Oh, Daylight Savings. The time that non-parents cheer for that extra hour of sleep. As for me, I kind of dread the shorter daylight hours knowing that Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to hit me hard. I get tired, cranky (sorry, colleagues), crave carbs up the whazoo, and have trouble staying up much past the kids do.
So, after much begging from friends for me to try the benefits of light therapy lamps, I recently spent more hours than you can imagine searching websites, cross-checking reviews, and finally nailing down the one light therapy lamp that seemed like it could help me over the long series of winter months: The Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000x Natural Spectrum Energy Lamp. ($99 at our affiliate Amazon.)
Here’s how I came to choose this one (odd photos of people in white jumping around on some tropical beach not withstanding) and what I’m liking about it.
And hey, if you find these days you can’t make it up much past the kids’ dinner — at oh, say 5:30 PM — or you realize you’re more snippy or distracted or carb-crazy than normal, I hope my experience will be helpful for you.
What to look for in a light therapy lamp
Here are the features I thought the Verliux HappyLight had going for it that I was specifically looking for:
-A 10,000 LUX output, which is the effective level recommended for the best results in treating winter blues, in pretty much all the research I read.
-White light wavelengths as opposed to blue light; white light has more research behind it. (However it does contain some blue light.)
-A few settings that let me limit output from 2,500 to 5,000 LUX so I could work my way up to maximum brightness gradually.
-A UV light filter with is an absolute must. If yours doesn’t have one, deal-killer.
-A fairly broad field of projection so I don’t have to be 6-inches from the lamp.
-Not too many buttons or switches or gizmos because, well, I’m already tired!
The light therapy box I didn’t buy
I did consider lots and lots of other options, including some popular blue light lamps (which I automatically nixed). Then I spent some time investigating the #1 selling Amazon option, the NatureBright Suntouch Plus Light. The slightly lower price was appealing, but in the end, the blue light output was a negative for me; and I admit I was greatly dissuaded by this very technical customer review that described undisclosed ozone output (eek) from the ionizer, some non-FDA approved claims “more effective than Prozac?”), along with other customer reports of nausea and headaches. So…no.
There are lots of positive reviews of this product but lots of really negative ones too that go beyond, “it didn’t work.” Enough to make me keep looking.
Good lesson: The #1 best seller may not always be the #1 best product.
Backup choice #2: The Lightphoria Light Therapy Lamp by Sphere Gadget Technologies.
I also looked closely at the Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria Lamp (above) which actually has some great features, is made for travel, and includes a timer, if that’s important to you. I like the size and the price is right. It could be a fantastic product, so I’d look into it as well. But I admit that in the end, I just had more confidence with comfortable with the reputation of Verilux, and that definitely tipped my hand.
Ah, the power of branding.
Whatever you go for though, my feeling is, if you’ve got serious issues with Seasonal Affective Disorder, don’t let a $25 price difference among your top choices sway you. Go with the best possible lamp you can afford. Because saving $25 on something you’ll never use in the end comes out to wasting $75.
So, do light therapy lamps work?
As for the effectiveness of my Verliux HappyLight, so far I’m pretty impressed! For two weeks now, I’ve used it about a half hour to 45 minutes in the morning right after I wake up, when I’m online checking emails — you want to position it in front of you off to an angle to help stimulate all the rods and cones in your eyes. I then may use it again for another 30 minutes in the afternoon at work, when I’m hitting a wall.
Major vanilla latte joneses or cupcake cravings out of nowhere tend to be a good indicator for me that I could use a little light bump.
Despite starting out a big skeptic about this stuff, I can say in all honestly I’m feeling a discernible difference in my energy and sleep patterns. I mean, I’m not a scientist and I haven’t weaned off coffee so it’s not like I can give you definitive research to support my feeling. (Nor do I know if there’s any placebo effect at play.) But I do feel more alert with kind of a natural “buzz” that I like right after using it. And I really see the difference when I get that second afternoon session in, both in terms of my mood, more consistent energy levels, and the ability to actually stay up to a normal adult hour.
In fact there were two days that I missed using the HappyLight and while there could have been other factors involved, those feelings of fatigue came right back.No guarantee the HappyLight will make you as happy as the models on the Verilux site, but worth a shot.
There aren’t really many downsides from what I can tell so far. I would love a slightly smaller footprint for using it on my over-cluttered night table, but it is still lightweight enough to take it easily to the kitchen or at the dining room table. A timer would be a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have, so I don’t really miss it. There’s also a wall mount that I don’t see using, so — extra piece of plastic for the recycling bin.
But I can safely say my new light therapy lamp will be a permanent fixture in my life at least until April, so money well spent.
Sigh, will it ever be April?
You can purchase the Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000x Natural Spectrum Energy Lamp at our affiliate Amazon or retailers near you. And find more info at the Verilux site.
Other links worth checking out for more info about light therapy: