SAD therapy glasses

Jacq's picture

Hello David, have you experimented with SAD therapy glasses? (Me personally, I haven't yet, but I have heard some positive mentions so far.)

SAD glasses

Hi, no, I haven't tried them. It's an intriguing approach. If you do, or if anyone else reading this has experience, I'd love to hear about it!

Metal Halide - UV

Jim's picture

Hi David. Great lamp. I am 100% like you.. I start to get down in October, and then by December can hardly think. I take meds in order to function. It really gets to me. I recently bought a 1000w HPS and MH grow light to combat my SAD with. I tried regular happy lights but they weren't the intensity I felt I needed. The 1000w grow lights are amazingly bright. It helps like nothing else. BUT - I can't use it anymore due to the UV radiation. I only used it a few days for like 10 minutes. The MH and HPS bulbs emit UVA, UVB, and UVC which will cause skin cancer. They are grow lights afterall.. I am searching for a solution that is equally bright (100k lux) but will not emit the UV range. I'm trying to find either an enclosure to block the UV or just buy something else. Your post gave me a couple of ideas. I recently saw the LED strips the other day at a Walgreens display. They are super bright. Thanks for posting this. It really helps. I have been looking into the melatonin suppressing pills too. One of these days I will be SAD free!


Hi Jim,

Thanks for pointing out the UV problem! I've added it to the list of issues with metal halide bulbs in the post.

I believe that you can block the UV with certain type of glass, but I don't know details. If you find out, it would be great if you posted it here!

A whole lot of LED strips glued side-by-side on a board seems like a good approach. It would take a long day's work gluing and soldering and wiring and so on, but probably not more than one day. If you try that, I'd also love to hear about it. The 30k lumens I have are great, but I wouldn't mind augmenting them with a lot more!

More about LEDs

(I had some questions by email, about building a 100k lumen light, that I thought I'd answer here in case they are useful to several people.)

The "bulbs" I used have a small fan built-in. It makes a bit of fan noise, which isn't ideal, but I don't find it bothersome. They don't claim to be dimmable. Most "non-dimmable" LED bulbs can be dimmed using a special LED dimmer, but the fan circuitry in these might not work with one.

I've done a little more thinking about the strip light approach. I experimented with these strips; they may not be the best, but they certainly produce a lot of lumens per dollar! 14,000 lumens for $17 (up from $13 when I wrote the post a month ago). So you could could get 100k lumens from seven strips for not much more than $100 (plus power supply). They are dimmable with a PWM dimmer; I used this one successfully in experiments, but you'd need a bigger one to handle seven strips.

Each strip is 5 meters long, so seven strips is 35 meters. You can cut them to custom lengths. (I've done this successfully; it's work, but works.) So if you mounted them on a meter-square back board, there would be 35 strips one meter long. A meter is about 35" so if you put the strips at one inch spacing they would cover the board evenly.

The main thing I'm not sure about is heat dissipation. Each strip takes 90 watts (apparently—it might be good to check both this and the lumen rating some more before committing). So that's 630 watts total; quite a lot of heat. Spread over a meter square, it will probably cool itself into the surrounding air OK, but I'm not sure of that.

(If any real engineer reading this can answer that question, I'd much appreciate it!)

If passive cooling is inadequate, some rethinking would be required—and this is the point where I decided to just get the bulbs for a quicker, easier, but probably less-good solution.

One approach would be to mount muffin fans at the bottom of the board, to blow upward over the surface. Would that do the trick? I don't know.

If not, another approach would be to use a metal mounting board with heat sinks on the back. However, the LED strips are rubbery plastic, and they might not transfer heat to the mounting board well. Also, there's the issue of how the strips are attached to the board. The strips I used come with an adhesive backing which is awful. It is not strong enough to attach the strips to a board, but it does get all over everything else. (Apparently other brands of LED strips do not have this problem.) Several people in Amazon reviews recommend using a strong double-stick tape instead. Anyway, the double-stick tape probably wouldn't transfer heat well; and whatever other adhesive you use might not either, and also might melt or burn if a metal mounting board got too hot.

A sensible strategy might be to start by mounting 3.5 strips at 2-inch spacing first, for about 50k lumens (which is probably enough!) and 315 watts (which I'm pretty sure would cool passively OK). And if that doesn't seem to be enough light, and it doesn't get very hot, add another 3.5 strips, running the new ones in between the old ones.

1000W Metal Halide Work Light - 110,000 Lux

Jim's picture

Hi David. Thanks for the reply. I've been doing some searching for ways to achieve 100,000 or brighter lux and came across this:

It's a 125v metal halide work light. It's designed to be used indoors and should have the appropriate shielding (big assumption). It is expensive, but for a one time purchase it might do the job nicely. And the bulbs should last a long time.

I also looked for other metal halide work lights on Amazon and found a bunch. Most are 400W but they have a few 1000W lights as well. This one in particular looks good: Designers Edge L4210 1000-watt 100,000-Lumens Industrial Metal Halide Power Light, Orange

Once again, it's expensive, but I agree with you - You need more lumens! I'm going to contact the companies about a couple of these lights and see if they are safe to work in from close proximity. I will report back. Let me know your thoughts!

Metal halide work lights

Those are intriguing! I don't have any experience with them, but some thoughts anyway:

The nearest experience I have is with "conventional" halogen work lights, such as this one. Conventional halogens run about 20 lumens/watt, so I ran two 1000w lights for 40k lumens. That was reasonably effective for SAD. A bit less so than my current LED lamp, because I can get much closer to the LEDs than to the halogens. They run very hot, so you don't want to get too close.

The good thing about the halogen solution was that it was cheap—the ones I linked are $55 currently. The bad thing is that they burn out quickly; within maybe two or three weeks of regular use. Sometimes the bulbs fail; those can be replaced inexpensively but it's a hassle. Sometimes the fixtures fail. I got tired of buying new ones every few weeks.

