Best SAD lamps 2021: top light therapy lamps to brighten up dull days

Banish the blues and lighten your mood every day with the best SAD lamps

Included in this guide:

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

The best SAD lamp could literally change your life. Seasonal Affective Disorder can bring a serious case of the winter blues during the darker months, and the further north you are the more pronounced that can be. Many sufferers believe that by simulating sunlight a SAD light therapy lamp can make a big difference to your mood and your motivation.

Note: these aren't to be confused with the best wake-up lights, which are designed to mimic sunrise to help you wake more naturally – although there is occasional crossover, with some wake-up lamps being certified for use for SAD sufferers. 

This guide includes a wide range of options to suit different styles, needs and budgets, but if you're looking for a good all-rounder, the best SAD lamp for most people is the Beurer TL50. It's relatively affordable, it looks quite nice when it's not switched on and it delivers excellent brightness with good consistency. It may not have the bells and whistles or stylish design of rivals such as the Lumie Halo, but it's considerably more affordable. Not quite right for you? Read on for some buying advice, followed by our pick of the best SAD light therapy lights to buy now.

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. If you've been diagnosed with SAD, you don't have to pay VAT on your purchase.

How do I choose a SAD lamp?

A SAD lamp's main job is to provide a certain amount of white light. But 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. 

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. 

Think about where you're going to be using your lamp, and if you'll be using it in multiple locations: bigger lamps of course take up more room and are heavier to move.

SAD light therapy lamp Black Friday deals

We're expecting to see price cuts on light therapy lamps in the Black Friday sales, but you don't need to go hunting for those deals. The prices shown on this page are updated regularly so if there's a price drop, it'll be reflected here. You may also want to check out our Best Black Friday deals article – we're updating it every day with the very best Black Friday deals from around the web and that will include any great winter-beating tech deals we find.

The best SAD lamps you can buy right now

Beurer small, round TL50 SAD light therapy lamp

(Image credit: Beurer)

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-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 large, round SAD light therapy lamp, with amber coloured border and white centre

(Image credit: Lumie)

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-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. 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 case

(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
Reasons to avoid
-Less powerful than its siblings-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 lamp

(Image credit: Lumie)

4. Lumie Desklamp SAD light

The best SAD lamp for small office spaces and students

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
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than many desktop panels-A bit odd-looking

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 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 flat, rectangular SAD light therapy lamp

(Image credit: Lumie)

5. Lumie Vitamin L Slim SAD light

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-There's only one setting

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 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 higher intensity means you don't need to use it for as long as smaller desktop panels, and like other rectangular lamps you can use it in portrait or landscape mode. It's rather medical-looking but it's a solid and reliable choice.

Carrie Marshall
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).