Best Light Therapy Lamps

I’ve now scientifically tested over 35 of the most popular SAD lamps, and due to popular demand, this article will go over my favorites for different categories.

  • Alert

This list is not final and will change and adapt as more testing is done!

Before we get into the recommendations, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the factors that make a lamp worth buying. So feel free to read on, or skip to the recommendations.

Things to Consider When Buying a SAD Lamp

Lux, circadian light, glare, color temperature, flicker, oh my!

Many things combine to make for a good light therapy lamp, it can be difficult to choose one unless you know what you’re looking for and why.

Let’s go through the most important factors to consider:

Lux

You’ve probably seen a few lamps advertise “10,000 lux!”. This is the most popular measurement when it comes to bright light therapy.

Lux is a simple number representing the lumens per square meter, or essentially the amount of light hitting a surface.

Lumens are a spectrally weighted measurement, specifically tailored to the visual sensitivity of the human eye.

This means it fairly accurately tells us how bright a light source is, but, there’s actually a better measurement we can use when it comes to light therapy lamps…

Circadian Light

Circadian light or CLA for short, is sort of like lux, only it’s spectrally weighted towards the parts of the light spectrum that most affect our circadian biology.

Just like lux, it spits out a simple numerical value, which makes it easy to compare the effectiveness of various lamps to each other.

You can read more about the model here if you’d like, but basically…

The higher the CLA the more a light source will wake you up and align your circadian rhythm.

This is a fairly new metric so no one reports their CLA, but since we measure all of our devices, we have this info!

Glare (Lux/in2)

One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to SAD lamps is how comfortable they are. A super bright light might be effective, but if it’s too uncomfortable to have in your field of view, you probably won’t like using it very much! And while it may technically help with your sleep, you won’t feel all that great while using it.

This is why we measure the light emission area of each lamp we test. This allows us to calculate the lux per square inch, which gives us an idea of how comfortable a light source will be when in use.

glare comparison calculation graph

To give you an example of why this is important let’s compare a flashlight to standing outside on a cloudy day.

The light outside on a cloudy day can approach 20,000 lux, but since the light is so dispersed and ambient, it doesn’t feel even slightly uncomfortable.

Now a flashlight from two feet away might only reach 3,000 lux, but it will feel like staring into the sun if you look at it!

This is why the amount of photons per unit area is important! We ideally want to strike a fine balance between brightness/effectiveness and visual comfort.

The Best SAD Light Therapy Lamps

Without further ado… here are my recommendations for the best SAD lamps!

  1. Best Overall: Carex Day-Light Sky
  2. Most Powerful: Aurora LightPad Max
  3. Most Comfortable: Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar
  4. Best Compact Desk Lamp: Circadian Optics Lampu
  5. Best Floor Lamp: HappyLight Duo Floor
  6. Best Color Rendering: HappyLight Duo Desk
  7. Best Portable: HappyLight Halo
  8. Best for Travel: Circadian Optics Luxy or Aurora LightPad Mini

Best Overall: Carex Day-Light Sky (or Classic)

Both the Carex Day-Light Classic and Sky are excellent all-around picks that emit a bright light that’s also comfortable to be around.

I’ve done a full review of them here if you’re looking for more information but we’ll go over the basics here.

Each of these lights puts out well over 10,000 lux at one foot and due to their large size, they’re also quite comfortable at this range!

They have two brightness settings, high and low, making them super easy to use.

These do both emit some low-frequency invisible flicker if that concerns you at all.

The Sky model is usually my recommendation because it’s a bit more powerful and usually cheaper.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed these. They offer an effective light for a reasonable price.

