SAD lamp purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Daylight lamps simulate the brightness and colour temperature of sunlight. Regular use brings our biorhythm back into balance.
  • Light therapy is used, among other things, for winter depression, sleep disorders, migraines and skin problems.
  • In addition to table lamps, there are also floor models and versions for the ceiling.
  • For the feel-good factor, a daylight lamp should have at least 2,000 lux, for therapeutic purposes up to 10,000 lux.
  • A colour temperature between 5,300 and 6,500 Kelvin is particularly close to natural daylight.
  • For the success of the therapy it is important to keep the required minimum distance and not to exceed the maximum application time.

Recharge your batteries with a daylight lamp

A bright, sunny day has an invigorating effect on body and mind. However, the German winter is not only cold, but also dark. Most people prefer to hole up inside their own four walls during the gloomy season. In addition, the majority of working people spend most of their time in offices – far away from daylight. They often go to work in the dark in the morning and return home in the dark in the evening. Thus, many find it difficult to expose their bodies to the necessary dose of sunlight, especially in winter.

The prolonged darkness not only hits us on the mind, but also has devastating effects on our organism. After all, we have been used to the sun and life in the fresh air for thousands of years. In addition to our biorhythms, sunlight also affects our hormonal balance. The consequences of a lack of light range from tiredness, listlessness, concentration problems and headaches to sleep disorders and sometimes even winter depression.

Between light and shadow: our biorhythm

When the days become shorter and the hours of sunshine fewer, many people feel listless, lacking in motivation and downright exhausted. A lack of light means that the body does not produce enough of the happiness hormone serotonin. Instead, it produces more melatonin, which is also known as the sleep hormone. Melatonin and serotonin are, in a way, the yin and yang of hormones that control our inner clock. Normally, a balance ensures that we get tired when it is dark and wake up when it is light. However, prolonged darkness literally puts us into hibernation and our body switches to energy-saving mode.

The remedy is a daylight lamp. It is known by many different names: Daylight lamp, sunlight lamp, light therapy lamp, daylight lamp and light shower. It stimulates the body to release more serotonin and produce less melatonin. In this way, it brings the biological clock back into sync. We are more concentrated, more motivated at work and sleep better – in other words, we feel better all round. Thus, daylight lamps not only brighten up living rooms and workplaces, but also our minds.

woman sits befor lamp drinking tea

What exactly is a daylight lamp?

Light consists of a broad spectrum of colours, as exemplified by a rainbow. The totality of wavelengths is called the spectral composition. A daylight lamp simulates sunlight. More precisely, it is an artificial light whose properties are similar to daylight. For this purpose, a special light source is used that produces a different spectrum than normal lamps.

Daylight lamps are generally considered to be lamps that produce light with a colour temperature of at least 5,000 Kelvin and a luminous intensity of at least 2,000 lux – a very white light that does not necessarily contain all the colours of sunlight. A spectral filter in the daylight lamp lets only certain wavelengths of light through. As a result, it selectively produces light colours that are closest to natural light in their entirety. Harmful radiation such as short-wave UV and infrared rays are filtered out.

Full spectrum lamps – so close to the sun

Full spectrum lamps are a special form of daylight lamps. Unlike most lamps, they emit a spectrum that is very close to actual sunlight. However, a daylight lamp is not automatically a full-spectrum lamp.

Areas of application of light therapy

The uses of a daylight lamp are extensive. They range from the private to the professional to the medical field. This is commonly referred to as light therapy. The invigorating light units can be easily integrated into the daily rhythm – be it while eating breakfast, cooking, reading, watching TV or working. Regular use has the following effects:

  • Increase in performance
  • Prevention of premature fatigue and listlessness
  • Improving the ability to remember and concentrate
  • Promotion of inner balance
  • Increase of visual perception
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Relief from skin diseases
  • Alleviation of headaches and migraines
  • Attenuation of seasonal depressive moods
  • Overcoming jet lag
daylight lamp application area
Daylight lamps offer help against winter depression, sleep disorders, headaches and skin problems.

Against winter depression

Many people suffer from so-called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called winter depression, during the dark season. The symptoms range from tiredness to melancholy to serious mood swings. A common form of therapy is light therapy: as soon as those affected use a daylight lamp at their workplace or in their own four walls, a positive effect sets in. As a rule, daylight lamps help in the same way as psychotropic drugs, work more quickly and do not have any serious side effects. Although they do have a mood-lifting effect on mild to moderate depression, light therapy is not sufficient for severe cases.

Against tiredness and sleep disorders

Our biorhythm determines how we fall asleep, sleep through the night and wake up. If you find it difficult to open your eyes and get up in the morning, there may be several reasons for this. Sleep disorders occur mainly during shift work in connection with a lack of daylight. The sleep deficit brings with it symptoms such as tiredness, lack of concentration, loss of performance and even physical complaints. A daylight lamp helps to counteract sleep disorders. The high light intensities set the inner clock back and forth, so to speak – depending on the time of day – and have a correspondingly positive effect on the sleep-wake rhythm.

