapy lamps and the different types of light therapy lamps.

What is a Light Therapy Lamp?

A light therapy lamp is an artificial indoor light source that mimics natural sunlight to treat physiologic conditions that may be caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight.  

Light therapy is recognized by scientific medicine in treating different conditions, ranging from jet lag to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The early use of light therapy involved exposure to outdoor sunlight. With technological advances came indoor artificial light sources that mimic the sun by emitting high amounts of light, up to 10,000 lux. This is higher than the artificial light from your home’s lighting fixtures and other lamps.

A light therapy lamp is often called a sunlight lamp or a daylight lamp because it mimics the sun. These sunlight lamps allow the administration of light therapy indoors and in seasons when sunlight is minimal.

The first of such devices was a light therapy box developed by Niel Finsen in 1890. As technology improved, the bulky and immobile light therapy boxes evolved into light therapy lamps by becoming smaller and more mobile.

The bulky light boxes of the early days used fluorescent lights with a mechanism for diffusing the light and filtering out harmful UV light. These days, most light therapy lamps use LED light that produces UV-free bright light.

How Do Light Therapy Lamps work

Light therapy lamps work by mimicking the sun to trick the body into thinking it is in the warmer months, thereby impacting the body’s regulation of important brain chemicals

Our body needs sunlight to function effectively. For example,


  • Outdoor sunlight controls our body’s internal clock (the circadian rhythm). Exposure to sunlight regulates the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our body when to stay awake and when to fall asleep.
  • Sunlight affects our mood. Exposure to sunlight triggers the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates moods and emotions.

Sadly, we often do not get enough sunlight. Reduced light exposure reduces our serotonin levels and causes unhealthy levels of melatonin.

Light therapy boxes simply mimic natural sunlight to compensate for reduced light exposure.

The 10,000 lux of light from the bright light therapy lamp reproduces the benefits of natural light, such as triggering the production of serotonin and regulating the production of melatonin. 

Benefits of Light Therapy Lamps

A light therapy device benefits us in so many ways. These benefits include: 

  • Improves sleep
  • Improves moods
  • Helps treat winter blues
  • Improves focus and productivity
  • Improves mental health
  • Helps fight jet lag

Light therapy lamps improve sleep

Light exposure is an effective treatment for improving moods because it triggers the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. 

Our sleep-wake cycle is controlled by sunlight via the hormone melatonin. During the daytime, light inhibits the production of melatonin to make you stay awake. But when it’s dark, the absence of light increases the production of melatonin to make you feel sleepy.

Bright light lamps simulate natural light to regulate melatonin production to treat sleep disorders. A light therapy session can help you combat sleep disorders, ranging from difficulty sleeping to morning sleepiness.

Light therapy lamps for treating sleeping problems

Light therapy lamps help people who find it hard to stay asleep. These people often go to sleep too early, making them wake up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep. 

Having a light therapy session in the evening inhibits melatonin production. This promotes wakefulness and prevents you from going to sleep too early. By not going to bed too early, you’re less likely to wake up in the middle of the night. Thus, you’ll get a sound sleep.

Light therapy lamps also help people who find it hard to fall asleep at night. A light therapy session in the morning promotes wakefulness, alertness, and vitality throughout the day. This makes it easier to fall asleep at night, giving you better sleep quality.

Light therapy lamps for treating morning sleepiness

Light therapy lamps help people suffering from morning sleepiness. You need a light therapy device if you often wake up in the morning tired and have an increased desire to sleep during the day.

A session immediately after waking up will sharply take down your melatonin levels. This shakes off the sleepiness from your eyes and helps you stay awake and alert throughout the day.

Light therapy lamps improve moods

Light exposure is an effective treatment for improving moods because it triggers the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. 

Low levels of serotonin cause low mood and feelings of deep sadness, while higher levels lift your mood and make you happier. In fact, many medications used in treating anxiety and other mood disorders target increasing serotonin levels in the brain. 

Some people call the light therapy lamp the “happy light” in reference to its benefit in lifting the mood and making one happier.

Light therapy lamps help in treating winter blues

Bright light therapy reduces winter blues symptoms by sending 10,000 lux sun-mimicking light to the eyes when natural light is minimal.

“Winter blues” is a depressive disorder that occurs during winter.

During winter, the sun rises late and sets early. Also, the daytime is less sunny. Reduced sunlight exposure often results in a low mood. The resulting low mood may degenerate and affect your ability to function, resulting in the condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Light therapy lamps compensate for the reduced sunlight during winter. A light therapy session during the winter days helps you get enough sunlight even though the season has shorter daylight hours.

