Best SAD lamps 2023: light therapy lamps to beat the winter blues

Find the best SAD lamps to lighten your mood throughout the darker months

best SAD lamp: Person switching on the Lumie Halo SAD light therapy lamp, which is placed on a desk
(Image credit: Lumie)

Having one of the best SAD lamps in 2023 could change your life. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression brought on by shorter days during the winter months, and its effects can be more pronounced the further north you live. And many sufferers find that by using a SAD light therapy lamp to simulate sunlight, they can make a big difference to their symptoms.

There's more to SAD than difficulty waking up on dark mornings and touch of the winter blues; if you think you may be affected by it, our guide to signs you might be suffering from SAD can help you decide whether you should speak to your GP about it. While there's more to treating SAD than the best SAD lamps, many find them effective, and here we've gathered together the best models on the market today, with options to suit different requirements, styles and budgets.

Bear in mind that SAD lamps aren't to be confused with the best wake-up lights, which mimic sunrise to help you wake up more naturally. If you're struggling to get up on dark winter mornings they could be just what you need, however some wake-up lamps are also certified for use by SAD sufferers. SAD lamps are also quite different from a traditional bedside lamp, because they provide a set amount of bright, white illumination that's close to sunlight, in order to boost your vitamin D levels.

Read on to find our top picks for the best SAD lamps & our advice on buying a SAD lamp. If you're not sure how to use one, check out our guide on how to use a SAD lamp (opens in new tab).

How bright should a SAD lamp be?

The recommended brightness for a SAD lamp is typically 10,000 lux. However, while most lamps deliver the same intensity, they do it at different distances – so a lamp may be rated 10,000 lux at 10cm, or at 15cm, or at 20cm. If the lamp is dimmable or has a removable diffuser the quoted intensity and distance will be for the highest brightness setting with the diffuser removed. 

How long should I put my SAD lamp on for?

This depends on how far away you are from your SAD lamp, because intensity drops dramatically with distance. If a lamp delivers 10,000 lux at 16cm, if you sit 30cm away you'll get 5,000 lux. Sit 50cm away and it halves again. That means you'll need longer sessions to get the same benefit: at 10,000 lux it's about 30 minutes; at 5,000 it's an hour; and at 2,500 lux it's two hours.

Do SAD lamps really work?

While people who have SAD lamps swear by them, solid evidence of their effectiveness is hard to find. So if you haven't tried a SAD lamp before, it may be wise to start with the most affordable option first or look for one with a no-quibble returns policy. Note, it might take your body 3-5 days to start to respond. If you've been diagnosed with SAD, you don't have to pay VAT on your purchase. 

Best SAD lamps ranking 2023

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Beurer TL50 SAD lamp lit upT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Carrie Marshall)
The best SAD lamp for most people

Specifications

Intensity: 10,000 lux
Distance: 15cm
Settings: 1
Dimensions: 27.1 x 24.7 x 14.6cm

Reasons to buy

+
Not too big, not too small
+
Simple and effective 
+
Good looking

Reasons to avoid

-
It only has one setting
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No extra features

If you're looking for an effective, no-frills SAD lamp that isn't unpleasantly bright, doesn't look like a giant Kindle e-reader and doesn't need you to sit too close, the Beurer TL50 is an excellent all-rounder. We think it's the best SAD lamp for most people, sitting in the middle of the Beurer range and offering a good combination of size and brightness without an enormous price tag. The illuminated panel here is a 24.6cm diameter circle and it's rated for an intensity of 10,000 lux at 15cm. There's just a single setting, on or off, and there are no additional features: the TL50 is designed to do one thing and do it well. Head to our Beurer TL50 SAD lamp review to find out more.