The 1000w metal halide lamps would also run hot, but at 100k lumens, you could be ~4 feet away and still get lots of light. That would probably work well. I sort of assume that at that price they are built to last!

A 1000w lamp is a fire and burn hazard. Just be sure not to leave them turned on unattended, or let kids get near them.

I'd love to hear how this works out if you go ahead with it!

LED strips

Ivan's picture

Thanks for the link to those LED strips. I think I finally have adequate lighting in my room for the first time and it's life-changing. I was worried the 'warm white' 3000-3500K version would be too warm, but it works really well. My eyes think the color temperature is a lot higher than the spec, but a calibration test with a monitor suggests the spec is about right and there's an optical illusion going on.

My lazy setup involved wrapping the LED strip around a water bottle, so it looks essentially the same as your corn bulbs.


Ivan's picture

The shipping takes longer, but AliExpress has the same LED bulbs and strips with lower prices than Amazon. A search for "100W LED Corn 10000" finds a quantity 4 lot of that corn bulb for $382.70 (3000K version) or $398.47 (5000K).

LED strip is probably closer to 4000 lumens

Ivan's picture

Talking it over with some people, I realized that 14,000 lumens for the LED strip is outside the realm of plausibility. An Amazon reviewer notes the strip uses ~38.6W and my measurement says ~33W. 14,000 lumens/33W = 424 lumens/W which is beyond the theoretical "maximum efficacy [...] in the range of 250–370 lm/W"

Going by this graph of LED lumens/watt efficiency, and by Wikipedia's maximum efficiency for a 5730 SMD LED, 33W * 110 lumens/watt means the LED strip is probably producing ~3630 lumens. Which is still ~4.5x brighter than the typical lightbulb.

I believe the Amazon seller is playing a game where they indicate "40-45 LM" for a group of 3 LEDs.

Now I know why the corn bulbs cost so much more!

LED strip probably mis-spec'd

Well, that's disappointing!

If they don't burn out quickly at 14.2V, it might still be a cost-effective solution (although more work to wire up). (BTW, your idea of wrapping around a bottle is clever!) (Also BTW, part of the expense of the corn bulb is the integrated fan cooling system and a fairly elaborate mechanical support for the LEDs.)

The LEDMO strip would be 9,000 lumens if 15lm/LED is accurate, so that looks good. I'll be interested to hear when you compare them!

The first review of that compares with "premium professional-grade" ones. I did look into those a bit... they are a lot more expensive, but have higher CRI. Not sure how much of a difference that would make in practice.

There's probably a business opportunity for someone to manufacture a high-lumen SAD light... although it may take a while for SAD sufferers to catch on that they are dramatically superior to the ones that have been available commercially so far.

Light spectrum is significant

There is one critical bit of information you should put into consideration: a large part of the effect of light therapy for SAD is the restoration of the melatonin down regulation during the day. This mechanism relies on blue-green light (446–477 nm). So you should obtain a spectrum plot for the LEDs or tubes you use and check if there is not a "valley" in the plot at these light colors, which is the case on quite many products. In my experience more light intensity is less important then making sure the melatonin-supressing colors are there.

Another avenue you might want to check into is vitamin D3 supplementation. They compensate the other vital aspect of sunlight, the vitamin D generation from UV.

For more details see

Thanks everyone

Don's picture

I can't thank everyone enough for the research and time. I have a commercial light box mounted next to my monitor at work and it does make a big difference. In addition, I wake up in the morning, take two 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 as a supplement to help and I can tell you, this winter is moving along MUCH better than ever before.

Now I am encouraged to step up my game!

The link to
is good advice.

Get some light, take your vitamins, get some exercise and talk to your friends and loved ones!

This will work and your life will be better.

The darkness you may feel isn't you.

Don't let it continue being an excuse for mediocre behavior, a shroud for hiding, or more importantly a voice of despair in your ear.

The voice of despair is a liar


Dawn Simulator

jim's picture

Don't forget to use a dawn simulator alarm clock. In some studies the dawn simulator has been shown to be more effective than bright light therapy. Why? Because it starts working on shutting down your melatonin while you are asleep. So you're getting light therapy and you aren't even awake for it! It really does help. And it's a lot better way to wake up as opposed to a traditional alarm clock. Hope this helps!

Consider 100W COB leds

Walking by's picture

You can buy 100W led chip-on-board units for $10 these days, and a corresponding power supply for $30. Attach a computer cpu cooler unit and you can get a lot of lux.

Chip-on-board cooling

Thanks! I did get one of those when they first came out (three-ish years ago) and did some experiments. They do put out a LOT of light!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a way to cool it practically. A CPU cooler was definitely not sufficient; neither was a really big passive heatsink. This interesting video shows a series of experiments with trying to cool one; he eventually concludes it's not really feasible.

There are now commercial units that house high-wattage COB LEDs in a big metal box for use as an outdoor (night-time) floodlight. I expect these get quite hot, but dissipate the heat over enough metal that it doesn't fry. (These didn't exist when I got my 100W COB.)

I haven't looked hard for the best price, but these aren't particularly cheap. For example, this one is 250W, rated 25,000 lumens, for $359. That's about the same price per lumen as the corn bulb solution.

For indoor use, you'd have to design and build a stand for it. I'd be really interested to hear how it works out if anyone tries this!

I'd like more evidence first

Ben, that's an excellent idea. I'd thought casually about how to create a business around this, but Kickstarter didn't occur to me. (Duh. It's the way many hardware startups have funded themselves recently!)

Before selling anything, I'd want more evidence for more lumens being better. It certainly seems to work for me; but placebo effect, and other cognitive distortions, are powerful. I could be fooling myself.