Thus, your brain produces healthy serotonin and melatonin levels for proper body functioning. This helps you shake off the low mood and lethargy that characterizes the winter season.

Because light therapy lamps are effective in reducing symptoms of winter blues and SAD, they are often advertised as “SAD light therapy lamps” or “SAD lamps.”

Light therapy lamps boost energy levels

Light therapy lamps increase your serotonin levels, and higher serotonin levels are associated with more energy.

Low serotonin levels lead to low energy levels. One reason you may feel tired and lethargic during the winter months is the low level of serotonin caused by less sunlight.

A light therapy treatment helps boosts your serotonin level to improve your energy level. The treatment will make you feel less tired and more energized.

Light therapy lamps improve focus and productivity

Light therapy boosts serotonin production. High serotonin levels improve alertness and focus, and better focus enhances productivity. 

Serotonin may be called the feel-good hormone because it helps lift the mood. However, serotonin does much more. The hormone also boosts cognitive abilities, such as alertness and focus.

Thus, light therapy lamps help improve focus and alertness by stimulating the brain to produce serotonin.

Studies have shown that nocturnal light exposure has marked results on subjective and objective indicators of alertness. Compared with low lighting, bright white light made subjects feel less sleepy and more attentive.

Also, focus is key to productivity. Without good focus, all aspects of your ability to think will suffer, and your productivity will be low. But by mastering attention, you process information better and will be more productive.

Light therapy lamps improve mental health

A low level of serotonin is a direct cause of memory decline. Since light therapy lamps increase serotonin production, these devices help reduce memory decline.

Serotonin not only boosts mood; it also improves mental health. Recent research has revealed that people with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have severely low levels of serotonin.

Thus, increasing serotonin function in the brain could slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Thankfully, a light therapy lamp is a natural and non-invasive way to increase serotonin function in the brain. 

Light therapy lamps help fight jet lag

A light therapy lamp is effective in resetting the body’s circadian clock, which high-speed travel across different time zones throws off balance. 

Jet lag is a circadian rhythm disorder that occurs after traveling across multiple time zones at high speed.

When you move too quickly across multiple time zones, your body clock will still be attuned to the time of the former location. This scatters your sleep/ wakefulness cycle, causing daytime sleepiness, nighttime wakefulness, and decreased productivity.

For example, if it is night in your former location, you will feel sleepy even though it’s daytime in your new location, and you should be awake. Also, if it’s daytime in your old location, you’ll be awake even though it’s nighttime in your new location, and you should be asleep. 

A light therapy lamp helps reset the circadian rhythm by creating an advance or delay in sleep-wake cycles.

That is, when you feel sleepy during the day because your body clock thinks it’s night, the therapy light will inhibit melatonin production and promote wakefulness. This essentially pushes your sleep time forward, helping you adjust to the new time zone.

Because of its effectiveness in resetting the circadian rhythm, the sun-mimicking lamp is sometimes hailed as a “circadian light therapy lamp.”

The different light therapy lamps

Not long ago, a light therapy lamp was a bulky light box that you positioned at a place and sat close to for your phototherapy session. However, as technology has improved, light therapy boxes have become better (smaller and mobile).

The different light therapy lamps are:

Panel-style light therapy lamp

Compact light therapy lamps

Light therapy glasses or visors

While light therapy lamps come in different forms, the best options share some characteristics.

First, they emit a light intensity of at least 10,000 lux. This light intensity yields the greatest effects in the shortest time in phototherapy treatment.

Secondly, the best light therapy lamps emit UV-free light. This is because ultraviolet radiation is dangerous to the eyes and the skin.

Panel-style light therapy lamp

As the name suggests, a “panel” style light therapy lamp is in the form of a panel. A panel-style lamp has a large light surface letting it emit more light than other phototherapy lamps. It also emits 10,000 lux of light from the greatest distance.


Usually, the farther you are from a light box, the weaker the light intensity.

Interestingly, the panel-style lamps can give you the required 10,000 lux light from distances up to 50cm. Thus, if you want to sit at a considerable distance from your light therapy lamp and still get 10,000 lux light, you need a “panel” style lamp.

Know that the ideal distance depends on the strength of the particular lamp. Some weaker panel-style lamps emit 10,000 lux light from 20 cm away, while powerful ones can emit 10,000 lux light from 50cm away.

Advantages of a panel-style light therapy lamp

  • It can serve as a lighting device for a room.
  • More than one person can use the lamp at the same time for phototherapy treatment.
  • You don’t have to sit by your lamp during your phototherapy session.

