What should I look for in a light therapy device?

There are hundreds of light therapy products available now and it can be difficult to know where to start. We've come up with a checklist of things to look for when buying light therapy, whether that's from Lumie or another light therapy specialist.

Product should be certified as a Medical Device   If, for example, the product description states that it's a 'Treatment for SAD!' unless it's certified as a Medical Device you really have no guarantee that it's been designed to be used as such. In addition, a product classed as Medical Device must conform to European manufacturing standards and carry the correct mark (e.g. CE0473).

Clear guidelines for treatment time AND distance   Light intensity drops dramatically over distance. Some individuals will prefer to use their device up close so it's brighter and allows for a fast treatment time; others may opt to use the same light further away for a longer, low-intensity session. Recommendations should be available that allow users to make a choice.

Harmful UV (ultra-violet) light should be filtered out   Most people are now aware of the dangers of UV and properly designed light therapy products will incorporate special screens and filters ensuring that UV levels are negligible.

Demonstrable efficacy in clinical trials   This could mean the actual product has been tested (e.g. Bodyclock) or - more commonly - that previous clinical trials have shown the same type of light exposure to be benficial (e.g. Arabica).

Opportunity to try the product at home   For most people light therapy makes a real difference but if you're sceptical it can seem like an expensive risk. Reputable companies will offer a trial period so that you can make sure it works for you. 

The following advice applies only to lightboxes and LED devices (not Bodyclock or other dawn simulators) used to treat SAD or the winter blues.

Independently verified lux (the intensity/brightness of visible light) measurements   You shouldn't have to take only the manufacturer's word for it!

Lux measurements should be linked to distance   A product description promising e.g.10,000lux is meaningless if it's not linked to a practical distance as well. A lightbox that produces 10,000lux when measured 1cm away may emit only 500lux at a more useful 50cm. Users should always follow the manufacturer's recommendations when positioning their lightbox for treatment.

Use of blue light alone is still being investigated   Whilst wavelengths in the blue part of the spectrum are most effective at influencing the circadian clock and are beneficial in treating SAD and circadian disorders, there is currently nothing to suggest that blue light on its own is better than full spectrum light therapy. Furthermore, there are no studies into the long-term effects of using blue light only.