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Published on March 16th, 2011 | by Greg

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Stay Bright Even When It Isn’t

San Fran­cis­co boasts plen­ty of pos­i­tives, and the weath­er is among them. It’s usu­al­ly mild, and parts can be quite sun­ny most of the year. But there is plen­ty of fog, and the over­cast skies and reg­u­lar rainy sea­son can make for some damp­ened spir­its. Ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments al­so have their own down­sides, and a lack of win­dows, sky­lights, and oth­er nat­u­ral light sources can mean that city dwellers spend their days with­out a lot of sun. Even if you don’t feel the need to see a doc­tor, it’s easy to tell when you are suf­fer­ing from a bout with sea­son­al af­fec­tive dis­or­der. It might sound a bit sil­ly, but sev­er­al peer-re­viewed stud­ies have backed up the ex­treme­ly pos­i­tive ef­fects from light, on both men­tal and phys­i­cal health. Nonethe­less, these are not med­i­cal de­vices.

We’ve been try­ing out three sys­tems that each claim to help bright­en up your days- the Ver­ilux Hap­py­Light 6000, Na­ture­Bright Per3, and Up­lift Day­light DL930. These lamps each of­fer the same ba­sic ben­e­fits, help­ing to beat the “win­ter blues” as well as jet lag. Whether it’s at home, or in the of­fice, a day­light sim­u­lat­ing lamp can work won­ders.

The cheap­est, and least bright, of to­day’s set is the Ver­ilux Hap­py­Light 6000. This unit pro­vides, as you might guess from the name, 6000 LUX, where­as the oth­er two units in our set pro­duce 10000. The dif­fer­ence is main­ly in how long you need to sit near the lamp to pro­vide the full ben­e­fits, and it al­so de­pends on your dis­tance from the lamp it­self. We’ve seen rec­om­men­da­tions of about one foot away, though this one’s guide sug­gest­ed be­tween 12-24 inch­es. The light does not need to face you di­rect­ly, and you should cer­tain­ly not stare di­rect­ly near the lamp ei­ther, but it must be vis­i­ble to your eyes. And it goes with­out say­ing, then, that your eyes should be open for the most ben­e­fit.

Op­ti­mal place­ment is im­por­tant, as is tim­ing. We ex­per­i­ment­ed with var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of both, but the rec­om­mend­ed us­age is around two and a half hours at the start of the day for a low­er pow­er mod­el like this one, at 18 inch­es away. If it’s hard to get that amount of time in, you might want to go with a larg­er and more ex­pen­sive mod­el- Ver­ilux makes one- that can cut the time need­ed in half. But some is al­ways bet­ter than none, and we found all of the units help­ful, even with af­ter­noon ses­sions of a short­er du­ra­tion. Sim­ply put it on dur­ing your morn­ing news­pa­per read­ing, for in­stance, or next to your mon­i­tor and try dif­fer­ent set­tings. And you can break up the time in­to small­er chunks or mi­ni ses­sions; you don’t need to stay there con­tin­u­ous­ly.  All units sug­gest avoid­ing use at night, as it can in­ter­fere with sleep pat­terns.

We liked the Ver­ilux unit for it’s small size and porta­bil­i­ty. It was the eas­i­est to take on the go, and was al­so the small­est. This means that it is rel­a­tive­ly easy to sit on a desk, for ex­am­ple, and is in­con­spic­u­ous as it looks for the most part like a nor­mal lamp. It doesn’t work so well, though, as a pri­ma­ry light­ing source or a reg­u­lar lamp. Two pow­er lev­els are avail­able, and the Hap­py­Light 6000 is avail­able wide­ly for un­der $100.

For a bit more pow­er, and a larg­er field of il­lu­mi­na­tion, there is the Up­lift Day­light DL930. This is a much larg­er de­vice, and of­fers the ex­pect­ed up­sides and down­sides. You’ll need short­er re­quired time in front of the lamp, but it’s much hard­er to take with you. It can work as a read­ing lamp rea­son­ably well, but isn’t very at­trac­tive- it looks very dis­tinc­tive and a bit clin­i­cal or like a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phy lamp. The dif­fus­er is great- sim­i­lar to the Hap­py­Light but more di­rect­ed- and they rec­om­mend sit­ting around 11 inch­es away. You can choose from three height set­tings, which was nice, but this of­fers the most dif­fi­cult set­up and place­ment of the three. The light is di­rect­ed down­wards, in the­o­ry more ef­fec­tive as it mim­ics the sun’s di­rec­tion, but we must say that we didn’t see much of a dif­fer­ence with di­rec­tion­al­i­ty. At $140, this is priced sim­i­lar­ly to our next unit, and the dif­fer­ence seems to be one of taste- some of our staff pre­ferred the larg­er Up­lift unit and didn’t mind the size. Oth­ers pre­ferred some­thing small­er, and a bit more di­rec­tion­al­ly ad­justable.

The Na­ture­Bright Per3 might not seem im­me­di­ate­ly ap­peal­ing. It looks a bit like a cheap desk lamp, and comes in on­ly one col­or/fin­ish op­tion that felt a bit odd to most of our staff. But it was the sin­gle most flex­i­ble, mul­ti-use op­tion and the one we kept com­ing back to. Un­like the oth­er two op­tions in this re­view, which use flu­o­res­cent bulbs, the Per3 us­es LEDs. It al­so is unique in that it of­fers a built-in alarm clock, a fea­ture that might seem a bit strange and un­nec­es­sary at first but turns out to make a big dif­fer­ence, as we will dis­cuss in a mo­ment. The rec­om­mend­ed dis­tance here is 20 inch­es, for use in fif­teen to thir­ty minute in­ter­vals- less than the oth­ers, and at a more nat­u­ral dis­tance that was easy for us to work in­to our dai­ly lives. Place­ment is sim­ple, and though set­up is a bit hard­er- we had to read the man­u­al- there is a good rea­son.

The main ad­van­tage of the Per3 is that you can use it as a dawn sim­u­la­tor, help­ing to wake you up in the morn­ing if nat­u­ral light just isn’t bright enough. You can choose how long the in­ten­si­ty in­creas­es, but have to man­u­al­ly set the time- it would have been nice to be able to have it set to the ac­tu­al known time or at least be ad­justable based on it. You can al­so use the Per3 as a sun­set light source, great for shift work­ers. And it isn’t too hard to pack away for trav­el or to bring to dif­fer­ent places. It’s the most ex­pen­sive of the three, slight­ly, at $146 or so avail­able wide­ly on­line. But it feels worth ev­ery pen­ny, and helped keep us fresh and cheer­ful through fog and rain and win­try weath­er.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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