Disadvantages of a panel-style light therapy lamp

  • It is immobile. Thus, though you can sit relatively farther away from the lamp, you cannot move around during your session.
  • It is relatively bulky. This makes it inconvenient and relatively difficult to transport.
  • It can be overly bright. The bright light can disturb the surrounding.

Compact light therapy lamp

As their name suggests, compact light therapy lamps are smaller in size.

Being a smaller lamp, the light capacity of a compact light therapy lamp is relatively weak. The blue part of the spectrum is often enriched for the lamps to have the same effect as white light lamps.

Also, the small size of a compact light therapy box means you won’t have to worry about how much space it takes on your tabletop.

Advantages of a compact light therapy lamp

  • The light is not overly bright, so there is less disturbance of the surroundings.
  • It is compact, making it more convenient and easy to transport.

Disadvantages of a compact light therapy lamp

  • Light capacity is weak, so you’ll have to sit very close to the lamp.
  • It is immobile, so you’ll have to remain in one position throughout your phototherapy session.

  • The light from the lamp is more focused. So, even in one position, you need to reduce head movement to reap optimum results.

Light therapy glasses or visors

Light therapy glasses are portable lamps that you wear as eyeglasses to allow phototherapy treatment on the go.

Light therapy glasses are also called visors. These portable lamps are designed to be worn as eyeglasses. The light therapy glasses allow a more calibrated phototherapy treatment.

The light source is placed on top of the “eyeglasses.” So the device sends 10,000 lux of light directly into the eyes at all times.

Even when you turn your head around during your session, the “lamp” is still at the same distance from your eyes. So, the treatment condition remains the same for optimum phototherapy results.

The light therapy glasses are designed for people who’d rather not sit in one place throughout a phototherapy treatment.

Advantages of light therapy glasses/ visors

  • They allow you to get phototherapy treatment on the go. So, you will not sit in one place for 30 minutes for your treatment.

  • Light therapy glasses are very portable and easily transportable.
  • They are fashionable. The daring person can wear them as normal eyeglasses.
  • They send light directly into the eyes, so they do not disturb the surrounding.
  • You can wear them anywhere - at home, in the office, outdoors, etc.

Disadvantages of light therapy glasses/ visors

  • Only one person can use a pair of light therapy glasses at a time.
  • Contact with the skin can be discomforting, especially if you do not like wearing eyeglasses.

How to use a light therapy lamp

To use a traditional light therapy lamp, you put the lamp on a table, plug it into a power source, turn it on, then sit close to it for about 30 minutes. You do not need to look directly into the lamp. Instead, the light will enter your eyes indirectly as you sit close by.

Light therapy glasses (visors) are markedly different from traditional light therapy lamps. So, how you use them is also different.

To use these special light therapy lamps, you wear them as you would your regular eyeglasses, push a button to turn on the light, then go about your regular business.

That said, best practices for using light therapy glasses include the following:

  • Have your sessions early in the morning
  • Spend at least 30 minutes per session
  • Sit close to the light therapy lamp
  • Your eyes should be open
  • Be consistent

Have your sessions early in the morning

For most physiologic conditions, phototherapy is best when administered in the morning. Only a few special cases require phototherapy treatment later in the day. 

Thus, plan your light therapy sessions for the mornings. Having your session anytime between 6 - 9 am is okay. However, starting as soon as possible after waking up is best.

Having your sessions in the morning promotes wakefulness and alertness during the day. This helps you be productive during the day. Also, daytime wakefulness leads to better sleep at night. So, morning light therapy sessions help you sleep better later when night comes.

Spend at least 30 minutes per session

While 15-minute phototherapy sessions may be sufficient for some patients, many require up to 30 minutes. For best results, prepare to sit by your light therapy lamp for at least 30 minutes in every session.

If you cannot find 30 minutes in your morning schedule to sit idly by a regular light therapy lamp, then go for visors (light therapy glasses).

Light therapy glasses ensure you eat your cake and have it. They allow you to get your 30 minutes daily shot of phototherapy while doing your regular morning activities.

Also, the recommended 30-minute session is for lamps emitting 10,000 lux light. Some lamps have adjustable brightness levels, allowing you to select one of 10,000 lux, 5,000 lux, or 2,500 lux for your light therapy.

The lower brightness levels are less effective than 10,000 lux light. But they work if you increase the exposure duration. When using 5,000 lux light, you require 45 - 60 minutes of exposure. When using 2,500 lux light, you need 90 - 120 minutes of exposure.