A well-controlled dose-response study would be ideal... but very expensive.

Perhaps if this post inspires many people to experiment, and many do find great benefit, that will seem good enough (perhaps to someone with more engineering/manufacturing experience than me)!


Evan's picture

This is a very accurate representation of the commercially available SAD lights. I purchased a desktop lamp that uses a 27w PL cfl ~5000k, just as mentioned it was not bright enough! After years of buying light fixtures on craigslist, as a hobby, I realized I could use a couple of these for light therapy! I now have a cozy futon and 32 inch led tv in my basement with 4x 400w metal halide/HPS fixtures in my basement, along with a 1000w MH/HPS ballast. Depending on my mood I can switch between a lovely golden glow or a lively day like white light. Over the years I had almost forgotten about their benefits during the winter months, as it is normal for me to spend 2-5 hours under these lights each night. Thank you for this article!!

Face Mask for Sleeping

Jim's picture

I've read a lot about SAD and it's affects on melatonin and serotonin.
There are many theories on why this condition exists. I certainly have it and have been searching for answers for years. The other night when it was a full moon and there was snow on the ground I could not sleep because it was too bright inside my bedroom. I have white blinds that don't do a very good job of keeping out the light. Instead of replacing the blinds I bought a face mask at Walgreens for a few bucks. After a few days of wearing it I can say it has made a huge impact on my sleep. I no longer lay awake tossing and turning until I fall asleep. I fall asleep rather quickly. And I'm also getting up early. Earlier than usual and without a dawn simulator or seeing outside light as a stimulus. I live in the Midwest and the days are getting longer. But it's still dark out around 5:20 pm (sunset). We're not out of winter yet. So I can't attribute my sleeping better to the time of year. It has to be the mask. One of the theories of SAD is that people with SAD are just more sensitive to the daily light cycles than others. They're not necessarily genetically flawed, they are just more sensitive to light. It sounds reasonable at least. Maybe this could be because of their hunter/gatherer heritage, who knows. But I thought I should pass this along in case it helps somebody. Maybe we should be chasing darkness as much as we are chasing lumens.. Just a thought. Hope this helps!

Dark is good

Yes, sleep experts agree light at night is one of the main reasons people have trouble sleeping.

I used a sleep mask every night for several years. Then I had a retinal tear, which I think might have been caused in part by the pressure of the "lip" of the mask on my eyeball (when lying on my side against a pillow). I don't know whether that's true, but I now try to avoid the mask, and sleep only on my back when I do wear it.

Most bedroom curtains do not keep light out effectively. However, it is possible to rig a solution that makes the room absolutely dark at night—and I've found that really helpful.

I recently used these blackout shades successfully. They take ten minutes to install (just cut to length with a razor knife and use the adhesive strip) and are totally opaque.

They aren't a good long-term solution (they are flimsy), but for $30 they are a quick, inexpensive way to get immediate relief, and to find out whether total darkness is effective for oneself.

Reptile Bulbs

Jim's picture

Hi David. I have never felt any different sitting around a sad SAD light, no matter how bright it is. I always feel like it's just missing something. I know a lot of people claim they think it works, but I almost wonder if it's the placebo effect. While there is probably some truth to bright light being able to suppress melatonin, I am thinking more and more winter blues have to do with the lack of UV rays in the wintertime. All SAD lights don't emit any UV. It's FDA mandated they do not. They just emit visible spectrum light.
Visible spectrum light will wake you up, and set your clock. But I think that's about it. Your body doesn't synthesize Vitamin D from light in the visible spectrum. A lot of people take Vitamin D pills in the winter because of this. The problem with Vitamin D pills is they are not metabolized the same in the body as vitamin d created from the skin. There are also some 280 genetic receptor processes that are linked to Vitamin D produced by the skin. So taking a pill is not the same as getting it from the sun. 90% of our vitamin D should come from the sun. The rest comes from food.

Ever sit in a tanning bed? Feel different afterwards? Tanning beds emit mostly UVA, which tans. But, there is a little UVB as well. The reason a lot people either get addicted to tanning or just go a lot is because it releases endorphins, which feel good. But, it also produces Vitamin D. I don't think commercial off the shelf SAD lights are the answer, no matter how bright they are. They don't mimic the sun and are only a fraction of the spectrum. I think they help suppress melatonin, which will wake you up, but I really think you need the UV just as much as you need the brightness to combat the depressive and energy effects of winter.

I'm looking into Mercury Vapor Reptile Bulbs to tread my SAD. I also purchased a Vitamin D lamp (Sperti). We get UV rays from the sun in the summer, so why would we not want to get UV in the winter? Of course the FDA and suntan companies will warn UV radiation causes cancer, and that's a whole separate conversation in itself, especially since the sunblock companies are trying to sell a product. But naturally, we lack UV in the winter, and that's just fact. Many many people claim happy lights just don't do anything for them, and I am one of those people. If you read the reviews of UVB reptile lights on Amazon, a lot of people are using them for winter blues and vitamin D production, as well as psoriasis and other skin conditions. I think we have to be careful about how much UV radiation we are exposed to on a daily basis, but I do believe we need the UV. And sitting under a Mercury Vapor Reptile bulb actually feels like the sun, and is sooooo different than sitting by a 10,000 lux light. It's warm, you're producing vitamin D, and it just feels as close to the sun than anything I've ever tried. I'm going to research these types of bulbs, as well as pick up a UV meter and maybe even a lux meter.
This one looks like a good one: 300R/E27/ULTRA VITALUX OSRAM SUN LAMP MEDICAL TANNING BULB 300 WATTS UV BULB 230 VOLTS (Amazon)

And I guess a good question would be, why do you think you need more lumens? Do you think it's because something is missing? Perhaps the UV? I'm interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks David!