Against migraine and headache

Anyone who suffers from headaches or migraines would prefer to withdraw into a quiet, dark room and wait until the pain subsides. Sometimes a serotonin deficiency is responsible for this. Even if it sounds contradictory at first: By using a daylight lamp as a preventive measure, you can reduce migraine attacks in the long term. The reason for this is an increased serotonin production.

Against skin problems

Our hormone balance has an influence on the appearance of our skin. Accordingly, a disturbed hormone balance can be the cause of skin diseases such as psoriasis or acne. Higher amounts of daylight inhibit the growth of acne bacteria. By mimicking this effect and regulating the hormone balance at the same time, daylight lamps alleviate skin problems – without chemical additives or side effects.

Other uses

Daylight lamps are not only useful in one’s own four walls or in offices, but are also used, among other things, in photography, botany and animal husbandry. Gardeners, for example, use a daylight lamp to ensure that their plants get enough light even in the dark season to stimulate photosynthesis and thus growth. Pets also appreciate more light, be they fish, reptiles, rabbits, cats or birds.

In photography, daylight lamps ensure that photographs taken in the dark or indoors still look as if they were taken in natural daylight. They allow a similar brightness as a flash, with the difference that it lasts longer. This makes the pictures sharp, the colours realistic and avoids unwelcome effects such as red eyes. For make-up, daylight lamps have a similar advantage: they present the make-up as it appears in natural light. In airlines, the light showers are also often used to combat jet lag.

What matters when buying

When buying a daylight lamp, there are several factors to consider. First of all, it is important to decide on a type of lamp. Then it is a matter of choosing the right light source, the light intensity and the colour temperature. Dimmability is also a welcome feature. Last but not least, the price plays a role in the purchase decision.

Wide awake everywhere: the right daylight lamp for every room

Daylight lamps are available in different versions: as floor lamps, table lamps and ceiling lamps. With a floor lamp and table lamp, you are basically more flexible in terms of placement. In contrast, a ceiling lamp is permanently installed. Before you decide, you should consider the purpose for which you want to use the lamp: Is it to be used primarily for light therapy? Do you need the lamp for the living or working area?

Floor lamp
floor lamp

A daylight floor lamp is ideal for handicraft work. However, it provides optimal light not only for working but also for putting on make-up. In the evening, it illuminates the dark reading corner with its pleasant brightness. It is also used from time to time in offices and bathrooms. The floor models are quite heavy and large; accordingly, they take up a lot of space.

Table lamp
table lamp

The small desk lamps are not only used for light therapy, but also for more concentrated work. Especially in the office or home office, the desk lamps pay off. There, they provide soothing illumination and the necessary motivation boost. The mobile lamps can also be placed on the bedside table, the side table or the dressing table to combat tired eyes while reading.

Ceiling lamp
ceiling lamp

A ceiling lamp distributes daylight throughout the room so that you benefit from the positive effect all day long. It provides natural light for everyday life and ensures that you wake up in the morning. Pets and plants also benefit from this. Ideally, the ceiling lamp can be dimmed via a remote control or app.

Fiat Lux: Illuminant and luminous intensity

Daylight lamps have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Although most models are operated with special fluorescent tubes, there are also devices with LED lamps. The latter have the advantage of a particularly long service life, which makes replacement almost unnecessary. While a typical 60-watt light bulb lasts only about 1,000 hours and a fluorescent tube about 8,000 hours, an LED lamp lasts 10,000 to 30,000 hours. Quality is of primary importance: the light source should not be too bright. The reason for this is often irregular brightness pressure, which you perceive as flickering. This is not only unpleasant for the eyes, but can also result in headaches.

Ultimately, the most important factor is brightness. The unit lux indicates how much light from a certain light source reaches a specified area (lumens per square metre). For successful light therapy, the daylight lamp needs a light intensity of at least 2,000 lux. In the case of medical devices used for winter depression, for example, the light intensity is up to 10,000 lux. To give you an idea of the brightness values, the following list provides a comparison between different, common lux ranges:

  • Lighting in living rooms: 100 to 300 lux
  • Well-lit office: 500 lux
  • Overcast sky on a winter day: 6,000 lux
  • Light intensity at the equator: 8,000 lux
  • Typical summer day in our latitudes: 100,000 lux

The less lux a daylight lamp has, the longer a positive effect will take. How much lux your daylight lamp should have also depends on how far away you sit from it: If it is at a short distance from you, a low number of lux is quite sufficient. If, on the other hand, you sit at a greater distance from the lamp, it should have a higher lux value. In principle, the angle of incidence and the distance to the illuminated surface are also needed to calculate the illuminance.

Lux, Lumen – Lumos!

The unit lux is not to be confused with lumen. The latter refers to the light output. This refers to the luminous flux that the lamp emits on all sides. In the living area, lamps with 300 to 500 lumens are ideal because they are not so glaring.

Comfortably warm to heavenly bright: the colour temperature

The colour temperature indicates which colour components the light has; it is measured in Kelvin. In our latitudes, the average daylight value during midday hours is 5,300 to 6,500 Kelvin. Daylight lamps that are roughly oriented to this value thus produce a relatively natural light. Their normal white to cool white light covers the full colour spectrum. Normal white light has a low blue component and is somewhat more pleasant to the eyes than cool white light. The latter is very strong, has a high blue component and works faster, but some people find it unpleasantly bright. It is ideal for concentrated work, for example.

