SAD and Light Therapy
September 15, 2012 12:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to buy a "light box" to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'd love some recommendations on a good quality unit. Suggestions from those who have tried and tested would be much appreciated!
posted by LivinginYes to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I have the Philips GoLite Blu, which uses blue LEDs to great effect. It has adjustable exposure lengths and lighting levels alongside an alarm and a stand for nightstand and hands free use. It has a long-life rechargeable battery and slipcase so you can take it with you to the office etc.

I picked it up cheap last Christmas during an Amazon flash sale, but now I know how well it works would say it is worth the full RRP. When I got mine, Philips had a 30 day trial offer that allowed you to send the unit to them for a refund if it didn't work for you.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 2:51 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also came in here to suggest the Philips GoLite Blu, which I'm using right now! If I have one gripe with it it's that the battery life is only good for one session or so, but the size, ease of use, and above all effectiveness more than outweigh that one small quibble.
posted by bettafish at 3:14 AM on September 15, 2012

Yup, Phillips GoLite Blu.
posted by Sal and Richard at 5:07 AM on September 15, 2012

I had a Sunbox and was very happy with it.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 5:14 AM on September 15, 2012

I have the Phillips Go Lite blue too, I think- it is a small square shape. That being said, nothing can beat actually spending 30min in actual daylight- I just switched my commute home to force me to walk a certain distance while it's still light out. If that's not an option though, definitely pick up a SAD light. If had the money I would have ordered the type that wakes you up with a 'sunrise' with the alarm attachment.
posted by bquarters at 7:11 AM on September 15, 2012

I used a BlueMax until I started taking 5000ui of Vitamin D and no longer need it. Whichever lamp you pick, try supplementing your light therapy with D-3. Start at lower than 5000, though.
posted by griphus at 7:47 AM on September 15, 2012

The morning alarm clocks that wake you up with light are great - I found it much easier to get out of bed when we weren't relying on the grey light tickling through the window for all our inspiration. BUT, that's not light therapy. You need 30 minutes of at least 5000 lux sometime before noon. That's pretty bright, and most of the alarm-clock style just don't cut it. Not to mention that lux isn't the total lamp output, it's how much hits your face - so a unit that says "10,000 lux" on the box will have a recommendation in the instructions (like "sit with your face 18 inches from the lamp') and if you sit farther away, that's fewer lux. So there are some light boxes that also have a "dawn simulator" alarm feature, but the waking up time can't count for your 30 minutes of bright light, unless you are lying in bed with your eyes open staring at it on your nearby bedside table, instead of dozing. Okay, sorry for that tangent, you weren't looking for an alarm clock anyway.

About light boxes, it's the blue part of the spectrum that is most "biologically active". The GoLiteBlu uses blue LEDs; say its output is N photons per second, all of which are blue (yes, N is astronomically huge, but that's not the point) and they all are blue, and relevant to triggering your body-chemistry cycles. (summary if you're interested) Some other light box uses fluorescent tubes or white LEDs - to have an output of N bio-active blue photons, that light must also generate a similarly huge number of green, yellow, and red photons. That means (a) it uses electricity to make all those not-blue photons, wastes power. (b) it looks a lot brighter to you, which might be pleasant (sitting around under blue light isn't super-pretty) or might be uncomfortable (glare, too bright, etc.). Some people strongly prefer the blue light sources, others prefer the white.

I don't have a personal recommendation. I know a lot about the literature for my job, but I've never bought/tested any of the products.
posted by aimedwander at 7:50 AM on September 15, 2012

My psychiatrist recommended the Day-light Sky. It is in the form of a desk lamp rather than a light box, while it is rather large, I find it to be more practical since I can also use it as a normal lamp to read with.
I've found it has been a great help during the winter months here in Canada, and would readily recommend it. I have mine set up on a timer, as it helps me to wake up.
posted by Harpocrates at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2012

I don't remember what I had but it didn't work.
posted by semacd at 5:38 PM on September 15, 2012

A coworker uses a Verilux Happy Light and loaned it to me for a couple days when I asked about it. I figured I'd leave it on for an hour, but found that I didn't want to turn it off. Now I have my own. It's great, and inexpensive.
posted by homodachi at 6:04 PM on September 15, 2012

Seconding Day-Light Sky. It's a desktop model that has both therapeutic and not-quite therapeutic settings. Not only helped me through a dreary midwest winter, but also boosts my productivity after lunch when I get sleepy - I use it on the lower setting at that time. The quality of the light is so pleasing - I never want to turn it off.
posted by scrambles at 7:25 PM on September 15, 2012

The one that's been used in the most studies is the Day-Light (Classic), a variant on what scrambles and Harpocrates both recommended. We have one at my house and it is great in the dark months. There's a lot of decent info about the Day-Light lamps and about light therapy in general on this site, which is vaguely affiliated with the chronotherapy program at Columbia University:
posted by feets at 8:02 PM on September 15, 2012

I got the Uplift light about a year ago, use it for half an hour every morning during the fall and winter, and it has really helped me. It hasn't eliminated my SAD, but it does lessen it quite a bit and even kept me going through some difficult stressors at my worst times of year (father died in January, lost my job through the betrayal of a friend in February). When I went out of town and was without it for a few days, I could definitely feel the difference.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:46 PM on September 15, 2012

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