Placebo, and is UV the answer?

Placebo effect is certainly possible! Subjectively, a bright enough lamp is effective for me, but n=1, and it's easy to fool yourself.

Given that sunlight is about 100k lux, and SAD is caused by lack of sun, it seems like common sense that most commercial SAD lamps shouldn't work; as used in practice they typically deliver about 3k lux, or less, which is a small difference compared to summer vs. winter. But, this certainly doesn't necessarily imply that 100k lux is an adequate replacement, since the wavelengths are different.

As far as I can tell from limited reading of the literature, no one knows what the right UV dose is, or how much vitamin D in the body is optimum. Because the effects of vitamin D seem to be large, it would be really good for someone to do this research (carefully), but so far there doesn't seem to be much.

My n=1 data point, for what it is worth, is that I live in a place (Tahoe) that gets a lot of sunny winter days. I go outside when I can, and I probably get an average of 30 minutes of full sun per day during winter. According to what I've read, that's enough to produce enough vitamin D. Also, vitamin D persists in your body for weeks, and is released as needed, so day-to-day variations in sunlight shouldn't make a significant difference. However, I find that 30 minutes in the sun is only mildly helpful with SAD. As soon as it get gloomy again, so do I, within minutes or hours. The short day length, and dark periods during the day, are more significant.

These observations make me think vitamin D is probably not the key. (But, they are subjective, and n=1, so I have low confidence in that.) I would guess that if UV is the answer, it is probably for some reason other than vitamin D. Sunlight may have other important effects besides vitamin D, which may be UV-mediated, or based on some other difference from artificial light that we haven't identified.

Your experience with the mercury vapor bulb is really interesting. Again n=1 but it seems to be a powerful effect. I hope someone is motivated to do the necessary research properly soon!

UV Readings Over a Year

Jim's picture

"No one knows what the right UV dose is."
I agree, but would tend to think one would want whatever average dose is present during the month(s) where you feel the best. Most likely the summer months.

I also agree that 30 minutes in the sun is only mildly helpful with SAD.
Once it gets gloomy, I start to feel it too.
Cloudy days seem to be the worst. The last time I was on a plane it was a grey, gloomy day in the winter. We hadn't seen the sun for weeks living in the Midwest. Once we rose above the clouds it was a beautiful blue sky. It changed my mood rather quickly just seeing some sun. I can't imagine that has anything to do with vitamin D. So, does SAD have more to do with color? Or could it be the possibility of being closer to a UV electromagnetic field?

More lumens = a greater electromagnetic field.

They also use electromagnetic devices (cranial stimulation) for depression with success.

It's almost like those of us with SAD are not getting the energy we need.
And that's what it feels like - we have low energy, and depressed moods.

The guy on this website took UV readings almost year round for his pet tortoise. Check out the UV readings.

I would say that directly correlates with mood and energy for SAD patients.

Overhead light with high-CRI fluorescents

That's intriguing!

I'm planning to start working soon on a high-powered overhead light, to supplement the desktop one I built last year and described in the post. Tentatively I was planning to use LED strip lights, but from experience I know those are a hassle. This looks like it might be better solution!

If you go with it, please report your results here!

It comes with bulbs

Hmm, I see the Amazon fixture (Hydroplanet™ T5 4ft 8lamp Fluorescent) actually comes with 6500K bulbs. Although customer reviews say they aren't great, so replacing them with ones like those you found might be good/necessary for the job. On the other hand, the fixture+bulbs is inexpensive enough that one might get it first to see if it's basically the right thing.

This one is cheaper:

Ryan McDermott's picture

Doesn't come with bulbs and is only $130

That other site also sells a 6 bay with bulbs for $175:

Looks like you need to buy accessories though if you don't want to bother with wiring it in.

What drove me to look for such a bright solution was the fact that I was trying to find out if it would be possible to light an entire room up with enough lux for SAD. Based on my calculations the practical answer is "No". The reason for this is I have a toddler. It's easier to keep her in a room rather than 1-2 feet from a light. I've been using this calculator here:

Based on a 180 degree angle (which I think is right) I would need to buy 6 of those light setups to hit close to a measly 10k lux for the entire room. Not happening

Lighting an entire room. In blue?

I was trying to find out if it would be possible to light an entire room up with enough lux for SAD. Based on my calculations the practical answer is "No".

Yes, I came to that conclusion too. (A pity!) I'm thinking of using something like this as a supplement to the close-in lamp, not a replacement.

Random intriguing possibility: I've read a suggestion that diffuse blue light, plus a narrow white one, may fake your brain into registering "sky with sun," and that this might be helpful for SAD. There was essentially no evidence for this, but it seems plausible, and I'm tempted to try it (using blue LED strips I guess).

Blu Blockers

Jim's picture

You can fill a room with enough light to mimic the sun. Hollywood does it all the time using special LED panels. It's totally expensive, but the photography gear is out there. I don't think that's going to solve anyone's SAD problems though.

One thing I've found helpful is yellow, Blu-Blocker type sunglasses. Seriously. They make a grey day look sunny. You don't even have to buy the Blu-Blocker brand. Mine are fishing sunglasses. But the lenses are completely yellow. I can practically wear them at night because they seem to make everything yellow and lit up.

Psychologically, yellow is the happiest color. Coincidence? All I know is it helps. It really does. When it's a grey, yucky day and I'm driving to work, I put on my yellow sunglasses and it's like a sunny, summer day again. It really helps my outlook. I have no idea why except for the fact that yellow is what we're used to seeing in the summer and missing in the winter. I wish I had yellow plastic that I could put over my windows at home because it makes a huge difference. It keeps the grey out and lets the yellow in. I don't have the sunglasses with me now since I'm at work but I can post the brand later if anyone's interested. I got them at a gas station for around $17. I don't know if it's just the color of the lenses, or if it has to do with UV blocking, or polarization. I just know that everything is prettier with the glasses on grey days.

