We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Using a SAD lamp can help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder that may creep in when the seasons change.

Portrait of a Man of Color in profile taken at a studio with a bright, colorful spot on the wallShare on Pinterest
Anton Vierietin/Getty Images

When the seasons change, so can your feelings.

As the temperature changes and daylight shifts, you may find yourself feeling sluggish, moody, or disinterested in your usual interests.

While this can be just a fleeting case of the “winter (or summer) blues,” for some it’s a sign of seasonal affective disorder (sometimes abbreviated SAD — though the same acronym is also used for social anxiety disorder). This condition is more formally known as major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns.

To combat the effects of this seasonal depression, many folks turn to the use of SAD lamps to (literally) brighten up their day.

But what exactly are SAD lamps — and how can you find the best one for you?

SAD lamps are used in light therapy and come in various shapes and sizes, from portable mini models and desk lamps to standard floor lamps and large, screen-like boxes.

They’re mostly used to treat seasonal affective disorder but can also be effective in:

SAD lamps work by mimicking the intensity and effects of natural sunlight. Each lamp’s intensity is measured in lux. For maximum benefits, 2017 research recommends using a SAD lamp or lightbox that delivers 10,000 lux for about 30 minutes each day.

People experiencing seasonal affective disorder — aka “seasonal depression” — can benefit the most from using a SAD lamp.

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression brought on by the changing of seasons. Most people experience it during the winter months (the “winter blues,” as some folks say), but there are some who develop it during the summer.

Common symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • low energy
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleep problems
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • withdrawing from others

SAD lamps are most effective during winter, when sunlight is scarce, but can be used in summer for those who spend a lot of time indoors or away from windows.

If you want to jump directly to the sections for each product, you can click the links below:

We took several factors into account when making our top picks of the best SAD lamps, including:

  • Reputation. Each lamp on our list comes from reputable and well-respected manufacturers.
  • Reviews. We poured over the reviews to see what real users had to say and selected products with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
  • Quality. Each product we chose is made from high-quality materials and is built to last.
  • Vetting. We carefully vetted each product to ensure they meet Psych Central’s editorial, medical, and business standards.

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($ to $$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is lower priced, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher price range.

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50 – $100
  • $$$ = over $100

Best overall

Carex Day-Light Classic Plus

  • Price: $$$
  • Light intensity: 10,000 lux
  • Size: 12 x 15.75 x 31.13 inches
  • Warranty: 5-year warranty

The Carex Day-Light Classic Plus may be large, but it’s definitely a SAD lamp to consider. With its extra-wide screen, the Carex emits white light without glare (and without 99.3% of harmful UV rays) to deliver max-strength SAD relief.

Designed using clinical trials, the Carex Classic Plus emits light at a downward angle, mimicking the way natural sunlight shines. It also features two brightness settings and an adjustable base that allows you to change the height and angle as needed.

The unit is a bit clunky and likely won’t fit well in small spaces. It’s also on the more expensive side. Still, many reviewers say that it’s worth it for the lamp’s effectiveness.

Why we chose it

This Carex lamp emits 10,000 lux of white light with a broad range of illumination that’s emitted at a downward angle — just like natural sunlight.

What we like

  • The lamp has a large, glare-free screen that emits white light.
  • It has a broad illumination range.
  • You can adjust the angle and height of the lamp.
  • If you buy directly from the manufacturer, the product is approved for reimbursement through flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA).

What to look out for

  • It’s more expensive than other products on the list.
  • The unit is top-heavy, and the plastic base can cause slipping or tipping.
  • It may be unsuitable for small spaces.

Best floor lamp

Lavish Home Floor Lamp

  • Price: $
  • Light intensity: 1,300 lumens (lumens per square meter = lux)
  • Size: ‎10 x 9 x 55 inches
  • Warranty: none

The Lavish Home Floor Lamp is a great option for folks looking for function as well as relief from seasonal affective disorder. It emits a bright light well-suited to rooms larger than 350 square feet. Plus, it can be easily adjusted with its flexible neck.

The fluorescent bulb is said to last for up to 5,000 hours and emits the same amount of light as a standard 150-watt bulb without using a ton of energy.

Many users tout this as the “perfect reading lamp,” saying it provides enough light to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression and avoid eyestrain while reading. They also like that this lamp is available in multiple colors to fit seamlessly into your home’s design.

Why we chose it

This simple floor lamp is easy to use, energy-efficient, and bright enough for larger spaces. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors to suit your style.

