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The 4 Best Light Therapy Lamps, According To A Psychiatrist

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The shorter days may have an impact on your mood and energy levels, but the best light therapy lamps can help by prompting your body to better regulate the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which impact sleep-wake cycles and mood, respectively. That said, while the market is flooded with options, not all of them are worth your money. According to Stephanie Hartselle, MD and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University, a light therapy lamp needs to have the right illumination power, filter, and size to be effective.

"Light therapy involves using a special lamp to mimic the light exposure our retinas would receive normally in the warmer seasons. When used for at least 30 minutes in the morning at the recommended power, studies have shown improvement in mood symptoms for those experiencing seasonal depression," Dr. Hartselle wrote to Bustle. However, the intensity of this light exposure matters, as Dr. Hartselle explains: "LUX is the measurement of illumination, corresponding to how bright one candle would be on a surface at one meter distance. 10,000 LUX is the ideal amount from a light therapy lamp."

In addition to offering 10,000 LUX, your light should also filter out harmful rays. "The lights need to be UV-free with a UV filter built into the light," Dr. Hartselle suggested.

Finally, consider the size, which will impact both the functionality and the effectiveness of your light therapy lamp. "We are finding that the size of these lights does matter. The light's surface should be at least 12 inches [...] so that individuals can be up to a foot away from the light and still receive the full benefits. Smaller sizes require the face to be much closer to the light, increasing the risk of glare, eye strain, headaches and the chance that the 10,000 LUX is not received," Dr. Hartselle wrote.

Keep reading to see the best light therapy lamps — and a wearable option — on Amazon, all chosen with Dr. Hartselle's advice in mind.

1. The MD-Recommended Light Therapy Lamp

"For something that fits on a table, I recommend the Carex Day Light Classic Plus because it has the recommended size that allows for 10,000 LUX to be effective from 12 inches away," wrote Dr. Hartselle. "It also shines from above, mimicking the sun's rays." Plus, it blocks 99.3% of UV rays while still helping to balance your mood, energy levels, and sleep schedule. While it's not the most space-savvy option available, more than 700 reviewers have given it 4.4 stars overall because it's "powerful," "simple to use," and "effective," according to reviewers.

  • Light dimensions: 15.5 by 13.5 inches
  • UV blocking: Yes
  • Available LUX settings: 10,000 LUX

One reviewer wrote: "I ordered this light on the advice of one of my doctors, to help with seasonal depression. [...] This light is helping — I am not feeling as gloomy and as if I just have to make it through the day, as I usually do this time of year with the short days. I also think it helps me to sleep more normal hours."

2. The Best Affordable Lamp — & The Most Portable

Even though it costs a fraction of the price of many competitors, the TaoTronics folding light therapy lamp meets almost all of Dr. Hartselle's criteria. It can produce up to 10,000 LUX of illumination, it has two 11-inch panels for over 20 inches of light screen, and has filtering LEDs that reduce UV rays by 99.9%. Finally, because it folds up into a slim rectangle that fits effortlessly in your briefcase, laptop bag, or a drawer, it's one of the most portable and space-savvy designs available. It even has an automatic 30-minute timer and dimmer functions, which, according to Dr. Hartselle, "may be useful for those who need to ease into the full power of the light but consumers should be aware that having the light dimmed throughout the session will reduce the LUX you receive."

  • Light dimensions: two 11-inch panels (measured diagonally)
  • UV blocking: Yes
  • Available LUX settings: 2,000 LUX to 10,000 LUX

One reviewer wrote: "I've been reading up on this kind of light for light therapy. Most of the ones I found were very high in price so I'm glad that this one was better in the price range for me. It really seems to help me on my off days. I like how it has different light settings, brightness, and timer."

3. The Best Light Therapy Floor Lamp

Floor lamps are a great option if you want to use the lamp "while exercising or reading," according to Dr. Hartselle. They're also a great option if you're limited on desk space — and this one from Flamingo is one of the most effective options on Amazon due to its larger light face. It offers 10,000 LUX of full-spectrum light (UV rays excluded), and it can be used at up to 12 inches away. It's 4 feet tall and has a rotating head so you can adjust the angle.

  • Light dimensions: 7 by 13 inches
  • UV blocking: Yes
  • Available LUX settings: 10,000 LUX

One reviewer wrote: "I learned very quickly after moving from Los Angeles to Minneapolis that I would not get enough sunlight during the winter. [...] I set this up in the basement. [...] I have all my workout gear- treadmill, bike, Pilates reformer - and my writing desk. I move this sucker right in front of my face - on the treadmill or at the desk. Definitely, most definitely kicked some of those winter blues."

4. A Lamp With A Larger Surface Area

Because it's much bigger than standard light therapy lamps, the Alaska Northern Lights Northstar light therapy box provides a full 10,000 LUX at up to 24 inches away. It's made with two broad-spectrum bulbs that feature no harmful UV rays, and it has a mirror-reflector finish to maximize the light therapy benefits without irritating your eyes. It definitely takes up the most table space out of all of these options, but thanks to its lightweight frame and built-in handle, it's easy to transport.

  • Light dimensions: 12.5 by 22.5 inches
  • UV blocking: Yes
  • Available LUX settings: 10,000 LUX

One reviewer wrote: "I'm really impressed with my light therapy box because it makes me feel so much better. Living in the gloomy midwest is difficult as well as working the night shift. With this light therapy box life has been so much better. The quality of this light is remarkable. Worth spending the money on such a well made product."

Also Great: Light Therapy That Goes Everywhere With You

While they're not exactly a lamp, Dr. Hartselle also recommends these AYO premium light therapy glasses: "I personally use [them] so that I can exercise and move around in the mornings while I'm getting ready for my day." Since they're so close to your eyes and they use a highly efficient blue-turquoise light, the UV-free 120 LUX are comparable to the recommended 10,000 LUX you'd get from a free-standing lamp. The brand suggests one daily session lasting between 20 and 30 minutes, and since the glasses fit securely over your eyes and recharge in their case, you can go about your routine (without wires) while still reaping the mood-boosting benefits.

One reviewer wrote: "Ayo is by far the BEST light therapy device I have used and it is the most convenient as well (especially if you are a multitasker like myself). The case they come in actually charges the glasses and it has a battery indicator on it that you just tap to see how much of a charge is left in the case, seriously GENIUS!"