I doubt it's going to solve anyone's SAD, but it does make a gloomy day look brighter, and may shed some light (no pun intended, well ok maybe) on what we need to beat the winter blues.

Good Bang for the Buck

chris's picture


First let me say thank you very much for all the info, describing your experience and for creating a forum where people can cooperate in finding solutions.

After reading everything posted here and researching on my own, I found this lamp (link below) that I am considering trying. However, there is not info about CRI quality. Should I be concern about that variable with it being LED technology? Are ~6000K LEDs inherently broad spectrum enough for SAD treatment purposes? Would you have any reservations about trying this lamp?

200W Outdoor LED Flood Lights 20000LM Daylight White 6000K for $130 at the time of this posting.

Hockey Arena Lighting

Jim's picture

Last winter I was severely depressed and had low energy levels due to SAD here in the midwest. One night I went to a local hockey game. I think the stadium recently replaced the metal halide bulbs because they seemed super bright. The game lasted a couple of hours but the next day I felt amazing. I felt like I got some sun. During the game I felt a lot better also. I felt like I was getting a charge almost. It was the wierdest thing. This year I would like to take a lux meter to a game to see how much light the stadium is emitting. Unfortunately you have to go through metal detectors in order to get in so I don't know if I'll be able to get in and get a reading. I know there are recommendations and some numbers out there for how much light hockey arenas should have but I want to know exactly what worked for me. It really made a big difference. It might be worth trying - go to a stadium and sit under the lights. Hope this helps!

LEDs, high-CRI fluorescents, metal halides, ...

Interesting to receive several recent comments, just around the equinox! This is probably a good time to build/buy SAD lights, because it's about when SAD first starts, and (in my experience) if one delays until December, one hasn't got the energy to deal with it. Better to be proactive.

Sorry to be slow to follow up on these recent comments. I've just started thinking about this again myself, and plan to do a round of research soon. Lighting technology is improving dramatically every year—2015 was the first when high-output LEDs seemed practical to me. Prices will have dropped again, I expect, and there may be new products.

Based on very preliminary reading, the high-CRI fluorescents found by Ryan McDermott look very good. Unless I find some problem with them, or an unexpected better alternative, I'm probably going to try them as an overhead fill-in/supplement to the LED corn-bulb lamp I built last year.

Replying to chris—That's 154 lumens/dollar, which is (as you note) an excellent bang/buck ratio! It looks good. If you get one, please report back here about how it worked for you!

The one thing I might wonder about is heat dissipation. It's an outdoor fixture, meant to be attached to the side of a building; so it might get pretty hot. You'll want to mount it in some way that makes it not a fire hazard. However, it's only 200 watts, which should be manageable. Before I started working with LEDs, I used 1500 watts of halogens, which were pretty scary fire-wise, but survived.

Unfortunately, I don't know how important CRI is, and so far as I know no one else does either, because the research hasn't been done. Subjectively, I find standard fluorescents awful (and this seems to be the opinion of most people who don't have SAD, as well). They produce greenish light that feels sickly. Incandescents and halogens produce yellowish light, which is much better, but feels like sunset (to me), which I find less than ideal. There may be individual differences in this—Jim reports that yellow light is better for him! There's weak research evidence that blue light is particularly important for SAD, but I wouldn't place a lot of confidence in that.

Subjectively, I find standard ~6000k LEDs taste like sunlight, close enough, although apparently their CRI is typically in the low 80s. That seems to be mostly due only to a sharp dip in the red wavelengths—the output is pretty even otherwise. I don't notice the lack of red, and I suspect it isn't relevant for SAD. (However, a complicating factor is that I have mild color-blindness.) There are high-CRI LEDs, but they're quite a bit more expensive.

The corn bulbs I used last year are no longer available. They produced 90 lumens/dollar, and 10,000 lumens for 100W. 100W was the highest available.

This 150W corn bulb produces 17,200 lumens (or so it claims) for $170, as of today, or 100 lumens/dollar. Not a large price/performance improvement, but the higher wattage would make construction easier. I'm tempted to buy one or two to add to my existing hand-built fixture. CRI=80, which is not great, but I'm not sure how important that is.

Jim, your report about metal halide arena lighting is really intriguing. I wish someone would develop a metal halide fixture suitable for indoor use! I'm not confident enough of the safety issues to try it myself—at least not without a lot of research first.

When I've bought/built something new, I will follow up. Anyone else who does, I'd love to hear what you learn!

SUV LED light bar

So after a few hours on Amazon, I discovered a new category of lighting I hadn't seen before, which is "light bars" for off-road night driving in your SUV. These have the best lumens/dollar ratio of anything I've seen so far, by a long shot!

This one is 30,000 lumens, 6000k white, for $42 currently. That's 714 lumens/dollar—less than 1/7th the cost of the corn bulbs I used last year! (CRI not specified, but probably in the low 80s like most current generic white LEDs.)

It seems like these should make an effective overhead lighting solution. I've ordered one to try; if I like it, I'll get several!

You do need to feed them automotive DC voltage (10-30V). I ordered this power supply for $19.

I'll report on how this goes once I've tried it out!

Agomelatine tablets (Valdoxan) & Mutated Melanopsin Gene

Jim's picture

David those automotive light bars look great. Excellent find. It looks like it would be a fair amount of light for the money. Definitely report back on your findings.

One theory behind SAD is that people with SAD symptoms have a mutated melanopsin gene and so their hormones and neurotransmitters get out of whack in the winter compared with those who don't have a mutated melanopsin gene.

