5 Light Therapy Lamps to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Dirty Good Co.

5 Light Therapy Lamps to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

I believe most people reading this have a good sense of what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is and how it can wreak havoc on many of us this time of the year.

For those unfamiliar, wikipedia defines SAD as “a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter.”

Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, author of Winter Blues, is the world-renowned researcher and psychiatrist who led the team that first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and pioneered light therapy to treat it. Dr. Rosenthal has found that about 1 in 20 people in the U.S. has SAD.

Turns out some people need more light than others. For those, the darker and shorter days adversely affects mood and behavior. One can better manage SAD through exercise, stress reduction and trying light therapy. Light therapy can help one maintain healthy sleeping and eating habits that guide the body through it’s natural rhythms.

One of Rosenthal’s patients described themselves as feeling like a bear in the winter and wanting to hibernate. “So if you feel any identification with a hibernating bear, you might well have SAD,” he says. Women are about four times more vulnerable than men, and the condition is more common in the Northern Hemisphere.


The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD.

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness

Other symptoms can include:

  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-8255)

Treatment options for SAD include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy.

Why Does SAD Occur

It is believed that a change in photoperiod, which is the number of daylight hours, is at the root of SAD. According to Kelly Rohan, a professor of psychological science at the University of Vermont, photoperiod is believed to have more of an influence on mood than the overcast skies we see in the northwest, or the colder temperatures. Fewer hours of light is believed to affect the circadian clocks of people with SAD, leaving them out of sync with their natural rhythms. Light therapy (best delivered first thing in the morning) is believed to kick those circadian rhythms back into a normal cycle.

Current consensus is that light therapy is most effective in the early morning (based on the fact that most cases of SAD have a phase delay) and that an intensity as close to 10000 lux as possible should be used for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time. Time to response is usually between two to four days and three weeks and the specifics of duration and intensity can be adjusted depending on response and side-effects.

Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry

Things to consider in a lamp:

  • Brightness of at least 10,000 lux
  • UV-blocking technology
  • Surface area of lamp

Here are five light therapy lamps that may help you this winter.

Verilux HappyLight Full-Size – UV-Free Therapy Lamp

2,099+ Ratings
4.6 / 5 Stars

TaoTronics Light Therapy Lamp

1,720+ Ratings
4.9 / 5 Stars

Aura Day Light Lamp

422+ Ratings
4.4 / 5 Stars

Verilux HappyLight Touch

670+ Ratings
4.7 / 5 Stars

Miroco Light Therapy Lamp

5,661+ Ratings
4.8 / 5 Stars

Rosenthal says people with SAD have a tremendous appetite for carbohydrates. “They crave sweets and starches. And needless to say, that puts on weight, and they can’t always take it off in the summer, so every year they’re ratcheting up a little more, a little more, and it’s a real problem.”


‘Tis The Season: Coping With SAD, Or Seasonal Affective Disorder / NPR

The Double Whammy of Seasonal Affective Disorder in a Season of Covid / NY Times

Light therapy lamps can ease seasonal depression. / Washington Post

Pathogenesis and management of seasonal affective disorder

The Best Light Therapy Lamp / Wirecutter

10 Top-Rated Light Therapy Boxes To Use While You’re Stuck Inside All Day / Health.com

5 Lamps to Help You Feel Like You’re at the Beach All Winter Long / The Cut

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Paul Lieto
Mixed Terrain Enthusiast /. Dirty Good Co — founder and Editor of RaceCenter Magazine.