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With winter on the horizon and daylight savings coming to an end this Sunday, November 6, those of us who find the sun setting before 5 p.m. depressing AF are probably bracing ourselves for the weekend. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or just tend to get a case of the blues when we set the clocks back an hour in the fall, there are a few ways to help re-create the natural light we’re robbed of during the fall and winter months. Some of the best SAD light therapy lights come in both light bulbs and lamps and effectively simulate the appearance (and the mood-boosting effects) of natural daylight—even when it’s pitch black outside.
In fact, even if you don’t find the early onset of dusk to be unapologetically somber, you may benefit from a light therapy device if you live in a home or apartment with little natural lighting or a lack of windows altogether. For instance, even when I used to live in Southern California—and was therefore blessed with never having to experience seasons altogether—the melancholy end of daylight savings brought on the blues for me each year since I can remember—even when I was as young as ten years old.
Every year come late August I begin to notice the subtle nuances in the light. Each week following the end of the month we get less and less daylight until it disappears altogether come 4:30 p.m. come November. But, hey, if you’re super sensitive to subtle shifts in light, I’ll bet you also notice the difference between summer and winter light even early on in the day too.
Despite my lifelong dread of turning out clocks back an hour every dreaded November, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered SAD light therapy devices. I moved into a ground-floor apartment that was flanked by a sky-rise with a little less than seemingly a few feet between our building—my neighbors were literally an arm’s reach away.
Unsurprisingly, the constant darkness started to affect me negatively—even before summer came to end. I had trouble waking up on time every single morning, and I never really knew what the weather was until I left my studio apartment (and during 2020 wasn’t all that much) so I knew I had to do something about the constant darkness I was living in (literally ~and~ figuratively).
I invested in both light therapy bulbs and plug-in light therapy lamps, which come in a variety of different hues ranging in gradients of brightness and level of warmth. They certainly weren’t a replacement for natural light by any means, but, in conjunction with weekly talk therapy sessions and a low dose of SSRI antidepressant meds, they did help boost my mood significantly. Within a month, I felt like my circadian rhythm was somewhat back on track, and I no longer had to rely on my boyfriend at the time for daily wake-up calls (despite having at least ten alarms set for each day)—and, trust me, at 30 years old, this was quite an embarrassing request.
Admittedly, after two years in that dungeon of an apartment that I reluctantly called home, I did end up leaving the studio for a brighter unit in a new building on the fourth floor—a decision that improved my overall mental health more than I could have ever imagined. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be busting out my go-to SAD light therapy devices come Sunday evening. If you’re also prone to the autumnal blues, scroll through below to check out some of my personal favorite light therapy devices, and, as always, if you’re seasonal depression begins to impact your life significantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Verlilux HappyLight Luxe Light Therapy Device
Verilux's compact HappyLight Luxe is a UV-free full-spectrum lightbox, capable of serving 10,000 lux for optimum results. It's also designed with customizable settings, including adjustable brightness levels and three temperature options. I personally love the warm option because it recreates summer golden hour light—my favorite.
Loftie Sunrise Lamp
Down from $275
This dawn-simulating lamp functions as your own “personal sunrise,” which not only makes it easier to get up when it’s dark but also helps regulate our circadian rhythm. This sunrise lamp also allows you to change the color of your device according to your mood.
NorbSMILE "Sun-Like" Full-Spectrum Light Bulbs
While they're not portable, I do highly suggest switching to these "sun-like" LED bulbs for 24/7 (or whenever you have your lights turned on) light therapy benefits. These are an affordable alternative to traditional bulbs, and they really do make a difference.
Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamp
This non-intrusive mood lamp is engineered with 10,000 lux of brightness and features three brightness levels so you can adjust according to your setting. The lightweight and compact build also makes it great for traveling with—I brought it home for me during the holidays one year, and I do think it helped.
Sunrise Sensations Day Bright Light Therapy Lamp
I'm not going to lie, while they do tend to be small and easy to hide, most light therapy lamps are kind of an eyesore, but not this one. The geometric design makes this device look like a piece of home decor, but it works just as well as the less chic options on the market.
Northern Light Technologies Light Therapy Floor Lamp
If you're looking for a full-size floor lamp, Northern Technologies' full-spectrum model is a great, home decor-friendly option that won't clash with your existing furniture. It's about four feet tall, so it makes a great "reading" or bedside lamp that delivers mood-boosting superpowers—not just extra light.
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