The 5 Best Light Therapy Boxes of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

The Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp offers multiple brightness settings for an extra boost

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Health / Jhett Thompson

It’s typical to find yourself feeling a little more lethargic in the darker winter months, but if you’ve found that you feel lonely, depressed, or isolated around this time, you’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of seasonal depression, hits the hardest when days become shorter. One of the go-to treatments for it is light therapy.

Tested & Approved

The Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp, which was our best overall pick, includes two light settings—and our tester noticed a difference with both. Our best pick for SAD, the Northern Lite Technologies Boxlite, includes a large screen surface, one of the top recommendations from experts when shopping for a light therapy box.

“Light boxes provide a way around this problem by providing bright white light that mimics natural sunlight even when there isn't much available outside (or if you live somewhere with little or no sunlight at all),” says Akos Antwi, NP, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and co-owner of Revive Therapeutic Services, explaining how light therapy can help fight SAD.

While light therapy is often associated with seasonal affective disorder, it also has promising results for depression, both seasonal and non-seasonal. A study of nearly 400 participants on the efficacy of light therapy versus antidepressants found a non-significant difference between the effects of light therapy and antidepressants and definitive improvement with a combination of the two.

When selecting light therapy boxes for testing, we considered size and light intensity, which are two important factors you should think about when purchasing; an effective light therapy box should have a large surface and at least 10,000 lux intensity—about the brightness of ambient sunlight. To find the best light therapy boxes, the Health team tested 15 options at home, considering each one for noticeable improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality, as well as ease of use, design, and value.

Here are the best light therapy boxes, backed by our testing.

Best Overall

Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp

4.8
Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp

Amazon

Why We Like It: Our tester loved that this lamp has multiple brightness settings and saw a noticeable difference in energy while using each one.

It’s Worth Noting: This no-frills design is more expensive than other similar models.

Light therapy comes in many forms, so the ideal light therapy box should be adjustable for your needs. Dead of winter? A little gloomy outside? Just looking for a little extra boost of energy on an early morning? The Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp can suit your needs for any of these—and our tester noticed a different almost right away.

With two brightness levels, the Verilux HappyLight offers some customization, and our tester noticed a difference with both of them. “I felt a little cheerier after using it, as opposed to the usual Monday blues,” our tester said of the lower setting, noting that it boosted their energy quite a bit each time. While using setting two, the brighter setting, our tester noticed a definite energy boost. 

Another one of our tester’s favorite features was the long outlet plug, so you can use it comfortably in any room.

Price at time of publication: $80

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 4 x 6.25 x 12.5 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Brightness Levels: 2
  • Light Intensity: 10,000 lux
Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp

Health / Jhett Thompson

Best for Improving Sleep

Carex Sunlite Bright Light Therapy Lamp

4.2
Carex Sunlite Bright Light Therapy Lamp

Amazon

Why We Like It: Our tester felt a noticeable difference in sleep quality and duration while using this lamp.

It’s Worth Noting: While this lamp is easy to use, our tester thought it might be a little too simple, with only one brightness level and no other settings.

While it may seem like the cooler, darker months make for an improved sleep schedule, this isn’t always the case. If you’ve found that fall and winter find you waking up groggier and feeling sluggish throughout the day than the rest of the year, you’re not the only one. Shorter daylight hours mean different levels of melatonin production, says Dan Ford, MA, PGDipCBT, CertCBT-I, AESSP, ADHD-CCSP, psychologist at the Better Sleep Clinic in New Zealand.

“If we get bright light on waking in the morning this will suppress melatonin production, promoting wakefulness but also encouraging an earlier onset of melatonin production in the evening helping the onset of the main sleep period,” says Ford.

One of the best ways to counteract the effects of shorter daylight hours on your sleep is light therapy. Carex’s Sunlite Bright Light Therapy Lamp offers plenty of screen space and white light to counteract the onset of melatonin production that makes it hard to get out of bed on dark days.

“Definitely feeling more invigorated and awake in the morning after using the lamp,” said our tester, who noted that they felt rested and like they had slept through the night while using the lamp during the day, which was unusual for them.

Price at time of publication: $53

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2 x 8.8 x 13.38 inches
  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Brightness Levels: 1
  • Light Intensity: 10,000 lux
Carex Health Brands Sunlite Bright Light Therapy Lamp

Health / Jhett Thompson

Best for SAD

Northern Light Technologies Boxelite

4.2
Northern Light Technologies Boxelite

Amazon

Why We Like It: One of the largest lamps we tested, this light puts out a large amount of diffused light.

