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Image: Time Out
Image: Time Out

Can SAD lamps really help kick the London winter blues? We put one to the test

Writer Rhys Thomas reviews the Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp to see if it can help alleviate that inevitable gloom of a London winter

Written by
Rhys Thomas
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I get a little sad in the winter. I’m not sure if it’s SAD (as inm Seasonal Affective Disorder) or just, you know, sad (simply-cannot-deal-with-Oxford-Street's-Christmas-shoppers level of grouchy). But the shorter days, chilly nights, steamy glasses everytime I get on the bus, and seemingly needing to catch up with absolutely everyone “before the new year”, does take it out of me (not to mention my bank account). So despite initial skepticism, I thought I’d see whether these SAD lamps could sort me out. 

Could a plug-in lamp in my dark flat with condensation on the windows make me feel like I do on the way to London Fields Lido on a sunny August morning? Could it make Hyde Park feel like a place for unwinding and picnics as opposed to a creepy shortcut? 

What are SAD Lamps? 

I’d heard about SAD lamps when I went to Copenhagen a few years back. Walking past nice Scandi apartments, I’d notice people staring into lamps through their windows. It seemed a bit weird, but then a quick search told me about this little thing called phototherapy. It was pretty much pioneered by the Danish-Faroese-Icelandic (notably dark places in the winter) physician Niels Ryberg Funsen, all the way back in 1903 when he won a Nobel Prize for his work on therapeutic and physiological effects of light treatment from artificial light sources.  

Lumie Vitamin L and instruction manual
Photograph: Courtesy Rhys Thomas

So despite feeling like a bit of a new thing, the science of lights as therapy has been around for over 100 years. Back in the 1920s ‘sun lamps’ were used, though they cast ultraviolet rays so they’d also give you a bit of a tan. Fortunately these days the equipment is a little safer, and likely easier to use. 

What's the Lumie Vitamin L like? 

The Lumie Vitamin L comes ready to use: you just plug the cable in, slot the stand on the back (which works both portrait and landscape) and switch it on. The light is very bright, so maybe make sure you’re not holding it right by your eyes when you do this (in the instructions it says to keep the light 50cm, roughly arms length away from you). The instruction manual is generally very useful, telling you everything you need to know about how to use and get the most out of the device. 

Out of the box, you’ll have it working in seconds, and the convenience doesn’t stop there. The neat design is slightly larger than an iPad, but about the same thickness. This means it’s very portable, I was able to slot it into my rucksack along with everything I’d normally commute with, and there were no issues. This makes it ideal if you’re ever travelling, or if you just fancy using it in the office some days. 

Lumie Vitamin L width
Photograph: Courtesy Rhys Thomas

Does it work? 

Well, it says that you’ll need to use it for three to four days consecutively before noticing a difference, which is surprisingly fast. I’ve been using it for six days now (from 10am-11am each morning) and I have actually noticed a difference. I seem to be less grouchy for the first couple hours of darkness outside, I generally feel a lot more alert and energetic in the morning too. The commutes taken in darkness feel a little closer to those lovely summertime ones that have you so motivated that you leave the flat an hour early just to soak up the sun. They don’t feel quite like that, I’m not an idiot, I still have three layers on. But undeniably, there’s more of a spring in my step. 

The lamp fits easily on my desk in portrait mode, so I can work while it’s on (you don’t need to stare at it the entire time, but it’s good to do so now and then). I then simply switch it off, and usually I don’t bother moving it given it takes so little space, but if I want to I just slip it back into the box it came with, which is also very small and storable. 

Do I recommend it? 

If I have any issues or cons with the Lumie Vitamin L, it’s just that there’s no fading up and dimming down of light, so it’s very much on or off. For usage, this is fine, but you can get a little stunned by it if you forget to not look right at it while switching it on. Other than that, this is an effective and super easy to use SAD lamp, which I surprisingly wholly recommend.

Price: £59.99 (was £90.00) 

Location: Amazon

Lumie Vitamin L turned on
Photograph: Courtesy Rhys Thomas

Want more SAD lamp recommendations?

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These bright babies come in loads of shapes, sizes, and prices. We've put together a guide to six of the best ones out there now, from cheap bulbs that'll turn your regular lamp into a conduit of sunshine to extremely aesthetic (and expensive) options that can replicate dusk, dawn, and all states in between. 

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