From what I've read (and I wish I could find my source - maybe?) people with the mutated gene make more melatonin in the winter and darker months which leads to delayed sleep phase syndrome and SAD.
In other words, their bodies are in hibernation mode due to too much melatonin circulating throughout the bloodstream.

I have an appointment with my pdoc on Thursday and I'm going to ask him for a prescription for Agomelatine.
My doc is pretty open-minded and knows my history with this so I'm hopeful he'll let me try it.

The following was taken from Wikipedia regarding Agomelatine:

"Agomelatine is a melatonin receptor agonist and a 5-HT2C receptor antagonist.

Agomelatine resynchronises circadian rhythms in animal models of delayed sleep phase syndrome.
Agomelatine has shown an antidepressant-like effect in animal models of depression (learned helplessness test, despair test, chronic mild stress) as well as in models with circadian rhythm desynchronisation and in models related to stress and anxiety. In humans, agomelatine has positive phase shifting properties; it induces a phase advance of sleep, body temperature decline and melatonin onset."

Now by all means I'm not trying to push drugs or anything like that. I just know, for me anyway, that I definitely need to be medicated during the winter - my SAD is that bad. I've tried Wellbutrin in the past, and it helps. Unfortunately it also gives me terrible acid reflux and makes me more angry/edgy. I know this forum isn't necessarily for pharmaceutical drugs. I just want to help people since it can be such a debilitating condition.

I would most certainly rather do a light bar solution or something more natural but at least by me experimenting with melatonin supression I might be able to report back on how much melatonin plays a part in the SAD symptoms.


Thanks, I had not heard of that before! It certainly sounds plausible and worth a try.

(Does anyone else have experience with this?)

Light bar news

Tino Mclaren's picture

Hi David

Did you try the light bar?

Im just about to create a SAD setup for this Autumn/Winter here in the UK and was wondering how you got on.

This thread has been most interesting to read. Many thanks.

The light bar

Yes, I got one and it works and it's bright. Supposedly it puts out the same number of lumens as the 3-bulb light I built last year. I'm not convinced it is quite as bright (but I don't have a meter to check). It's pretty darned bright, however!

I have ordered two more, for a total of 90,000 lumens supposedly. I'm planning to hang them above my workspace. It will be interesting to see just how bright that feels!

Light Bar Source

Tino Mclaren's picture

I couldn't find any 300w versions on Amazon or Ebay UK sites but found one on AliExpress, its 400W and has a theoretical output of 40,000 Lumens.

Cant post a link as getting refused as spam but not hard to find.

Actually there's quite a lot of other spec light bars there too, so there may be a better Lumen/Price ratio.

Ive ordered from AliExpress a few times so think I might give this a go, will report back if anyone's interested.

light therapy, brightness

I've covered my kitchen wall with 300 watts of florescent lights. Something I maybe didn't pay enough attention to is that it is the brightness (lux) that matters more than the total light output (lumens). A bigger light just lets you achieve high brightness at a larger distance. So make sure you are close enough. Also, most smartphones have a somewhat calibrated lux sensor. On Android I have something called androsensor.

more light thoughts

This is a page I wrote on my use of fluorescents, which I've been doing for over 20 years. [Spam filter didn't like my link, but look for diy_light_box on]
I think leds are the way to go now, especially for a small box. The led fixtures have come down to where they are not all that much more than a florescent setup, and there is no issue with uv. I might worry a bit about excess bright spots harming your eyes if you have no diffuser and are looking directly at the chips, because they are very bright.
Recently a bought a square "troffer" led fixture (like used in suspended ceilings) and used the same trick of putting a cord and switch on it.

I have messed a lot with leds, though not so much for light therapy. You don't want to overdrive fixed voltage strips because most of the power will go into the current limiting resistors, overheating things and degrading the leds. Led power dissipation is roughly linear with current, while resistors are I^2. If you get current driven led assemblies (offboard current source), then overdrive would work better, but still keep it cool. Heat reduces the output and shortens life.
I made a fish tank light by attaching led strips to aluminum plate (maybe .062 thick) using electronics grade thermal double adhesive tape. This has held up well. You can buy from digi-key, "thermal management products".

I've used for diy led stuff, but fixtures are now something you can buy from lighting supply houses. The commercial fixture has two led strips rivitted onto the thin steel housing, so not much heat sink, but runs pretty cool.

The "corn bulb" design is really dumb for a leds because of thermal issues. Really, any led any"bulb" is problematic, but high power only makes it worse. Unless you need super high brightness for a projector or spotlight, it's much better to spread things out, and to use a separate driver/ballast module.

yellow/Amber glasses

The thing about yellow glasses making outdoor light better doesn't jibe with my understanding, though whatever works...

If you have sleep disregulation, they can help you calm down at night because they block the blue that drives your circadian rhythm. We got some yellow safety glasses. I find it pleasant, and use them if I'm up in the middle of the night. Good if you're staring at a screen. FWIW, we found about them at the psych hospital when my son went manic, so not a fringe thing.

uv blocking

Ordinary window glass blocks uv significantly, though if you are staring at high intensity sources, I'd research it. Plastic diffusers do not block uv.

Lux sensor

Rob, thanks for the many suggestions! Especially the phone light meter app one. I'm going to get that and follow up once I've had the time to do some measuring.

Follow up

Chris's picture

I just bought this industrial LED floodlight. Wow! 37,000 Lumens (claimed) for $125. Very bright, neutral light.

Not as cost effective as the lightbar, but a nice package. It does get hot. The cooling fins are hot to the touch, have to pull away after a few seconds. Bright, silent, neutral color. I got the cool white which is supposed to be between 5700-6500K. CRI >75. It's BIG. Like countertop Microwave big. But half the depth of a microwave. So far so good.

