Ah, winter: the time of the year when dark, cold mornings outnumber sunny days where you actually want to leave your apartment. Unsurprisingly, it is during this season that some people — who might not otherwise suffer from depression — start to feel anxious, sad, fatigued, irritable, and even hopeless. With what is perhaps the most fitting acronym of all time, this condition is known as seasonal affective disorder — or, SAD.
While SAD can strike you any time of the year, the depression sub-type is most often associated with the cooler seasons. According to Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine who first described the disorder in 1984, approximately five percent of the population suffer from SAD, and as is the case with most types of depression, a 2000 study from the American Academy of Family Physicians found that a disproportionate number of women suffer from the disorder. Dorothy Sit, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University, told the Cut that the disorder likely has to do with the disruption of your circadian rhythm in the winter.
Aside from clinical methods of therapy, one common treatment for SAD is bright light therapy, which involves sitting or working near a light therapy box that gives off a recommended 10,000 LUX. A 2017 study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that after just a single one-hour light therapy session, subjects had “a modest improvement of SAD depression symptoms.” Per Sit’s recommendation, the best way to reap the benefits of light therapy is to sit in front of a SAD lamp for approximately 30 minutes, ideally soon after awakening.
“By implementing bright light therapy in patients’ routines, the idea is that we may be able to reset their circadian rhythm, which may have gotten pushed back more than usual due to light signals,” she told the Cut. “Some people will develop a rapid response, and they can get significantly better in just two to three weeks.”
Even if you don’t have SAD, most peoples’ circadian rhythm gets off in the winter and sitting in front of a SAD lamp can only help. Just be careful if you do have a history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder — psychologists say the lamps can interact with medication or create an exaggerated response, so it’s best for anyone with these conditions to consult with a medical professional first.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with SAD or you’re simply looking to play around with light therapy, below, the Cut took a deep dive on Amazon into the best 10,000-LUX SAD lamps.
The Classic Lamp
“I got sunshine, on a cloudy day … ” raved one reviewer about this uncomplicated yet handy lamp. With an adjustable height and angle, “this lightweight and easy-to-use” light box has a sleek silver design. Reviewers praised its ability to improve their mood in only a few days.
The Best Customizable Lamp
With high and low settings, this versatile lamp allows you to adjust the light levels based on how you are feeling. One reviewer would give this six stars if they could. If you’re still not convinced, another wrote, “Now I feel like I’ve been given my life back and am not just half a person for half the year.”
The Best Portable Lamp
This lamp weighs around 1.6 pounds — less than your cat! It also features a built-in timer so you can monitor your sunlight time. Plus, it has over 2,000 mostly raving reviews on Amazon. One previous skeptic wrote, “Yes, this device pulled me out of winter depression. It’s been about a month now and I am reasonably sure it wasn’t placebo effect.”
The Best Mountable Lamp
Create a makeshift sunny window by mounting this lamp on your wall — a welcome substitute when the sky outside is pitch black at 5 p.m. It also has a sleek design, as one reviewer wrote, “The Aura does look like what might happen if the Apple Store and a Star Wars droid had a baby. It’s clean with no hard edges and pristine white with rounded edges.” Others raved about its timer and adjustable light settings.
The Best Floor Lamp
Put this next to your couch, or your bed, so you can lounge in the morning while absorbing light. “Some have complained about the height, but I have found it a perfect height while sitting in a recliner,” one reviewer wrote. The lamp stands four-feet tall, and has a rotating head. One person even uses the lamp in the spring to “sprout seedlings” — a sign this lamp is the next best thing to actual sunlight.
The Most Stylish Lamp
If you’re someone who likes to add aesthetic value to every aspect of your life, this lamp might be the one for you. With silver metal accents on each side, it would look quite good on your desk. Plus, it does what it needs to do: many readers say this lamp changed their lives.
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