It’s Worth Noting: This larger lamp can also make it more difficult to use in small spaces or on a desk.

One of the top recommendations from experts for an effective light therapy lamp is a large surface area. You should look for a screen about 200 sq. in. in surface area, according to the Center for Environmental Therapeutics, which specializes in light therapy.[3] The Northern Light Technologies Boxelite was one of our favorite picks thanks to its huge screen size, which offered plenty of light to our tester.

“The light is pretty bright and it definitely makes you feel more awake and therefore more energized,” our tester said. “I really like incorporating the light therapy lamp into my morning routine. It feels like it sets me up for a positive, more energized day.”

While our tester appreciated that this lamp was easy to use—just a single button to power it on—they did note that the button is located in the back and requires some tapping to use. While we loved this lamp for its large size—effectively offering plenty of light no matter where you look, perfect for SAD—it can be a little difficult to use on a desk or table.

Price at time of publication: $190

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.25 x 17 inches
  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Brightness Levels: 1
  • Light Intensity: 10,000 lux
Northern Light Technologies Boxelite

Health / Jhett Thompson

Best with Alarm Clock

Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp

4.9
Philips SmartSleep HF3520 Wake-up Light at Amazon

Amazon

Why We Like It: The SmartSleep Wake-Up Light combines an alarm clock with the light of a simulated sunrise for a gentle wake up.

It’s Worth Noting: It can take a while to set up, even with the instruction manual.

Getting out of bed in the morning during the darker months is tough, but the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light pulls double duty to help wake you up. Working as both an alarm clock and a light therapy lamp, the Wake-Up Light gradually brightens to simulate a sunrise before your alarm goes off each morning, giving you an extra boost of brightness even if the real sun isn’t up.

“Each day I noticed that it was slightly easier to wake up using this sunrise style lamp vs. a traditional alarm clock or phone alarm,” our tester said.

While the Wake-Up Light functions primarily as an alarm clock, you can also turn on the light at any time during the day or evening for an extra light source. 

Note that this light only has a 300 lux intensity, which is a few levels less than the 10,000 lux intensity of the other light therapy lamps on our list. 300 lux is equivalent to the light intensity of typical bright overhead lighting, like in an office building.

Price at time of publication: $100

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 6 x 10 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 2.45 pounds
  • Brightness Levels: 20
  • Light Intensity: 300 lux
Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

Health / Jhett Thompson

Best Portable

Erligpowht Light Therapy Lamp

4.2
Erligpowht Light Therapy Lamp

Amazon

Why We Like It: This small light has four timer settings, perfect for bringing along wherever you might need an extra boost of light.

It’s Worth Noting: While it worked well, it didn’t give our tester as much of an energy boost as other options.

An extra boost of brightness can be helpful to have anywhere, especially during the darker months. Erligpowht’s Light Therapy Lamp is thin and comes on a stand that’s easy to fold up and stash in a suitcase or bag for easy travel. 

This lamp comes with three light levels and a dimming function that’s perfect for finding just the right level. Another feature that makes it great for travel is its array of timer settings—15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes—perfect for leaving on a bedside table or office desk.

While it is easy to store, our tester noticed that it didn’t offer as much of an energy boost as some of the other light therapy boxes we tested.

Price at time of publication: $26

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 0.59 x 5.11 x 6.69
  • Weight: 10.8 ounces
  • Brightness Levels: 3
  • Light Intensity: 10,000 lux
Erligpowht Light Therapy Lamp

Health / Jhett Thompson

How We Tested and Selected

To find the best light therapy boxes, our testers tested 15 of the top options at home, incorporating the lamps into their everyday schedules. The team tested each lamp over a period of five days, trying the lamps at the same time every day for 30 minutes. While testing, the team followed guidelines for where to sit lamps—two to three feet away, making sure only to use the light indirectly and not in front of the eyes.

The team looked at each lamp for size and light intensity, as well as noticeable improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality, as well as ease of use, design, and value.

What to Know About Light Therapy Boxes

Size

According to the Center for Environmental Therapeutics—a research organization focused on researching environmental therapy, like light therapy boxes—you should aim for at least a 200 sq. in. screen. A smaller light therapy box means that any head movements you make will reduce your light exposure, with a larger box ensuring that you’ll have more opportunities for light, no matter what you’re doing.

