10 Tips for buying SAD lights

If you have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder and given light therapy as part of your treatment, you will need to find a SAD therapy light box that best suits your needs.  To help with this we have 10 Tips for buying SAD Lights.

Ensure the SAD Light is medically certified

Any reputable and proven SAD light will have been certified and registered by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).  This ensures that the SAD light box will work and is safe to use to current standards.  This will be indicated with a CE mark which should be listed on the product listing on the website you buy from and the device and box it comes in.

How long do you have for a SAD light therapy treatment?

Depending on how busy your lifestyle is you may need to choose your SAD light based on how quickly a treatment takes.  SAD lights typically have the light therapy treatment times listed on retailer and manufacturer websites, and on the units themselves.  The amount of Lux is an indicator of how long the treatment may be.  The minimum is 2,500 lux for any light therapy treatment and typically will take longer than say 10,000 lux which many LED SAD lights emit, and can reduce the time down from 2 hours to 15-20 minutes.  The effective distance to place the SAD light for treatment times will also vary depending on the lux emitted as well.

Is that the time?

Further to how much time you may have for a Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy treatment, if you lead a busy lifestyle and need to use a SAD light while doing other tasks, then finding a unit with a timer may be preferable.  Some SAD light boxes will even turn themselves off after the set treatment time.

Where will you have your SAD light therapy treatment?

During the morning up to early afternoon is the time when you should have a SAD light therapy treatment.  Any later than this and you will end up staying awake longer throughout the evening.  Of course depending on where you are at those times can determine the best SAD light for you to buy.  A varied range of SAD light box styles and sizes are available with both larger free-standing units, smaller portable models and even some are designed like desk lamps or hand-held lights to fit in with the workplace, or even for ease of carry if you travel.  Some of the smaller SAD lights come with rechargeable batteries, making them ideal if you are on the move or away from a mains power source.  There are even SAD light glasses if you need a treatment while undertaking light activities.

Bulbs or LEDs

Choosing between a traditional SAD Bulb light or the more recent LED units can make more difference than you may initially realise.  As pricing is a factor for most people the choice may be between the cost of a bulb unit and roughly having to replace the bulbs approximately every three years; and the typically higher initial cost of an LED SAD light that can last up 100,000 hours of use before the bulbs fail.

Blue light vs. White light

While studies into the effects of different wavelengths of light are ongoing, with many indications that blue light is most effective in the production of Serotonin through the activation of Melanopsin receptors in the eyes.  This has resulted in a blue lightwave specific SAD light having been created by manufacturers.  The main differences between the two is that the blue light is less intense, yet provides a much shorter treatment time, however unlike the white light it can set off migraines in sufferers and cannot be used by anyone with eye diseases or conditions, though it is unlikely that a white light can be used in those circumstances either.  We recommend consulting with a medical professional is you have a pre-existing eye condition before buying any SAD lights.

A touch of style

Even though a SAD therapy light is a practical medical device there is no reason why you can’t choose one that fits on with your home decor.  Many SAD lightbox manufacturers are creating their units to compliment other technological devices around the home.  Ergonomic designs and even units that are styled like desk lamps are available for a better fit with the home or workplace.

Try it first

There are retailers and manufacturers of Seasonal Affective Disorder light boxes that allow for up to a thirty day trial period so that you can see if it begins to make a difference or not.  Another option is to hire a SAD light first if your prefer.


The higher amount of lux a SAD light emits for a shorter treatment time, typically means that it is more expensive, so depending on your budget you may have to look at spending more if you have less time for a treatment.  There are a number of SAD brands and devices that they manufacture so it is worth looking at all available options to find the best match for you.


If you need to buy a SAD light for personal use due to suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you should not have to pay VAT.  A retailer may need written proof before the purchase of a SAD light is completed.

Always ensure you do plenty of research in addition to our 10 Tips for buying SAD lights before purchasing any light therapy box.  If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your GP.

SAD.org.uk provides general information only and should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice from your own doctor or healthcare provider.
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