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Sun lamps, sometimes referred to as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lamps, emit light to recreate the positive effects of sunlight indoors.
What is a sun/SAD lamp?
The key difference between a sun lamp and an ordinary lamp is the intensity with which they give out light. Whereas a regular 40W bulb delivers light at about 440-460 lumens, an industry-standard sun lamp produces a dazzling 10,000 lumens at close distances, which is far closer to the stellar volumes of light we can get from the sun on a bright day.
How does a SAD lamp help?
Being exposed to bright light has a number of scientifically proven benefits. The light can improve the body’s regulation of melatonin, a hormone involved in our sleep cycles, and also of the mood-regulating hormone, serotonin.
Light therapy with sun lamps has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD – those whose body chemistry is disproportionately affected by winter.
We tested six sun lamps of various types, to see if these devices really could lift our spirits during the darker months.
We’ve included a wide variety of options, ranging from SAD lamps intended for therapeutic use, to less intensive products such as a sunrise alarm that emits a mellow glow as you wake. Each product featured here has been tested and approved by our review team.
Please bear in mind that if you intend to use a sun lamp therapeutically, you should do so in accordance with the advice of a medical practitioner.
Big, bright and packed with features, the Beurer TL100 Brightlight is our favourite sun lamp on the market.
As a therapy light, the TL100 performs brilliantly. You can use + and - buttons to set the brightness just to your liking, and even at milder settings the lamp can have an uplifting effect. In our testing, we found that sitting in front of the lamp proved a very pleasant and refreshing experience, whether the session lasted a few minutes or a few hours.
It’s medically certified in the treatment of SAD, and can be controlled via your phone.
Another feather in the TL100’s cap is that it can be used as a mood light, cycling through 256 colours, or pausing on the tone you like best to light your entire room.
If you’re looking to invest in a really top-notch sun lamp, this would be our top choice.
The Lumie Vitamin L is the ideal light therapy lamp to use on a desk or tabletop while you go about your day.
With a fixed brightness of 10,000 lumens at a distance of 20cm, the lamp is powerful enough to improve the user’s mood and energy levels in the space of half an hour. We certainly felt refreshed after using it while working on this article.
There’s a lot to love about the Vitamin L, besides its excellent SAD-busting performance. As an appliance, it has a lovely, matte finish that gives it a pleasingly premium feel.
One slight downside is that the lamp’s stand is not adjustable, but on the plus side, the Vitamin L’s neat shape and size make it easy to move to your requirements regardless.
For many in the UK’s northerly latitudes, one of the worst things about winter is that you can’t rise with the sun, unless you’re having a serious lie-in.
The Lumie Sunrise Alarm goes some way towards lifting this seasonal shadow, by emitting a dawn-like glow at your chosen wakeup time. The alarm also plays the soothing sound of your choice to wake you up, with options including a cat’s purr, the ribbeting of an army of tree frogs, and, erm, some goats.
Buyers should note that the Lumie Sunrise Alarm isn’t designed for light therapy in the same way as the likes of the Lumie Vitamin L and the Beurer TL30 and TL100. What this lamp can do is help ensure you start the day on a bright note.
This compact, tablet-like sun lamp from Beurer offers exceptional brightness in a handy, desk-friendly package.
The lamp itself is simple and effective – the only control is an on/off switch to activate its 10,000-lumen light. One novel feature you do get with the TL30 is a soft carry sleeve, which will come in handy for users who plan on taking the lamp to work or on their travels.
Our only minor criticism of the TL30 is that the stand provided with the lamp doesn’t give much flexibility to direct the light the way you want it to go. Nevertheless, we were always able (with a bit of trial and error) to get the TL30 positioned suitably to deliver its wonderful, bright light.
Okay, hear us out. This may not look like a sun lamp, but it truly is one – it just so happens to have a beer cooler attached.
Swedish brewery Norrlands Guld has launched this charmingly eccentric product as a limited edition for winter 2021, to shine a little cheer into people’s lives. It’s a 45L, Ultratherm-insulated beer cooler, with a light therapy lamp that attaches magnetically to the underside of the lid.
We are told the brightness of the lamp is set to the brightness of the Sun, as measured in Sweden on the Summer Solstice. The light certainly provides a lovely glow, although it seems not to be quite so bright as some of the more straightforward light therapy lamps we’ve tested.
The Norrland Ljus Beer Cooler With Light wouldn’t necessarily be our recommendation for people seeking a sun lamp for serious therapeutic purposes. However, if you’re looking for something that will bring a merry glow, this could be just the gadget you need.
Let us return now, a little forelornly, to sun lamps that don’t come as part of a beer cooler.
The LifeLight SAD Therapy Lamp is a hemispherical, techy-looking gadget that’ll make a bit of an interior design statement while it lights up your space.
We appreciated the LifeLight’s brightness settings, which enabled us to use it either for intensive light-bathing sessions, or as a mellower desk light, as we saw fit. The lamp also has four timer settings, which could prove really helpful to users who are aiming to give themselves a set amount of bright light exposure on a regular basis.
It's a solid, reliable piece of kit.