How to buy a SAD light Buying a SAD light
Once you've decided to buy a SAD light, you'll need to be able to choose the right one for you and your lifestyle.
But with high street prices ranging from around £50 to £250, you'll need to decide on the key features - including essential and nice-to-have features.
How to use a SAD light
Light is measured in 'lux'. To work, a light box should emit light of at least 2,500 lux, although most light boxes are now 10,000 lux.
The brighter the light, the shorter the time needed for exposure to it.
You sit about 0.5m away from a lamp with a brighter lux for about half an hour a day with your eyes open. You can knit or work, for example, while regularly looking at the light.
There's no conclusive evidence of the best time of day to use a SAD lamp, and although early morning is often recommended, the optimum time for use varies from person to person.
The additional light encourages your brain to reduce the production of melatonin - the hormone that makes you sleepy - so using it in the evening could shift your body clock and adversely affect your sleep pattern.
Buying the right SAD lamp for you
- Medically registered: Make sure the SAD light you choose is a medical device registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
- No VAT: If you buy a SAD lamp - a medical device - for your personal use because of chronic illness or disability you shouldn't need to pay VAT. The retailer may require you to complete a written declaration to confirm this.
- Check the lux: Make sure the SAD light emits light of at least 2,500 lux and preferably 10,000 lux. The brighter the light, the shorter the time needed for exposure, although you will have to find the right time for you. The manufacturer should provide details of the LUX intensity and the optimum distance for use.
- Independent verification: The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) says to check for evidence that the lux has been independently verified.
- Cheaper lights: It may be tempting to buy a cheaper SAD lamp that requires sitting in front of the light for longer, but will you really keep up the regime?
- Varying intensity: Some SAD lamps have a facility to vary the intensity of the light but you can do this yourself to some extent by moving the light nearer or further away. Some would argue that using the maximum setting generally makes sense anyway.
Where to buy SAD lamps
- Try it at home: Some manufacturers allow you to try a SAD light for up to a month before you buy.
- Replacing the bulbs: Factor in how long bulbs last for and the cost of replacements. SADA recommends replacing the bulbs every three years.
- On the high street: We found that SAD lamps were on sale on the high street by retailers including Boots, Argos, John Lewis and Maplin. High street shops sell brands including Lumie, Rio, Philips, Redstone, Lifemax, Lite Pod and Diamond.
- Online: Online retailers include Amazon, Sadbox.co.uk, sad.uk.com and sad.org.uk. There's a wider range available online and it's worth checking out manufacturers' own websites as prices can be competitive
Tips for using your SAD lamp
- Suiting your lifestyle: Get the light that's right for your lifestyle. If you travel a lot you may value a portable model with an international adaptor plug, or you may want something that will sit discretely on your desk at work.
- When to use it: It's good to start using a SAD lamp before your seasonal symptoms begin if you can.
- Use it correctly: The light needs to fall on both eyes so positioning is important.
- Extra features: If you're forgetful, you may want a model with a clock and alarm that sounds to remind you to use your light box, and to let you know when the time is up. But you could just put a reminder on your mobile phone and use a watch to keep track of when to end your session.