Carex Day-Light Sky

carex-daylight-sky-sad-light-therapy-lamp

Pros

  • Great light output and comfort for the price
  • More effective and usually cheaper than the Classic
  • Longer power cord range than the Classic due to placement

Cons

  • Has some odd lux fluctuation issues, but you can’t tell during use
  • More glare than the Classic due to its smaller size and higher output
  • Some low-frequency flicker
carex day light sky light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 14,500
  • Circadian Light: 17,800
  • Glare: 180
  • CCT: 4200K
  • Brightness Levels: 2
  • Color Temperatures: 1

Use coupon code OPTIMIZE15 for 15% off

Carex Day-Light Classic

carex-daylight-classic-sad-light-therapy-lamp

Pros

  • Comfortable light source due to its size
  • More comfortable than Sky due to lower Glare

Cons

  • 20% less lux output than the Sky model
  • Power cord location limits range
  • Some low-frequency flicker
carex day light classic light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 12,500
  • Circadian Light: 14,300
  • Glare: 110
  • CCT: 4050K
  • Brightness Levels: 2
  • Color Temperatures: 1

Use coupon code OPTIMIZE15 for 15% off

Most Powerful: Aurora LightPad Max

The Aurora LightPad Max is my pick for the brightest SAD lamp!

If you’re looking for something that’s going to match a fairly sunny day, but is still comfortable enough to use for an extended period, this is the one.

The Max puts out around 31,000 lux at 1 foot with a glare of only 400! That means it’s certainly getting to that uncomfortable range, but many people (including myself) can push it to this number.

Its color temperature of 6500K ensures that there’s plenty of effective blue light in there as well contributing to its high CLA of around 63,000.

If you’d like a more in-depth review of the LightPad Max as well as the other Alaska Northern Light lamps you can read that here.

Aurora LightPad Max

alaska northern lights aurora lightpad max

Pros

  • Most effective lamp overall due to its high light output and large surface area
  • Relatively small so it doesn’t take up much desk space

Cons

  • On the more expensive side
  • It might be a bit too bright for some people
alaska northern lights aurora lightpad max light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 31,000
  • Circadian Light: 62,700
  • Glare: 400
  • CCT: 6550K
  • Brightness Levels: 3
  • Color Temperatures: 1

Most Comfortable: Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar

The NorthStar is a unique lamp because of its massive size. This makes it uniquely comfortable in the realm of SAD lamps. If you’re looking for the most effective and comfortable light therapy lamp, this is hands down the one you want.

This one does use older fluorescent light technology, which emits a warmer color temperate of around 4350K, making it one of the warmer lamps on this list. Some people may prefer that as it is closer to the CCT of morning sunlight.

If you’d like a more in-depth review of the NorthStar as well as the other Alaska Northern Light lamps you can read that here.

Alaska Northern Lights NorthStar

alaska northern lights northstar lamp

Pros

  • Very effective at over 16,000 lux at 1 foot
  • Unparalleled comfort due to its large surface area

Cons

  • Very large and cannot easily be used on a desk at work
  • Fluorescent technology with a high invisible flicker rate
alaska northern lights northstar light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 16,400
  • Circadian Light: 17,900
  • Glare: 75
  • CCT: 4350K
  • Brightness Levels: 1
  • Color Temperatures: 1

Best Compact Desk Lamp: Circadian Optics Lampu

We’ve done a full review of all of Circadian Optics lamps, and the Lampu is one of the standout options from them.

It’s pretty bright for the price, and offers a fairly large illumination area making it comfortable as well.

The color temperature on this guy is also pretty much exactly 5700K making it one of the few lamps that mimic the color of noon sunlight.

Overall the Lampu is a decently priced compact desk SAD lamp that looks nice and performs well.

Circadian Optics Lampu

lampu light therapy lamp product photo

Pros

  • Quite bright for the price
  • Looks nice and fits well on a desk

Cons

  • The angle can’t be adjusted
spectral power distribution graph of circadian optics lampu light therapy lamp
  • Lux: 9,700
  • Circadian Light: 15,500
  • Glare: 235
  • CCT: 5750K
  • Brightness Levels: 3
  • Color Temperatures: 1

Best Floor Lamp: HappyLight Duo Floor

The Duo Floor is my pick for a floor-based light therapy lamp due to its impressive light output and high-quality color rendering.

There are three color temperatures to choose from with this lamp for those of you who like having that option.

This is really great for reading in the morning, board games, or whatever else you may want to illuminate.