What does it do? It glows blue.

But blue light can do so much more: with this pick-me-up, as little as 200 lux is enough to produce a similar effect as a 10,000 lux bright lamp with white light.

Blue light has a particularly high, red light a particularly low colour temperature. While blue or blue-white light increases concentration and attention, yellow or warm white (energy-saving) lamps create a cosy atmosphere. Lamps with a colour temperature of 3,300 to 5,300 Kelvin are used in many salesrooms, schools or offices, for example.

The following table provides a brief overview of common Kelvin values:

  • Warm white comfort: 2,700 Kelvin
  • Warm white: 3,000 Kelvin
  • White: 3,500 Kelvin
  • Normal white: 4,000 Kelvin
  • Daylight: 5,000 Kelvin
  • Cool daylight: 6,500 Kelvin
  • Sky white: 8,000 Kelvin

The colour temperature is therefore particularly important if you also use your daylight lamp in the evening for reading or working. Although you perceive the differences with your eye, ultimately the different colour temperatures also create a mood. While warmer light is suitable for cosy or romantic occasions, brighter lamps are suitable for lighting workplaces and kitchens.

Variable illumination: With dimmer and adjustable inclination

Brightness and colour temperature control, also known as dimmability, is not only useful for ceiling luminaires but also for daylight lamps for the table. With a dimmer, users can always adjust the colour temperature to the current lighting conditions. If there is still some daylight coming through their windows, they can turn down the brightness of the lamp a little. Besides, everyone has different needs when it comes to brightness. So tired eyes are a thing of the past. Control is either via a control element directly on the device or via remote control or app.

An adjustable tilt angle is more or less worthwhile depending on the application of the daylight lamp. This function is always practical to adapt the lamp to individual needs. This way, you can use the device in different places without fear of being blinded.

How expensive are daylight lamps?

The price of a daylight lamp depends on the design and material as well as the range of functions of the device. Ordinary daylight lamps below 10,000 lux are already available for less than 40 euros. For models with basic functions and 10,000 lux, you pay 40 to 70 euros. Daylight lamps with more functions cost 70 to 300 euros. So if you are looking for a high-quality product, you have to dig deeper into your pockets.

Important notes on application

Usually, there is an indication on the daylight lamp whether it is a medical product. Since certified devices have to fulfil various criteria, they are in principle more promising. Of course, you can also buy a lamp without certification and use it for light therapy. The following sections explain what you need to pay attention to.

Tips on duration and spacing

The duration of application is basically dependent on the light intensity, i.e. the higher the lux value, the shorter the treatment. While a daily application of two hours is a good guideline for a lamp with 2,500 lux, you should not use devices with more than 2,500 lux for more than one hour a day. For models with up to 10,000 lux, half an hour is already enough to benefit from the positive effects. For most users, the morning is the best time for light therapy, in order to directly fill up on energy and wake up faster. If used in the evening, the sleep cycle may be disturbed. However, it is important that you adapt the light therapy to your own daily rhythm.

Sit about half a metre away from the lampshade and keep your eyes slightly open during the treatment. You do not have to look permanently into the lamp, but at least turn towards it from time to time to increase the effect. After all, the light is absorbed directly through the eyes during this type of therapy. If it is particularly bright, it even shines through the closed eyelids. With increasing distance, the light intensity decreases; accordingly, the sessions last longer. In any case, keep to the distance specified by the manufacturer. The positioning of the lamp also depends on the lighting conditions in your living rooms.

daylight lamp duration and distance
The use of a daylight lamp: A) Keep to the duration, B) Keep to the rhythm, C) Keep to the distance.

Do side effects occur with light therapy?

As a rule, you do not have to fear any side effects when using a light shower. At the beginning of the light therapy, slight discomfort such as headaches, burning eyes or reddening of the skin may occur. However, these symptoms can usually be stopped by making small changes. For example, try shortening the session time, increasing the distance to the lamp or additionally running a humidifier. Compared to taking antidepressants, the use of a daylight lamp still has few side effects.

Caution is advised when taking herbal antidepressants such as St. John’s wort. The active substances lead to a hypersensitivity to light, which can cause reddening of the skin. In the case of sleep disorders and depression, you should always talk to a doctor in advance about the sense of light therapy. It is also advisable to consult an ophthalmologist in advance if you have any pre-existing eye conditions.

Does a daylight lamp activate vitamin D production?

Since a daylight lamp works entirely without harmful UVB rays, light therapy causes neither sunburn nor premature skin ageing. Although it can largely compensate for the lack of sunlight, it does not have any effect on the vitamin D level. Only in real sunlight does the body produce vitamin D, which is essential for bones and muscles, among other things. Even a daylight lamp cannot replace going out in the sun. So go out into the fresh air in daylight. When you then return to your own four walls, the daylight lamp helps to maintain the feeling of happiness caused by the sun.

Known manufacturers

Beurer, Medisana, Philips, Klarstein, Taotronics