Written by Amy Beecham
Are SAD lamps worth it to help boost energy? Stylist put one to the test for a month to find out.
As Stylist’s resident early riser, starting work at the wee hour of 6am, feeling alert and energised in the morning is something I’m always looking for help with.
Whether it’s natural energy-boosting supplements or just a great cup of coffee, I’ll try any hack that makes my eyes feel less like pin holes as I switch off the 5.45am alarm.
But during the winter months, I find I need a bit more than just an energy boost to get my day started right. Working on my own in a dark house for the first few hours of the day can be quite a lonely experience, and I’ve often felt my mood dip due to lack of sunlight, as well as the limited social interaction.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects up to three in 100 people in the UK at some point in their life, and I’ve always been intrigued as to how clever technology like SAD lamps could help me combat it.
A SAD lamp uses light therapy to help improve the mood of people experiencing SAD.
According to Lloyds Pharmacy, SAD lights produce a very bright light that mimics sunlight which is lacking at certain times of the year. “Adding a SAD lamp for winter into your daily routine could help as it’s thought that the light encourages your brain to produce serotonin, the hormone that affects your mood. The light also reduces the production of melatonin which makes you feel sleepy and tired,” their website states.
As leading lamp provider Lumie explains, sunlight is a natural mood-booster, influencing body chemistry (such as melatonin and serotonin levels). If you’re indoors, light therapy is proven to put you in a better mood, boost energy and help you to feel more alert.
Their research shows bright light of 2,500 lux improves well-being. Outside on a sunny day, you can take advantage of 100,000 lux but in winter there may be only a few hours of very weak light and indoors the brightest office provides only about 500 lux.
Their best-selling Lumie Vitamin L lamp provides 10,000 lux at 16 cm away and 2500 lux at 50cm. Lumie advises using the light every day for 30 minutes at 16cm, or recommends a60 min treatment time at an arm’s-length distance.
So I put the Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp to the test to see if it would awaken my mornings. Here’s how I got on.
The first thing to say is that this thing is bright. When I unboxed and plugged in the Lumie on that first morning, it felt like it lit up my entire living room. Because it was so bright, gazing into it at such a close distance felt uncomfortable at first, but my eyes soon adjusted.
Though Lumie recommends holding the lamp at arm’s-length distance for an hour, with my work schedule this just wasn’t feasible. Instead, I took to setting up the lamp alongside my computer monitor directly in front of me, so it was close enough to take effect, but I didn’t have to hold it.
Over the first week, I did feel like my eyes strained less in the early morning light and I didn’t reach for my morning coffee as immediately as I usually would, but I deemed it too early to tell whether it was the Lumie’s doing or not.
I have to say, the Lumie is very easy to use and forget about – in a good way. It’s slim design means it’s not cumbersome, and could be easily transported into an office or go with you in a bag if you’re changing locations.
As I became more accustomed to the morning blast of light, I kept noticing the positive effects. I definitely felt a boost of energy on most mornings which helped me to last throughout the day.
While of course it shouldn’t replace getting out into the fresh air, on days when it was too hectic/cold/wet to leave the house, I was glad that I had the Lumie to give me that extra bump of Vitamin D and serotonin. This week, I actually forgot it on an overnight stay and while I can’t be sure, I definitely felt more groggy getting up on the day without it.
By week four, I’m well and truly into the routine of waking up, setting up my SAD light and cracking on with my day. Work is extremely busy at the moment but I find that I’m sleeping less in the afternoons after my shift has finished. Once again, is this the Lumie’s doing? I can’t be sure, but it’s definitely not had a negative impact on my wellbeing.
I’ve always wanted to try the famed Lumie sunrise alarm clock, but as my partner wakes up at a different time to me, I didn’t think it was fair to blast him with light in the middle of his sleep. However, the Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp gave me the great option of being able to reap the benefits of light therapy without disrupting anyone in the house.
Although studies have not been conclusive as to the effectiveness of light therapy, plenty of people swear by it. “When the dark weather hit I really struggled even opening my eyes in the morning, and as someone who’s usually up and at ‘em it started negatively impacting my mental health,” Helen Scott, a presenter and content producer,tells Stylist.
“Investing in a Lumie light lamp was a bit of a shot in the dark as there’s mixed opinions on how effective they are, but I’m so glad that I did. Particularly first thing in the morning, my lamp makes me feel less groggy as it imitates a natural sunrise, then using it throughout the morning helps boost my mood and makes me feel ready for the day.”
In my opinion, the Lumie is a great gadget, especially for early risers. I definitely felt my mood and energy levels lifted while using it.
I don’t know whether these results would be sustained long term, and the high price point (it retails at £90) make it an expensive gamble without guaranteed improvement. However, Lumie does offer a 45-day trial for you to see if the product is right for you, where you can return it for a full refund if you’re not satisfied.
Worth a try, then, at least.
The Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp (£90) is available from lumie.com.
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