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Sun lamps, aka light boxes or light therapy boxes, are lamps that mimic outdoor light. They can give you a legit mood boost during the dark winter months and might be beneficial for other issues, too.

Sun lamps are primarily used to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lamps emit artificial light that, to your eyes and brain, looks and feels a lot like being out in the sun. Sitting near one (for set periods every day) is a way to get more of the brightness your body craves, and in turn, help you feel better.

The lamps are also sometimes used to treat nonseasonal depression, sleep problems, and jet lag. They can also help shift workers adjust to nighttime hours/early morning hours.

Ready to give one a try? You’ll reap the biggest benefits if you pick out a high quality lamp that meets certain specs. Here are seven picks that get the job done, and that users really love.

Quick look: The best sun lamps

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Yup, they really do. Light boxes are considered a first-line treatment for SAD, meaning docs will typically recommend them before moving on to other therapies.

They can be a tool for treating nonseasonal depression and fighting sleep problems like insomnia or circadian rhythm issues.

Here’s why: Looking into a light box (you’ve gotta look at it, not just sit near it) activates the production of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.

It also slows your body’s production of the snooze hormone melatonin, helping you feel more alert during the day, assuming you use the box in the morning.

Not all lamps are created equal though (and they’re not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to look into the deets of what you’re actually buying). Experts agree that the most effective light boxes expose you to at least 10,000 lux of light — so you’ll wanna go pretty bright.

At the same time the lamp should filter out as much UV light as possible. Just like being out in the actual sun, you gotta keep your eyes and skin safe!

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but yes: Certain varieties of sun lamps produce vitamin D and promote vitamin D absorption.

The caveat: You must purchase a lamp that emits UV light, and as with all things involving UV light, be mindful when using these lamps as overexposure can damage skin.

Because there’s no point in buying a light box that doesn’t deliver, we sought out sun lamps that give the recommended 10,000 lux of light or more. All of our picks are also designed to filter out as much UV light as possible.

Beyond that, the goal was to find sun lamps that served a bunch of different needs. Aside from a really solid overall pick, if you’re looking for a light box that’s also pretty to look at, or doesn’t take up much space, or is even good for traveling (whenever you can do that again, ha!), you’ll find options here.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = $41–$100
  • $$$ = $101–$175
  • $$$$ = $176–$249
  • $$$$$ = over $250
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Are you seeing the light on these lamps? (Sorry, had to.) When you’re ready to say hello to happier winters, give one of these bright boxes a try.

Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Light Therapy Lamp

This lamp, which is the size of a small desktop monitor, ticks the boxes for lux light and UV filtering. But what’s really great is that, unlike a lot of competitors, you don’t have to sit RIGHT in front of it to reap the benefits.

The powerful white light delivers its effects from 12 inches away. And it’s glare-free, so it won’t hurt your eyes.

Price: $$$

Miroco Light Therapy Lamp, with Timer

Here’s proof that you don’t have to drop a ton of cash for a great light box. It’s got three brightness options plus an automatic timer, and the iPad-like shape and size makes it easy to tote around and set up wherever.

Price: $$

Verilux HappyLight Full-Size

Don’t let the name fool you — this thing is actually compact enough to keep right next to your bed, so you can turn it on first thing and just lay there, staring into the light. The tilt feature makes it easy to get the right angle too.

Price: $$

Alaska Northern Lights Northstar

The benefit of having a large lamp (think, the size of a suitcase) is that it’s powerful enough to emit the light you need from sorta far away. This one gets the job done while you’re sitting a full 2 feet away.

Price: $$$$$

Sunrise Sensations Daybright Light Therapy Lamp

It’s not a regular sun lamp, it’s a cool sun lamp. But really, the 3D pentagon shape and warm wooden borders are a lot nicer to look at than most of the other light boxes out there.

Price: $$$$

Northern Light Technologies Boxelite

It’s just a simple, sleek square — that’s big enough so you can sit a comfortable 14 inches away to reap the benefits. Do like the lady in the pic and set it up next to your screen while you work in the morning.

Price: $$$$

Circadian Optics Luxy Light Therapy Lamp

Looking for a lamp that’ll look great in your space this winter, but is also so compact you can toss it in your bag for a vacation next winter? (Maybe? Hopefully?!) This small but mighty lamp is the one for you.

Price: $


Sun lamps can seriously help you feel more like a functioning human when it’s cold, dark, and straight up bleak outside.

The key is picking a model that gives enough brightness to be effective while still filtering out UV rays that can mess with your eyes and skin. Praise the winter gods that there are plenty to choose from.