Lumie Halo SAD lamp on a sideboardT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Carrie Marshall)
The best premium SAD lamp

Specifications

Intensity: 10,000 lux
Distance: 20cm
Settings: sunlight or warm white; dimmable
Dimensions: 32.4 x 32.4 x 19.7cm

Reasons to buy

+
Evening Mode is wonderful
+
Looks and feels premium
+
Will make your home feel more cosy

Reasons to avoid

-
It's very big
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It's quite expensive

If money's no object, the Halo is a wonderful addition to your home or office: it has both warm white and cool white LEDs, enabling you to use it for SAD during the day and as a softer, calming light in the evenings. In Day mode it's exceptionally bright, reaching 10,000 lux at 20cm, and in Evening Mode it adds a cosy ambience to your room.

Oh, and it's gorgeous, too. Where most SAD lamps are designed to look like medical devices or beauty mirrors, the Halo wants to make a statement, so its illuminated panel is surrounded by a copper reflector with black edges that makes it look like a contemporary lamp rather than something you'd encounter in a clinic. Check out our Lumie Halo review to find out more of what we thought.

Beurer TL30 small, rectangular SAD light therapy lamp with grey soft caseT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Beurer)

3. Beurer TL30 SAD lamp

The best budget light therapy lamp

Specifications

Intensity: 10,000 lux
Distance: 10cm
Settings: 1
Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 2.6cm

Reasons to buy

+
It's very cheap
+
It's very portable
+
It's also very small

Reasons to avoid

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Less powerful than its siblings
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It isn't exactly pretty

This baby Beurer is a cheap and cheerful introduction to light therapy. The TL30 is the smallest of the SAD lamps here, and has the lowest price tag too. Where the TL50 uses a rounded panel, the TL30 looks like a tablet, and its small size means it's easy to take it on holiday or into a different room. But what you gain in cost and convenience you lose in power: while the TL30 offers the same intensity of 10,000 lux as its bigger sibling, it does that at 10cm rather than the 15cm of the larger model. It's not the most powerful SAD lamp but it's very affordable, so we'd recommend it if you're new to light therapy and/or don't want to spend too much.

Lumie white flexible desk lamp style SAD lampT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Lumie)

4. Lumie Desklamp SAD light

The best SAD lamp for directional light

Specifications

Intensity: 10,000 lux
Distance: 20cm
Settings: 4 light levels plus diffuser
Dimensions: 29 x 50 x 20cm

Reasons to buy

+
Doubles as a task lamp
+
Four lighting levels
+
Tap to control

Reasons to avoid

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More expensive than many desktop panels

If you're short of space or just don't want a very bright SAD lamp in your peripheral vision, Lumie's SAD light desk lamp may be the best SAD lamp for you. With the diffuser switched off it's very bright, delivering 10,000 lux at a distance of 20cm, and with the diffuser on it doubles as a task light delivering 1,250 lux at 50cm. The adjustable neck makes it a good option for home working where you don't have lots of room, and there are four light levels that you can move between by tapping it. It's more expensive than basic desktop SAD lamps but the extra flexibility makes it worth considering for work or studying.

Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp front, offT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Kat Bayly)
The best SAD lamp with a large panel and small price

Specifications

Intensity: 10,000 lux
Distance: 16cm
Settings: 1
Dimensions: 29 x 21 x 11cm

Reasons to buy

+
Bigger panel than most budget lamps
+
Relatively affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
It's non-dimmable
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Can't easily be oriented in landscape

If you don't want to spend too much money but don't want to compromise on brightness, the Lumie Vitamin L Slim is an A4-sized option offering 10,000 lux at a very respectable 16cm compared to more affordable lamps' 10cm. Like other budget buys there are no bells, no whistles and no especially interesting design cues here: it's the same size as an iPad and the controls are simple: you can either have it switched on or have it switched off.

The rippled diffuser softens the light to make the experience of using it calmer than some alternatives. The higher intensity means you don't need to use it for as long as smaller desktop panels. It's slightly medical-looking but it's a solid and reliable choice, and our tester was impressed with it in our Lumie Vitamin L review.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).