The best SAD lamp could literally change your life. Seasonal Affective Disorder can bring a serious case of the winter blues during the darker months, and the further north you are the more pronounced that can be. Many sufferers believe that by simulating sunlight a SAD light therapy lamp can make a big difference to your mood and your motivation.
Note: these aren't to be confused with the best wake-up lights, which are designed to mimic sunrise to help you wake more naturally – although there is occasional crossover, with some wake-up lamps being certified for use for SAD sufferers.
This guide includes a wide range of options to suit different styles, needs and budgets, but if you're looking for a good all-rounder, the best SAD lamp for most people is the Beurer TL50. It's relatively affordable, it looks quite nice when it's not switched on and it delivers excellent brightness with good consistency. It may not have the bells and whistles or stylish design of rivals such as the Lumie Halo, but it's considerably more affordable. Not quite right for you? Read on for some buying advice, followed by our pick of the best SAD light therapy lights to buy now.
- Don't suffer from SAD? Here are the best bedside lamps to brighten a bedroom
Do SAD lamps really work?
While people who have SAD lamps swear by them, solid evidence of their effectiveness is hard to find. So if you haven't tried a SAD lamp before, it may be wise to start with the most affordable option first or look for one with a no-quibble returns policy. If you've been diagnosed with SAD, you don't have to pay VAT on your purchase.
How do I choose a SAD lamp?
A SAD lamp's main job is to provide a certain amount of white light. But while most lamps deliver the same intensity, they do it at different distances – so a lamp may be rated 10,000 lux at 10cm, or at 15cm, or at 20cm. If the lamp is dimmable or has a removable diffuser the quoted intensity and distance will be for the highest brightness setting with the diffuser removed.
Intensity drops dramatically with distance. If a lamp delivers 10,000 lux at 16cm, if you sit 30cm away you'll get 5,000 lux. Sit 50cm away and it halves again. That means you'll need longer sessions to get the same benefit: at 10,000 lux it's about 30 minutes; at 5,000 it's an hour; and at 2,500 lux it's two hours.
Think about where you're going to be using your lamp, and if you'll be using it in multiple locations: bigger lamps of course take up more room and are heavier to move.
The best SAD lamps you can buy right now
If you're looking for an effective, no-frills SAD lamp that isn't unpleasantly bright, doesn't look like a giant Kindle e-reader and doesn't need you to sit too close, the Beurer TL50 is an excellent all-rounder. We think it's the best SAD lamp for most people, sitting in the middle of the Beurer range and offering a good combination of size and brightness without an enormous price tag. The illuminated panel here is a 24.6cm diameter circle and it's rated for an intensity of 10,000 lux at 15cm. There's just a single setting, on or off, and there are no additional features: the TL50 is designed to do one thing and do it well. Head to our Beurer TL50 SAD lamp review to find out more.
If money's no object, the Halo is a wonderful addition to your home or office: it has both warm white and cool white LEDs, enabling you to use it for SAD during the day and as a softer, calming light in the evenings. In Day mode it's exceptionally bright, reaching 10,000 lux at 20cm, and in Evening Mode it adds a cosy ambience to your room. It's gorgeous, too. Where most SAD lamps are designed to look like medical devices or beauty mirrors, the Halo wants to make a statement, so its illuminated panel is surrounded by a copper reflector with black edges that makes it look like a contemporary lamp rather than something you'd encounter in a clinic. Check out our Lumie Halo review to find out more of what we thought.
This baby Beurer is a cheap and cheerful introduction to light therapy. The TL30 is the smallest of the SAD lamps here, and has the lowest price tag too. Where the TL50 uses a rounded panel, the TL30 looks like a tablet, and its small size means it's easy to take it on holiday or into a different room. But what you gain in cost and convenience you lose in power: while the TL30 offers the same intensity of 10,000 lux as its bigger sibling, it does that at 10cm rather than the 15cm of the larger model. It's not the most powerful SAD lamp but it's very affordable, so we'd recommend it if you're new to light therapy and/or don't want to spend too much.
If you're short of space or just don't want a very bright SAD lamp in your peripheral vision, Lumie's SAD light desk lamp may be the best SAD lamp for you. With the diffuser off it's very bright, delivering 10,000 lux at a distance of 20cm, and with the diffuser on it doubles as a task light delivering 1,250 lux at 50cm. The adjustable neck makes it a good option for home working where you don't have lots of room, and there are four light levels that you can move between by tapping it. It's more expensive than basic desktop SAD lamps but the extra flexibility makes it worth considering for work or studying.
If you don't want to spend too much money but don't want to compromise on brightness, the Lumie Vitamin L Slim is an A4-sized option offering 10,000 lux at a very respectable 16cm compared to more affordable lamps' 10cm. Like other budget buys there are no bells, no whistles and no interesting design cues here: it's the same size as an iPad and the controls are simple: you can either have it switched on or have it switched off. The higher intensity means you don't need to use it for as long as smaller desktop panels, and like other rectangular lamps you can use it in portrait or landscape mode. It's rather medical-looking but it's a solid and reliable choice.