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People most commonly use sun lamps to treat a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or to help their body make vitamin D. However, choosing the right sun lamp can be challenging.
Doctors sometimes refer to the use of a sun lamp as “light therapy.” People with SAD are the most likely to use sun lamps, also called light boxes.
People with vitamin D deficiency may also use a sun lamp. Vitamin D helps the nervous system, muscles, and immune system work properly. It also helps the body absorb the calcium that it needs to keep the bones healthy.
Most people will get all of the vitamin D that they need from their diet and the sun. However, individuals who do not get enough exposure to sunlight or have a health condition that stops their body from absorbing the vitamins in their food might develop a vitamin D deficiency. In children, this can lead to rickets. Adults can develop muscle weakness and pain in the bones.
Sometimes, people also use sun lamps to help with sleep disorders or depression.
Keep reading to learn more about how sun lamps work. We also list five examples of products that are available to buy.
Please also note that the writer of this article has not tested these products. All information in this article is research-based, and we do not intend to recommend certain products over others.
People need exposure to sunlight for many reasons. It affects the body’s natural daily cycles, or circadian rhythms. These govern how people feel, when they go to sleep, and when they wake up.
Sunlight helps the brain make the hormones that the body needs to function. Examples are serotonin, which plays a role in mood, and melatonin, which helps with sleep patterns. The skin also uses sunlight to make vitamin D.
Sun lamps or light boxes work by imitating sunlight. Doctors might recommend, for example, that people with SAD sit by a light box that provides 10,000 lux for 30 minutes a day as soon as possible after waking up.
There is some evidence to support the benefits of light therapy, but scientists are not yet sure whether it works. Also, it is not suitable for everyone. People with light sensitivity, bipolar disorder, diabetes, or eye conditions should avoid it.
Experts advise people who wish to try light therapy to use only sun lamps that emit fluorescent light with no ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. UV light can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer.
However, for people using a sun lamp to help their skin make vitamin D, UVB light is essential. Anyone considering using a sun lamp should speak to their doctor first.
Many different sun lamps are available to buy. The best option for a person will depend on the health issue they wish to address.
Verilux HappyLight Luxe
Verilux sell a range of HappyLight products. These provide full spectrum, UV-free light of 10,000 lux intensity.
Their HappyLight Luxe is portable, and it comes with adjustable color temperatures, timers, and a choice of four different brightness levels.
People who use the product say that it helps improve their mood, sleep patterns, and energy levels.
Aura Day Light Lamp
The Aura Day Light Lamp has an adjustable light output and is UV-free. People can choose to set it anywhere from 3,500 to 10,000 lux, depending on their preference.
A person can mount the lamp on a wall, and it automatically shuts off after use. The manufacturers designed it to boost mood and increase concentration, focus, and energy.
Philips SmartSleep Light Therapy Lamps
Philips designed their SmartSleep Sleep and Wake Up lamps to help people who have difficulty getting to sleep or waking up.
These lamps prepare the body for sleep by simulating the sunset, gradually decreasing the light and sound in the room. In the morning, the lamps do the same in reverse by simulating the sunrise.
People who use these products say that they help them get to sleep and wake up more naturally, allowing them to feel more energetic during the day.
Circadian Optics Lumine Light Therapy Lamp
These lamps are also UV-free. They come in various designs with an intensity of 10,000 lux. The manufacturers designed them to imitate the sun at noon, and people can adjust the brightness through three levels.
Rather than fluorescent bulbs, they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that have a 50,000-hour life. The lamp comes with a 2-year warranty.
Sperti Vitamin D Sunlamp
The Sperti Vitamin D Sunlamp provides the UVB rays that the body needs to make vitamin D.
According to the manufacturers, it is the only product of its type that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recognized.
It has an adjustable timer and includes two pairs of UV-blocking glasses to protect the eyes during use. Doctors recommend that people only use it for a few minutes at a time to avoid burning.
Using sun lamps, which work by imitating the sun, may help some people living with SAD, vitamin D deficiency, or sleep issues.
People should be careful when using sun lamps. In most cases, they should look for products that do not use UV light, as this can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer.
When someone has a vitamin D deficiency, their skin needs UVB light to make the vitamin. However, in most cases, it is better to get vitamin D from food and natural sunlight than to use a sun lamp.
Light therapy will not work for everyone. People with light sensitivities, bipolar disorder, diabetes, or eye problems should avoid using it.
Anyone who is thinking about using a sun lamp, especially those who suspect that they have a vitamin D deficiency, should speak to a doctor first.