BTW, I scoured the web for a definitive answer on whether CRI mattered for effectiveness of SAD mitigation, and the impression I got is that it hasn't been specifically studied, but the CRI quality did not seem as important as the brightness/exposure time. And the CRI quality was more a matter of it being more pleasing light.


Ladrhyn Bexx's picture

Actually you dont need more light to produce more LUMENS and LUX , its about the quality of the lamp itself and what it is able to do. I work with a team at where we sell and work with a brainwave entrainment stroboscopic light machine for brainwave enhancement, using light impulses to change consciousness for better sleep etc. It works by strobing light with closed eyes....By changing the duty, (how long the light is on for). So its not how much light there is, its how much light can enter the pupil itself. So you get more pupil dilation. We have read the results on a LUX meter for SAD, we are getting around 10,000 - 25,000 Lumens, the highest 25,000 lumens for a 40hz programme at only 10% duty

Unethical advertising for a quack treatment?

This sounds like made-up pseudoscientific advertising hype to me.

Your claims make no sense: lumens and lux are straightforward physical quantities, and you can't get more of them by flashing the light.

Am I missing something? Have you got any controlled clinical research to show that a flashing light is effective for SAD? I couldn't find any support for these claims on your web site.

Your web site promotes your product to "consciousness researchers, personal development trainers, holistic and metaphysical practitioners, spiritual retreats, float tank centres." In other words, gullible marks for monist woo.

Unless I am missing something, it sounds to me like you are making a false advertising claim for a quack treatment. That is unethical. You should stop.


Jim's picture

Yes, I agree. Please stop promoting junk science and trying to sell a voodoo/quack product here. This forum is not for that purpose. It disgusts me when people try to take advantage of others in need of medical help for financial gain.


Jim's picture

Half of the links on that website don't even work. There are no technical details nor are there any links to scientific studies. It's pure quackery. So annoying..

LED Strip Lights on Glasses or Hat

Jim's picture

Hey David. Nice work with the Light Bars. They look pretty nice and functional. Since you posted this I'm beginning to feel the winter coming on and have been thinking about what to try this year. I'm already behind the curve as always it seems...

When I was having problems sleeping at night because there was too light in my room I decided I could either try and block out as much light from the outside by buying new curtains (expensive) or buy a $10 face mask to wear when I sleep. I chose the face mask. It turned out to be a great buy. Especially since I can take it with when I travel. I'm thinking about using this same approach to get more light during the day.

I've seen light visors and even glasses that are being sold to combat SAD. They look really silly and would certainly not be something I would wear at work. But I would wear them at home on the nights and weekends. I'm thinking about buying some cheap led strip lights and rigging them up to a small (maybe rechargeable) battery and fastening it to a hat or pair of eyeglasses (the kind without a prescription lens). This would be a lot cheaper and would allow me to go from room to room without losing exposure.

Have you or anyone else tried anything like this? My concerns are how bright the leds would have to be to simulate a 100,000 lux sunny day. And obviously how close/far they would have to be. And then there's the safety issue of this in general. I don't want to wreck my eyes by overexposure if it's not safe. So any help or thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks everyone.

Light visor

I haven't tried this... if you do, I'd love to hear how it goes!

(Or if anyone else has experience with something like this.)

UV Light, retinal dopamine in SAD

Jim's picture

So I've tried regular light boxes and they don't work. It just doesnt feel right. It feels like my eyes were missing something. I can tell immediately. I've always suspected the reason was because of the missing UV rays. My pdoc put me on Adderall recently, and I immediately felt like I did in the summer. I felt like I had just solved the SAD puzzle. I started reading up on Adderall. Apparently it targets primarily dopamine, along with some norepinephrine and serotonin. But since I've had Wellbutrin and Paxil before which do not target dopamine primarily, I could finally FEEL what I had been missing. Knowing this feeling, I started to wonder about the eyes, dopamine, and SAD. I searched and found a lot of PubMed articles that talked about retinal dopamine and SAD. I also stumbled across this crazy neurologist's website: Jack Kruse dot com. The guy is either a genius or not from this planet. I could not even to begin to wrap my head around the stuff he talks about. It's one of those sites where the dude seems to know what he's talking about, but has a cult like following and some of the info is so out there that it is either beyond recognition or just not true. Or maybe a little of both. And then of course he sells things. So that makes me question all of it.. But as far as the info goes, wow. About all I can say is check it out and decide for yourself. I think UV light, tyrosine, and dopamine are all related and am researching it more. Trust me I'm definitely not affiliated in any way. I just want and need to find a cure for winter depression. After feeling what i believe was missing (dopamine) I started researching. So I would be interested if anyone else knew or ever felt like this. I think we do need more lumens, (UV lumens I think), which creates retinal dopamine and turns off melatonin? Here is the link to his facebook page which got me reading more:
Also checkout the Pubmed Articles related to retinal dopamine, SAD, and melatonin.
Thanks for listening everyone. And thanks for making/keeping this thread open David. Spring is around the corner!


Steve's picture

I am not sure if it's all about wattage and brightness of the LED lights. I've used pretty bright LED lights (up to 50 watts) and I do not get the same replacement of the sun. It does not wake me up at all. However, if I open the blinds and feel the sun. Literally I can feel the warmth of the sun and the brightness and it seems to perk my mood up right away.

I'm thinking some of the heat I feel from the Sun makes a difference in my mood as well. Is this something that people are noticing as well? I wonder if LEDs even at 100 or 200 watt would get that same Sun feeling or maybe we should go in a different direction with the type of light bulbs we are using.

I think there is some validity to this as I read above about the guy at the hockey game and also the person promoting the reptile light. Has anyone tried different types and seeing if that makes a difference?


Ryan's picture

I believe that in order to get the full effect you need a more full spectrum solution. Some UV light is needed for other biological effects on the body. Someone mention Jack Kruse earlier, definitely something to look into but it's difficult material for the novice to understand.