HappyLight Duo Floor

verilux happylight duo floor light therapy lamp

Pros

  • Over 10,000 lux at 1 foot makes it quite useful for activities
  • Can be positioned easily for multiple uses

Cons

  • Assembly can be challenging
  • Glare is a bit high for direct FOV use
verilux happylight duo floor light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 11,200
  • Circadian Light: 18,700
  • Glare: 431
  • CCT: 5000K
  • Brightness Levels: 5
  • Color Temperatures: 3

Best Color Rendering: HappyLight Duo Desk

The Duo Desk has a fantastic CRI rating of 94.5 making it a perfect desk SAD lamp for anyone who does color-sensitive work, or if you’re just someone who appreciates a nice high-quality light source.

This light offers 7 total brightness settings, which is pretty unheard of, allowing you to dial in the exact brightness you’re looking for.

And of course, there are the three selectable color temps that are oh so familiar to the HappyLight line-up.

If you’d like to learn more about the various HappyLight options you can read our in-depth review here.

HappyLight Duo Desk

verilux happylight duo desk light therapy lamp

Pros

  • Very high CRI LEDs make for very realistic light
  • Great for color-sensitive desk work
  • Has a USB output for charging devices

Cons

  • A bit large for some desk setups
verilux happylight duo desk light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 4,500
  • Circadian Light: 6,700
  • Glare: 230
  • CCT: 5550K
  • Brightness Levels: 7
  • Color Temperatures: 3

Best Portable: HappyLight Halo

The HappyLight Halo from Verilux is one of the most unique SAD lamps out there, simply because it’s battery-powered and portable.

This means you can use the Halo at your desk, bring it with you to the kitchen nook for a read, or over to the kitchen sink to wash some dishes.

One of the cons to most SAD lamps is you have to stay right where they are for them to work, but this one can come with you! Even to the bathroom…

HappyLight Halo

verilux-happylight-halo-light-therapy-lamp

Pros

  • Very high CRI LEDs make for comfortable realistic light
  • Has a USB output for charging devices

Cons

  • A bit large for some desk setups
verilux happylight halo light therapy lamp spectral power distirbution graph
  • Lux: 4,600
  • Circadian Light: 6,100
  • Glare: 100
  • CCT: 5150K
  • Brightness Levels: 4
  • Color Temperatures: 3

Best for Travel: Circadian Optics Luxy or Aurora LightPad Mini

If you need a light to travel with, I have two recommendations:

The first is a budget-friendly light from Circadian Optics called the Luxy. It’s tiny, but powerful, and can be powered from a USB port, making it extremely versatile.

Circadian Optics Luxy

luxy light therapy lamp product photo

Pros

  • Power anywhere with USB
  • Portable and easy to travel with
  • Extremely bright for the money

Cons

  • May be uncomfortable due to its small size and high lux output
spectral power distribution graph of circadian optics luxy light therapy lamp
  • Lux: 3,300
  • Circadian Light: 4,900
  • Glare: 450
  • CCT: 6100K
  • Brightness Levels: 3
  • Color Temperatures: 1

If you’re looking for something way more effective, but still quite portable, I’d recommend the LightPad Mini.

Warning: This thing is astoundingly bright, putting out just over 42,000 lux at 1 foot, and is quite compact measuring in at just 5×7 inches.

If you’d like a more in-depth review of the LightPad Mini as well as the other Alaska Northern Light lamps you can read that here.

Aurora LightPad Mini

alaska northern lights aurora lightpad mini sad lamp

Pros

  • Very high lux if you can stand the intense glare
  • Works well at great distances
  • Extremely bright for the money

Cons

  • Very very bright
  • Not very visually comfortable to use
alaska northern lights aurora lightpad mini light therapy lamp spectral power distribution graph
  • Lux: 42,400
  • Circadian Light: 86,600
  • Glare: 1,750
  • CCT: 6400K
  • Brightness Levels: 3
  • Color Temperatures: 1

That’s about it! Stay tuned as we test more lamps.

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