Top 10 things to consider when buying a SAD light

by Laura Falls on 14 May 2015

There are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing choosing a SAD light.

1. What is it designed for? Is it designed to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as the winter blues), adjust your sleep pattern, minimise jet lag or cope with shift work? Light therapy is also used to treat skin conditions. Light therapy devices which are designed for skin disorders are different and often emit a lot more ultraviolet (UV) light. Check what the device is designed to treat before purchasing.

2. Is it convenient to use? SAD lights have been around for a long time. In the last few years sleep psychologists have invented portable and wearable light therapy devices. They found that compliance to treatment was low with light therapy boxes and people didn’t want to take an hour out of their day to sit in front of a light therapy box. If the product you purchase isn’t convenient and you won’t use it, then it isn’t going to be effective!

3. What is the size and weight? Size is another important consideration. Will it fit in your carry on luggage when travelling and how much room is it going to take up on the kitchen table or your office desk?

4. What colour is the light? There is a lot research that supports the fact that blue/green light is more effective than white light. White light is made of all of the colours of the rainbow, including colours such as red which are not at all effective. A device with blue or green light (the shorter wavelengths) will be more effective.

5. How bright is it? The colour of light is more important than the brightness however if you are deciding between two SAD lights with white light for example, then choose the one with the highest lux. Lux is a measure of the amount of light you receive at a specific distance from a light source. Therefore, the lux required will vary between products too. If you are looking for a light therapy box that you will sit approximately 1m from and stare at then try and find one with 10,000 lux. If you are looking for a wearable light therapy solution, try and find a device with about 500 lux.

6. Is it UV-free? Ideally you want a device which is 100% UV-free. Whilst most SAD lights are designed to filter out the majority of UV light, there are now some options on the market which are 100% UV-free. A product which is 100% UV-free is going to be safest for your eyes.

7. Is it safe for your eyes? In addition to finding a device which is UV-free there are certain standards for safety. If the device has blue/green light (which research has proven to be more effective) ask the manufacturer if the product has been independently tested for eye safety to the standard CEI IEC 62471 (this is an international standard). Green light is a safe option.

8. What is the eye positioning? Your eyes will need to be open for the session and the light needs to shine directly into the eye. Therefore, a light therapy device you can look directly at or one with the light source below the eye will be best. Some manufacturers will suggest that light above the eye is preferable as this is where the sun shines from however we tend to look down (not up) most of the time (research supports this). With light therapy boxes it is not as controlled as some wearable devices too i.e. the distance and angle change if you are not still looking at the device directly.

9. Is it rechargeable? How do you recharge the product? Can you simply plug it in to a computer or wall socket to recharge or do you need to purchase batteries often? It is also good to ask how long the batteries will last before you need to recharge them.

10. Does it use LEDs? Traditionally, SAD lights have used fluorescent or incandescent lights. Some manufacturers now sell SAD lights with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which are more energy efficient.

To find out more about Re-Timer as a light therapy solution for depression (SAD) watch this shortvideo or check out the Re-Timer specifications. If you have any questions about what is right for you, you can also send us an email any time. We’d love to hear from you.