I abandoned LED and CFL lighting because they are just not close to natural and can have deleterious effects on your biology because your cells literally consume and use the light. When you get sunlight, it's like eating a salad. When you get CFL or LED light it's like eating a cake.

Dave Asprey lives in Canada and likes to use a tanning bed in the winter months to get the valuable UVB to allow his body to create its own vitamin D among other valuable biological processes.

For me personally, I just got one of those double halogen work lamps. It's 20k lumens and when you have it close by you can feel the heat. The glass on them "protects" you from UVB. I have been tempted to remove the glass and get that UVB, but I don't know what level of UVB comes out of those. Is 100x more than is natural or is it a small amount that would be safe? I'm not sure. You need to exercise caution when dealing with these artificial light sources as they can have profound effects on your health.

It was also shown in a rat study that some types of LED lighting can permanently damage your retina. The study was unreasonably and placed the light source very close to the rats so it was disregarded as this didn't show you "practical use". So when you guys are blaring 100k lumens in your face, well like the study, that's not practical use either and so I would be very concerned about that retinal damage.

On the flip side, if you want to stick with your CFL or LED lighting anyway and miss that sun like warmth, buy that double halogen work lamp. Use them with each other. As far as color/brightness/feel goes it literally feels like you are outside ;)

Double halogen work lamps

Those do definitely work for me, too! I used them before I started experimenting with LEDs.

I agree that, subjectively, a feeling of warmth helps with SAD. I find being physically cold and feeling depressed are closely connected. I keep the house warmer in winter than many people would and/or wear more clothes.

I got annoyed with halogen worklamps because they burned out very quickly. Running them all day, I had to replace the bulbs every week or two—not a big deal—but the electrodes also lasted only a couple months, and weren't replaceable. Then I had to throw the whole unit away and buy a new one. I did get the cheapest ones available, and maybe more expensive ones are designed to last longer?

They run very hot, which does give a sun-like feeling of warmth. I found the fire hazard a bit worrying, and also I couldn't get as close to them as I would have liked, for enough brightness.

I guess I would recommend getting at least two dual-500W worklights if you go this way—partly for more brightness, and partly because one of them is likely to burn out, and then you'll have at least one while you are waiting to get a replacement.

For SAD light therapy, doesn

Me's picture

For SAD light therapy, doesn't the light fixture need to output a very specific wavelength? ~430 nm? 405 nm? Does anyone know what is ideal or am I getting basically the same result buying a generic high power 5600k fluorescent or LED light as compared to all of these light fixtures that are branded for SAD light therapy?

Does anyone know how SAD light therapy actually works? Is it due to the light of a specific wave length hitting the retina or does it also have to hit one's skin? Is full body exposure necessary?

How it works

I'll do my best to give answers to your questions, but I'm "some guy on the internet," so don't take them too seriously.

Wavelengths in the low 400nm range are blue light. There is some evidence that blue light is particularly relevant for SAD, but the evidence looks weak to me. "Cool white" LEDs include a lot of blue light ("warm white" lights do not). 5600k is "cool."

Some commercial products have a blue plastic filter so they output mainly blue light. Evidence that this is helpful appears weak or non-existent to me.

As far as I can tell, you are better off with generic cool white LED lamps than SAD-branded ones, which are much more expensive and not meaningfully different. I have a more recent post about this you might like to read.

As far as I can tell, no one knows for sure how phototherapy works. Based on my reading of the literature, probably what matters is just getting enough daylight-like light in your eyes. But most of the experiments one would like to see have not been done, so there's a lot of uncertainty about this.

There are SAD therapy visors that shine lights into your eyes from very close up. I haven't tried these. I'd be interested to hear about experience with them from anyone who has.

Sad Light Fixture

Jim's picture

Welcome to the forum 'Me'! I'll tell you what I have found.
Basically there are two lights on the market right now for SAD:

  1. 10,000 LUX light
  2. 'Blue' led lights

The 10,000 LUX lights are adopted by the medical establishment.
Some people claim they work. Others, not so much. They do nothing for me and it appears the same for many on this forum. That's why we're here!

The 'Blue' led lights on the market are a new type of light due to recently discovered 'ganglion' cells in the eye that researchers found respond to certain 'blue/violet' wavelength(s). I'm not sure that the American medical establishment is fully behind these lights as far as clinical trials go, but nevertheless the private sector has a ton of em on the market already claiming they work. Like most things, try it and find out.

What is ideal? Honestly - the sun. The sun is natural. We can't really replicate the sun 100% that I know of at least. We're all here basically trying to figure out what works for us to keep our mood and energy up when it's dark and grey outside.

Does anyone know how SAD light therapy actually works? It's complicated but here's it in a nutshell. Now this is just from me... like anything, do your homework/research and decide for yourself.

The eye receives light which is transmitted as electrical pulses to the brain to control circadian rythm, hormone secretion, physiology and behavior. That's it. But it's way more complicated than that.

There are tons of theories on why light therapy works. Most revolve around brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and the 'SERT' gene, melatonin, cortisol, etc. etc. etc. Most trained doctors believe light stimulates serotonin to be produced in the brain which makes you feel good. It also turns off melatonin which makes you sleepy/groggy.

As far as light hitting one's skin goes - there is research that light on the back of the knee can stimulate the circadian rythm which is pretty interesting. Also light hitting the skin produces vitamin D, which most people lack in the winter. So there's definitely a correlation there.

There's a lot to it and honestly it's a lot of trial and error to find what works best for you since we're all different. I'd start with a 10,000 lux light and use it in the morning for a month or two and go from there. You'll know if it's working or not based on your mood, thinking abilities, and energy levels. Hope this helps.

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