Sit close to the light therapy lamp

During your sessions, the light therapy lamp should not be too far from your sitting position. The lamp should be 25 - 50 cm away from you, depending on how powerful it is.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how far away you should be from the lamp during your sessions.

Your eyes should be open

Needless to say, your eyes should not be closed during your sessions. Your eyes need to be open for the light therapy to work. This means you cannot sleep during your session.

While the light needs to enter your eyes, you do not need to stare into the light box.

Be consistent

One light therapy session will not be sufficient to treat any physiologic condition. Having only a few phototherapy sessions will also not be sufficient.

To get the best results from bright light therapy, you need regular sessions for one to two weeks. Consistency is the key when using light therapy lamps.

Endeavor not to skip a day during phototherapy treatment. The effectiveness of a light box depends on daily use.

The pros and cons of light therapy lamps

Light therapy lamps have a lot of advantages. However, like all medical interventions, they come with a few cons. Thankfully, the pros of these devices outweigh their cons.

Pros of light therapy lamps

Here are the advantages of using light therapy lamps.

Light therapy lamps are non-invasive

A light therapy lamp is a non-invasive way to treat physiologic conditions like seasonal disorders, insomnia, jet lag, and more. 

When using light therapy lamps for treatment, the body is not penetrated or entered in any way. You only sit by the lamp for half an hour and let your eyes catch the bright light indirectly.

Light therapy lamps are safe

Light therapy lamps do not damage the eyes. There has been no evidence of ocular damage from using light therapy lamps. These lamps emit UV-free light. They are specially made to block harmful UV light, so they are safe for the eyes. 

How to use light therapy lamp for insomnia

Light therapy lamps can be an effective tool for insomnia. To use, situate yourself about 16 to 24 inches from the lamp. Turn it on and let the light shine on your face, but don't look directly into the light. It's best to use the lamp in the morning for about 20 to 30 minutes. Remember, consistency is key for the best result.

Light therapy lamps are convenient to use

A light therapy lamp is easy to use. Virtually anyone can use it. All it takes is to plug the lamp into a power source, switch it on, and sit by it. You can read or eat while sitting by the lamp.

If you’re using light therapy glasses, you only need to wear them as any other pair of eyeglasses, then push a button to turn on the light. 

Cons of light therapy lamps

Like all interventions, a light therapy lamp comes with a few side effects. These include:

  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Dry nose and eyes
  • Hypomania
  • Sleeping problem (if you do the therapy in the evening)

FAQs

What does a light therapy lamp do?

A light therapy lamp mimics natural sunlight by emitting high-intensity light. 

Exposure to bright light triggers the regulation of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin to treat many physiologic conditions like winter blues, insomnia, jet lag, etc.

Do light therapy lamps work?

Light therapy lamps do not provide automatic cures. However, research and evidence have shown that they help reduce seasons of seasonal and circadian rhythm disorders, such as low mood, anxiety, sleep problems, etc.

When should you use a light therapy lamp?

The best practice for phototherapy is to have your sessions early in the morning. 

Use your light therapy lamp as soon as possible after awakening, preferably between 6 am - 9 am. Early morning light therapy sessions promote alertness during the day for better productivity.

Takeaway

  • A light therapy lamp is an alternative medical intervention for physiologic conditions like winter blues, low mood, sleep problems, etc.
  • Though it is more commonly called light therapy lamp, it often goes by other names, including sunlight lamp, daylight lamp, SAD light therapy lamp, happy light, and more. 
  • It emits 10,000 lux of light to mimic outdoor sunlight. Exposure to the bright light stimulates the production of serotonin and regulation of melatonin in treating conditions that may be caused by reduced exposure to sunlight.
  • Light therapy lamps are easy to use, safe, and non-invasive
  • There are three main types of light therapy lamps, namely panel-style lamps, compact lamps, and visors (light therapy glasses).

When looking for the best light therapy lamp, the obvious choice is the visor. Unlike the others, a visor allows light therapy on the go and sends light directly into the eyes for a more calibrated treatment. 

One of the best visors you’ll find is Luminette 3. Luminette is a pair of light therapy glasses like no other. It is a product of a collaboration between sleep medicine and optical physics.

The Luminette comes with many outstanding features. It is comfortable as it is lightweight and has an adjustable ergonomic nose rest. It is also suitable for eyeglasses wearers, as you can wear it over eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Ready to banish the blues and lift your mood with one of the best light therapy glasses on the market? Order the innovative Luminette 3 today!