Since I had never actually seen a light box in the flesh, I asked some of the larger companies to send me samples for a “review”– not for efficacy but for such qualities as convenience, aesthetics, pleasantness, etc….
A word on brightness and distances. Many of the bight light studies recommend 10,000 lux of exposure for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Lower intensity will work, but requires exposure for up to 2 hours/day. Most companies report how far away you can sit from the source and still obtain 10,000 lux of brightness.
What do these distances mean? Well, currently my eyes are about 22″ from my laptop computer screen. When I lean back in my chair to consider my next sentence, I’m about 28″ away. When I pick up one of the lightbox brochures with the very small font, I have to zoom it in to about 12″ in order to comfortably read it. Keep these benchmarks in mind when you look at the following lightbox specs.
Norman Rosenthal, the “guru” of light therapy, says in this month’s interview that “bigger is better” when it comes to light boxes. Because I didn’t have enough room in my office for storage, I didn’t request samples of the mega-boxes, such as Sun Box’s “SunSquare +” (2 feet x 2 feet, $475). The largest box I sampled was Apollo’s Bright Lite IV (www.apollolight.com; price: $279; size: 12″ x 22″; weight: 7.5 lbs.; 10,000 lux distance: 28″). For a larger box, it’s pretty portable, like carrying a large briefcase. It’s not terribly attractive, being a big white box with two bright fluorescent bulbs, covered with a corrugated translucent plastic screen. There’s not as much glare as with the smaller light boxes, but still it was not particularly pleasant to sit in front of for a long period of time. The company’s website claims that this particular box has been used in more clinical trials than any other light box. If true, this is either an endorsement of the box or of the company’s promotional prowess. Northern Lights’ SADelite (www. northernlighttechnologies.com; price: $195; size: 19″ x 18″ x 11″; weight: 8 lbs.; 10,000 lux distance: 20″) looks like a large desk lamp with an adjustable arm, and is particularly convenient if you are planning to do your light-bathing while reading or paying the bills. Its adjustability allows you to minimize the glare.
Sun Box’s SunLight Jr. (www. sunbox.com; price: $200; size: 14″ x 6″; weight: 4 lbs.; 10,000 lux distance: 14″) is about the size of breadbox. It’s got that corrugated plastic covering favored by many companies (good if you like the industrial look) and was fairly easy for my eyes to tolerate. Northern Light’s TRAVelite (www. northernlighttechnologies.com; price: $180; size: 13″ x 7″; weight: 2.5 lbs.; 10,000 lux distance: 10–12″) is a little sleeker and has a smooth plastic cover; but when I turned it on, a harsh yellowish glare sent me scurrying for cover.
I reviewed two very small and convenient boxes, both of them about the side of a CD Walkman and rechargeable. The Apollo Golite P2 (www.apollolight.com; price: $299; size: 6″ x 6″; weight: 11 oz.; optimal distance: 20″ – since it is blue light, the intensity is not measured in luxes) emits blue light at a lower intensity than white light products, and thus it does not appear harsh. The effect is even a little magical, like walking into a jazz club on a sultry night. Unfortunately, there are still significant efficacy and safety questions about blue light. If these questions are ever resolved, then Golite would be the ideal combination of portability and brightness. Litebook Company’s Litebook Elite (www.litebook.com; price: $199; size: 5″ x 5″; weight: 8 oz.; optimal distance: 12″–24″) is an unusually attractive box, since it has an oval screen with a futuristic honeycomb pattern on the plastic. However, I found it quite harsh, since a lot of intensity is packed into a small package. The light appears white but is actually composed of a combination of blue light and green light; the company told me the green light was added to prevent any potentially harmful effects of blue light.
TCR VERDICT: There’s a light box for every taste!