By Rajnish Mago, MD (bio)
On other pages on this website (see Related Pages below), I discussed the criteria for choosing a bright light therapy device and the findings of a study that systematically evaluated 24 bright light therapy devices (Oldham et al., 2019).
Busy clinicians need clear recommendations, with solid reasons to back them up, as to exactly which bright light therapy devices to recommend. As of November 2019, here are my recommendations.
Large light boxes
Large light boxes are currently recommended as the best option for bright light therapy. A systematic evaluation of bright light therapy devices (Oldham et al., 2019) found three large light boxes to exceed the criteria they had set:
1. SunRay II (The SunBox Company). $359.
Not available on Amazon.com. Available at this link: https://www.sunbox.com/shop/10000-lux-bright-lights/sunray-ii/
2. NorthStar 10,000 (Alaska Northern Lights; www.alaskanorthernlights.com). $299
Not available on Amazon.com. Available at this link: http://www.alaskanorthernlights.com
3. Day-Light Classic (Model DL930; Carex Health Brands; day-lights.com). $66.
Available on Amazon.com at this link: Day-Light Classic Bright Light Therapy Lamp
The more expensive, larger sized (“plus”) version of this device ($115) is available on Amazon.com at this link: Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp.
The two biggest differences between these large light boxes
All three of these large light boxes met the criteria that the researchers had set. But, since a patient needs to buy only one device, which one of these three devices should we recommend as the top choice? Here the two biggest factors that influence my decision:
1. Manufacturer-recommended distance
The manufacturer-recommended distance for these three devices, the distance between the surface of the light box and the patient’s eyes is as follows:
SunRay II — 23 inches
NorthStar 10,000 — 24 inches
Day-Light Classic — 12 inches (Note: the manufacturer-recommended distance for the related larger model called Day-Light Classic Plus is the same — 12 inches)
This difference in the manufacturer-recommended distance is not a minor issue; sitting only 12 inches from the light is very inconvenient!
Day-Light Classic — $66
Day-Light Classic Plus — $115
NorthStar 10,000 — $299
SunRay II — $359
Note the HUGE price difference between the three models—from $66 to $359!
Some other differences between these large light boxes
1. Light intensity
SunRay II — 11,800
NorthStar 10,000 — 9,010
Day-Light Classic — 10,900
2. Efficacy ratio
In simple terms, this is the ratio of the light intensity associated with postulated therapeutic efficacy to the apparent brightness. Obviously, it would be good to have light of a type that provides more efficacy without appearing to be excessively bright.
SunRay II — 0.76
NorthStar 10,000 — 0.59
Day-Light Classic — 0.57
These three bright light therapy devices should probably be our top choices unless compactness is essential.
If cost is not a barrier, my top choice is SunRay II ($359) due to the 23 inches manufacturer-recommended distance and high light intensity but with a higher efficacy ratio than the others. It is not available on Amazon.com; is available at this link: https://www.sunbox.com/shop/10000-lux-bright-lights/sunray-ii/
If cost is a significant concern, which it often is, the best one to recommend is either the Day-Light Classic ($66; available on Amazon.com at this link: Day-Light Classic Bright Light Therapy Lamp) or the larger Day-Light Classic Plus ($115; available on Amazon.com at this link: Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp).
Cost $359 (as of November 2019)
15.5″ Tall x 23″ Wide x 3.25″ Deep
The great thing about this device is that at its high setting, it provides 10,000 lux at a distance of 23″. This is a huge advantage since many devices require the user to be only 12″ from the device to get the full 10,000 lux of light intensity. That is really close and quite inconvenient. In my opinion, the 23″ distance allowed by this lamp is a great step towards greater convenience.
For those who don’t have enough space on their desks or tables, it also comes in an optional wall-mounted model. See https://www.sunbox.com/shop/10000-lux-bright-lights/new-sunray-ii-wall-mount-world-voltage/
The SunBox Company, 201 Broadway Street, Suite 220, Frederick, MD 21701. 800-548-3968, 240-651-3286
Smaller light boxes
Three smaller light boxes minimally met the adequacy criteria in a systematic evaluation of bright light therapy devices (Oldham et al., 2019).
Available on Amazon.com at this link: Boxelite 10,000 Lux Bright Light Therapy Light Box
A related device that costs $209 is available on Amazon.com at this link: Boxelite-OS 10,000 Lux Bright Light Therapy Light Box.
2. Day-Light Sky($110, DL2000; Carex Health Brands; http://day-lights.com)
Available on Amazon.com at this link: Carex Day-Light Sky Bright Light Therapy Lamp
3. SunTouch Plus ($69; Nature Bright Company, www.naturebright.com)
Available on Amazon.com at this link: Nature Bright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy
Advantages of smaller light boxes
These smaller light boxes may be more convenient due to being more compact, which may be important to a person who has very little space.
Disadvantages of smaller light boxes
But, there are some significant disadvantages of using a smaller light box:
1. The user is not able to move much from side-to-side without being outside the field of adequate light intensity.
2. The user generally has to sit closer to the device. The manufacturer-recommended distances for these devices are as follows:
– BOXelite — 14 inches
– BOXelite OS — 14 inches
– Day-Light Sky — 12 inches
– SunTouch Plus — 14 inches
3. Some of the smaller light boxes are not elevated on some kind of legs and so the light does not come downwards towards the user’s face. Light coming slightly downwards at the user is to be preferred because it reduces glare (Oldham et al., 2019). Glare is not only unpleasant but may also cause the person to look away more than otherwise. Also, if the light box is elevated, it frees up space below it for the patient to use for other activities (Oldham et al., 2019).
All the large light boxes recommended above are elevated and the light comes down at the user. Among the smaller light boxes, this is also the case for the BOXelite OS and Carex Day-Light Sky devices. But, If you click on the link and look at a photo of the BOXelite or SunTouch Plus devices, you will see that they are NOT elevated and the light comes at the person upwards rather than downwards.
Final recommendations regarding smaller light boxes
1. The larger light boxes should almost always be preferred over the smaller light boxes.
2. Cost is not a clear reason to prefer these smaller light boxes. Note that the cost of these smaller light boxes is low but not lower than two options among larger light boxes, namely, Day-Light Classic and Day-Light Classic Plus.
3. Among the smaller light boxes, the BOXelite OS and Day-Light Sky devices are better due to being elevated. They are available on Amazon.com at the links below:
4. I think that we should recommend against the other two smaller light boxes mentioned above—BOXelite and SunTouch Plus— due to the direction of the light coming upwards towards the user.
Other devices that may be considered
This article was last updated on November 28, 2019.
Oldham MA, Oldham MB, Desan PH. Commercially Available Phototherapy Devices for Treatment of Depression: Physical Characteristics of Emitted Light. Psych Res Clin Pract 2019;1(2):49-57.
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