Lumie Brightspark SAD light with a cup of tea placed in front of it | Lightopia

Your guide to buying and using a SAD light

Thinking of buying a SAD light to help manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Winter Blues symptoms, or just for an energy and mood boost on dull days? 

Here are our top tips for buying and using a SAD light (also often called a light box, SAD lamp, energy light – they’re all light therapy).

Click on the image to download a PDF version that you can save or print.

first page of the guide to buying and using a SAD light (click to download a PDF version)

Buying a SAD light

  1. Buy from someone reputable – we personally use and recommend Lumie – they are specialists, have a long history of research and development in light therapy products and offer trial periods.

  2. If you decide to buy from another manufacturer look out for:
    • They should be certified medical devices for use in SAD
    • They should have appropriate quality marks for use in your country (e.g. European CE or BSI Kitemark)
    • They should state the lux level (e.g. 10,000 lux) and at what distance you must be to receive this level (e.g. 30cm) – these should be independently verified
    • Check that the screen filters out UV light

  3. Consider where you’ll use your light – at home, at work? Buy the shape and size of light that will work well for your space and lifestyle – for example, a more traditional-looking rectangular box, a desk lamp style, or something you can travel with. Bear in mind that for the most effective treatment, generally the bigger the lit surface area the better – though some manufacturers compensate for a smaller size with blue-enriched light.

Using a SAD light

This is a guide that will suit most people, but experiment with what works best for you:

When to use your SAD light:

  • Use your light first thing in the morning where possible
  • Have a top-up session in the afternoon if you feel like you need it (your energy and/or mood is low)
  • Don’t use your light in the late evening and night as it will stop you sleeping

Where to position your SAD light:

  • Position your light about an arm’s length from your face on a stable surface, follow your manufacturer’s instructions on distance, or use a stand to position it shining down on you like a rising sun for really optimal effect
  • Put your light somewhere you regularly sit or plan to sit still for a length of time – e.g. a dining table, breakfast bar, side table, a desk

How to use your SAD light:

  • Switch your light on and do your normal activity (eating, working, reading, watching TV, crafting) having the light slightly off to the side (about 30 degrees), allowing the light to reach your eyes but not staring at it
  • Your eyes need to be open and you can wear prescribed clear or coloured glasses or contact lenses, but not dark sunglasses designed to block light
  • Treatment length varies depending on the strength of the light, how close it is and your individual needs, but a good general guide is a 10,000 lux light at arm’s length for 30 minutes
  • If sitting for a full treatment isn’t practical, consider splitting it into several shorter bursts through the daytime

Watch-outs when using your SAD light:

  • If you start feeling ‘wired’ or very hyperactive, and/or get headaches, stop using your box and try building up more gradually
  • If you or your loved ones are concerned about sudden hyperactive behaviour contact a doctor immediately
  • Some medications, alternative remedies and other health conditions can make your eyes or skin more sensitive to light – for example, St John’s Wort, a herbal remedy often taken to reduce depression, can cause you to be photosensitive. Stop light treatment and speak to a doctor if you experience any skin burning, rash, eye discomfort or headaches/migraines

Lightopia always recommends discussing your symptoms and intention to use light therapy products with your GP. They can help you rule out any other conditions that produce similar symptoms, check for contra-indications like taking medicines that increase your photosensitivity, and it’s a good idea for them to know about anything that impacts your health.

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