What we like

  • The flexible gooseneck allows for easy adjustment.
  • The bulb has a 5,000 hour lifespan and is more energy efficient than standard bulbs.
  • It’s available in a variety of colors to match your style and decor.

What to look out for

  • There is only one setting, which some users may not prefer.
  • The company doesn’t offer a warranty.

Best desk lamp

Verilux HappyLight Lux

  • Price: $$
  • Light intensity: 10,000 lux, full-spectrum light
  • Size: 7.48 x 0.51 x 11.73 inches
  • Warranty: 3-year warranty

The Verilux HappyLight Lux looks much like your favorite tablet — with almost as many features. This lamp has four brightness levels to choose from, as well as three color temperatures and a timer.

And because this SAD lamp doesn’t have a large footprint, it can easily fit on your desk. If you use it while you work, you won’t have to worry about being distracted by pesky glare, as this lamp is designed with anti-glare, UV-free LED lights.

While it’s pricier than some similar options, many users find it worth the cost, due to its multiple brightness and color options and the programmable timer to prevent overuse.

Why we chose it

With its slim, tablet-like design and customizable features, the Verilux HappyLight Lux is a sleek and discreet option for your desk or side-table.

What we like

  • It can be customized with three color temperatures, four brightness levels, and a programmable timer.
  • It has a detachable stand and slim design for easy portability.
  • It uses LED lights for no glare and no harmful UV rays.

What to look out for

  • The stand isn’t adjustable.
  • It’s more expensive than similar options.

Best for modern decor

Circadian Optics Lattis

  • Price: $$
  • Light intensity: 10,000 lux
  • Size: 15.75 x 5.51 x 2.56 inches
  • Warranty: 2-year

Circadian Optics specializes in light therapy products and offers a variety of lamps to boost your mood, increase energy, and help you get better sleep. They also create products that look great — including the Lattis lamp.

This small lamp offers bright, UV-free full-spectrum light in a sleek, lattice design. If you love modern decor or unique (yet functional!) pieces, this lamp may be a good addition to your home.

Users love how powerful this small but mighty lamp is and enjoy that it blends seamlessly with their style — many say you can’t tell it’s a lamp at all when not using it. Some users, however, do say that the lamp can look “cheap” or low quality up close, due to its plastic body.

Why we chose it

With its lattice design and matte black finish, the Circadian Optics Lattis lamp has a sleek and modern look that blends well with any style.

What we like

  • It has a sleek, modern design that offers both form and function.
  • The lamp offers three brightness levels with LED lights.
  • It’s very bright despite its small size.

What to look out for

  • The unit is fixed and not adjustable.
  • The plastic frame can look “cheap.”

Best for on-the-go

Circadian Optics Luxy

  • Price: $
  • Light intensity: 10,000 lux
  • Size: 3.5 x 3.25 x 3.25 inches
  • Warranty: 2-year

At less than 4 inches tall, the Circadian Optics Luxy delivers 10,000 lux of uniform, UV-free light — the same intensity as many of the larger SAD lamps on the market.

The Luxy is designed with portability in mind. It folds up and fits right into your bag or pocket for easy transport, whether you’re taking it to work, on a vacation, or simply into the next room.

Users who travel especially enjoy the small-yet-powerful Luxy, saying it helps them reduce the effects of jetlag. The biggest issue many have with the unit is that it has to be plugged in to work, making it challenging to find an outlet at times when they’re on the go.

Why we chose it

Circadian Optics’ Luxy delivers the same amount of intensity as larger lamps, but in a small, foldable format that’s easy to take on the go.

What we like

  • Its compact and foldable design makes it easy to take from place to place.
  • There are three brightness levels to choose from.
  • It delivers the same intensity as full-sized lamps.

What to look out for

  • The lamp has to be plugged in.
  • The cord is only 3 feet long.

Best forPrice rangeLight intensitySizeKey featuresWarranty
Carex Day-Light Classic Plusoverall$$$10,000 lux12 x 15.75 x 31.13 inchesangled screen mimics the direction of sunlight5-year
Lavish Home Floor Lampfloor lamp$1,300 lumens10 x 9 x 55 inchesflexible gooseneck for easy adjustment none
Verilux HappyLight Luxdesk lamp$$10,000 lux11.8 x 0.5 x 7.5inchessleek and slim, with multiple programmable settings3-year
Circadian Optics Lattismodern decor$$10,000 lux15.75 x 5.51 x 2.56 inchessleek, modern design 2-year
Circadian Optics Luxy on-the-go$10,000 lux3.5 x 3.25 x 3.25 inchessmall size for easy travel2-year