Light Intensity

To be most effective, a light therapy box should have at least 10,000 lux, which is about the same light intensity you get from sunlight. This level of light helps to mimic a sunny day, which helps to fight the extra melatonin production people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often see.

We included a sunrise alarm on our list—the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light—which only has 300 lux. While this amount isn’t as effective as 10,000 lux lamps for light therapy, our tester did find that it helped to boost energy on an otherwise dark morning, simulating a sunrise instead of a full-sun day.

Potential Issues

While light therapy can be effective for helping with a variety of disorders, it can also come with a few side effects. While using the lamp, you might notice dizziness or irritability during the first few days, but these should go away as you become used to the lamp. If you still notice these issues after a few days, try reducing your light therapy exposure to 15 minutes.

While shopping for a light therapy box, be careful to select one that’s designed for SAD. There are other forms of light therapy—primarily used for treating skin conditions—that use UV light. These lights can damage your eyes, so be sure to select a light that uses white light.

You can use light therapy in the evening as days get shorter, but you should avoid using light therapy boxes too close to bed. Light therapy helps disorders like SAD by suppressing extra melatonin production, so you might find that using one near bedtime will make you less tired and reduce sleep quality.

How Much to Expect to Pay for a Light Therapy Box

Light therapy doesn’t have to be expensive. One of our top picks, the Erligpowht Light Therapy Lamp was just $26. You can generally expect to pay between $50 and $100 for a high-quality light therapy box, with some options getting more expensive as their size increases.

More Light Therapy Boxes to Consider

Carex Day-Light Light Therapy Lamp: While our tester felt significantly more energy while using this lamp, it definitely had a few downsides. This lamp is bulky and heavy, plus our tester noted that it heats up quickly during use.

Aura Day Light Lamp: Our tester loved the programmable timer feature on this lamp but thought that at its expensive price point, it wasn’t worth the cost compared to other similar lamps. They also noted that it was quite bright, meaning they had to point it at a wall and use it indirectly.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you use a light therapy box?

The best way to use a light therapy box is by incorporating it into your morning routine. Begin by using light therapy for 30 minutes a day, and it’s most effective when used around the same time each morning.

You should place your light therapy box in front of you or off to the side, where its light still takes up most of your field of vision—this is why screen size is so important. While using your light therapy box, make sure that you aren’t looking directly into the light, but your eyes should stay open; light therapy isn’t effective while asleep, for example.

How often should you use a light therapy box?

You should use a light therapy box for 30 minutes each day, as soon as possible after waking up. If you don’t notice an improvement in energy level, mood, or sleep quality after 10 days of use, you can raise your exposure to 60 minutes per day, in the morning or split between morning and evening. If you do use a light therapy lamp in the evening, avoid using it too close to bedtime as light therapy can suppress melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.

What light is best for light therapy?

For light therapy to be effective, a lamp should have 10,000 lux, which is a measure of light intensity. 10,000 lux is equivalent to light you’d get from ambient sunlight, which is why light therapy boxes are so effective during darker months for simulating sunlight.

White light is standard in most light therapy boxes and experts consider it to be the most effective type of light. Blue light above 5,000 Kelvin and full spectrum light are not as effective as white light.

You want to avoid light therapy boxes that use UV light as they can cause eye damage; light therapy lamps with UV light are typically used to treat skin disorders through phototherapy and don’t work for treating SAD.

Who We Are

Jaylyn Pruitt has a Master of Library and Information Science with a focus on health information. Her goal is to provide easy-to-understand information with a patient perspective in mind.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Pears A. "Chapter 7: Appliance technologies and scope for emission reduction." Strategic Study of Household Energy and Greenhouse Issues. Sustainable Solutions Pty Ltd. Department of Industry and Science, Commonwealth of Australia. p. 61.

  3. Center for Environmental Therapeutics. How to select a light box.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Seasonal Affective Disorder: What you should know.

  5. The University of British Columbia Mood Disorders Center. Instructions for using a light box.

  6. Vasey C, McBride J, Penta K. Circadian rhythm dysregulation and restoration: The role of melatonin. Nutrients. 2021;13(10):3480. doi:10.3390/nu13103480

  7. Corliss J. Light therapy: Not just for seasonal depression? Harvard Health Publishing.

  8. UChicago Medicine. Light therapy.

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