Stuck inside? Offset a lack of sunshine with these therapy lamps.
Most people stumble upon light therapy after they've heard about seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, or because they're interested in the role that blue light and electronic glare play in sleep. But many people don't know they're already prescribing to tentpoles of modern light therapy; like drawing oneself to a sunny window to help make yourself more alert, or heading outside to take in your surroundings when you're feeling down. Light therapy is rapidly coming into focus for health professionals as more patients spend time indoors and in front of electronics for work, away from natural light that is meant to guide our routines.
Mariana Figueiro, an architecture professor and director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center, tells Good Housekeeping that a lack of exposure to sunlight can produce varying effects on people in all seasons (even though SAD primarily affects people in the winter). "Light is just like diet and exercise; it's something we need for optimal health," Figueriro explains. "We tend to think that because we can see clearly in a space, we're getting enough light for the biological clock, and in general, we're not." Some may feel less energized or have a hard time focusing without access to sunshine, especially if their sleep routine is being affected. Light therapy, then, is often based on reconfiguring lighting conditions in your home or office, and with the guidance of a healthcare provider over time, the introduction of supercharged lamps and therapy boxes that mimic natural outdoor light. These efforts can help regulate our circadian rhythm, influencing how easily we wake in the morning and how fast we fall asleep at night.
Light therapy may also work to combat depression risk and other conditions, including jet lag. For those suffering from SAD, light therapy efforts have been clinically shown to work to alleviate symptoms, which include anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, or sleep deprivation. At first, you'll work to directly sit near a light therapy lamp or box and incorporate it into your daily routine; when it's time to stop working and get ready for bed, you'll turn it off or adjust it entirely, among other sleep-boosting initiatives.
The first step that experts often recommend is working on the lighting within their home, which is where these products come in. Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist and Director of Engineering in the Good Housekeeping Institute, tested and reviewed some of the best gadgets to help you optimize lighting in your own home. Shop our expert-approved picks and top-selling models below.
Note: Be sure to discuss light therapy options with your doctor if you suspect you suffer from SAD or any mood disorder. There's little risk in trying light therapy devices at home for most people, but those with pre-existing conditions may have adverse reactions to light boxes, which is why it's crucial to discuss it with a care provider first.