Some general recommendations to keep in mind when using a SAD lamp include:

  • sitting 12 to 18 inches from your lamp
  • positioning the lamp toward you at a 45-degree angle
  • using the lamp for 30 minutes each day, preferably early in the morning
  • keeping your eyes open (but don’t stare directly into the light)

You can also continue doing any of your usual morning activities while undergoing light therapy, such as:

  • enjoying your morning cup of coffee
  • checking your email
  • reading the news or a book

It’s always best to consult your doctor before using any treatment method, including light therapy. They can provide you with strategies to get the most out of your SAD lamp for your unique diagnosis.

It’s important to carefully read the product’s instructions for additional details and manufacturer recommendations.

Plus, it’s recommended to stop using the lamp and speaking with your doctor if:

  • you begin to feel dizzy or disoriented
  • get a headache
  • develop any other unusual symptoms

If our selections don’t meet your needs, there are plenty of other SAD lamps available. Consider the following when looking for the right one for you:

  • Size. How big (or small) do you want your lamp to be? Will it fit where you plan to put it?
  • Lux. Does the lamp deliver the minimum recommendation of 10,000 lux? Does it emit harmful UV rays?
  • Manufacturer policies. Does the company offer a warranty? What’s the refund or exchange policy?
  • Aesthetic. Do you want your SAD lamp to blend in with your decor? Do you want it to be interesting or pleasing to look at? Or do you simply care about function rather than how it looks?
  • Reviews. What do users have to say about the lamp? Are there more positive reviews than negative ones? What are some common things you notice people saying?

Light therapy isn’t the only way to recover from the “winter blues.” There are other strategies that can help you cope with seasonal affective disorder, including:

  • getting regular exercise
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • spending time in natural light
  • getting enough quality sleep
  • avoid stressful situations

When to see a doctor

If light therapy isn’t working to ease your symptoms, or if seasonal affective disorder is starting to affect the quality of your day-to-day life, it may be time to seek professional help.

You may also consider speaking with your doctor if you experience any of the following effects when using your SAD lamp:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vision problems
  • other unusual or unpleasant side effects

Do SAD lamps really work?

Research from 2017 shows that light therapy can be a highly effective treatment option for seasonal affective disorder.

Using a SAD lamp to mimic the effects of the sun can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm (which controls your sleep-wake cycle). SAD lamps can also trigger the production of the “happy hormone” serotonin.

SAD lamps have other reported benefits, including:

  • improving mood
  • increasing energy
  • reducing symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • curbing insomnia or other sleep disorders
  • easing the effects of jetlag
  • treating dementia

Light therapy is not considered safe for those with:

  • bipolar disorder
  • lupus
  • diabetes
  • light sensitivity
  • specific eye conditions
  • specific skin conditions

Can SAD lamps work for severe seasonal depression?

Using a SAD lamp likely won’t help you fully recover from severe seasonal depression, but it can help ease symptoms.

For severe seasonal affective disorder, multiple treatment options may be needed to see results. Combining light therapy with medication, vitamin supplements, or therapy can be far more effective than using one treatment method on its own.

If you’re experiencing severe seasonal depression, it’s recommended to seek support from your doctor or a mental health professional. They can work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.

Do SAD lamps provide vitamin D?

Light therapy may mimic sunlight, but it doesn’t necessarily affect vitamin D levels.

While one small 2017 study suggests that the UVB light emitted from some sun lamps may help activate vitamin D production, more research is needed to be sure.

Can SAD lamps help with anxiety?

Research from 2013 suggests that light therapy can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety.

In addition to seasonal affective disorder and anxiety, bright light therapy is also sometimes recommended for various other conditions, including:

  • depression
  • sleep disorders
  • dementia
  • jetlag

SAD lamps are an effective way to receive light therapy when experiencing seasonal affective disorder, or “seasonal depression.” They deliver high-intensity light that mimics the effects of the sun to promote an improved mood, better sleep, and reduced stress or anxiety.

Many SAD lamps are available in assorted sizes and price points. To find the best lamp for you, consider your unique needs, budget, and where in your home you plan to use it.

While they can help ease symptoms of seasonal depression, SAD lamps aren’t for everyone. Light therapy isn’t recommended for people with specific conditions (including bipolar disorder or diabetes). It’s best to speak with your doctor before using a SAD lamp. They can share ways to best use your lamp and recommend additional or alternative treatment options.