Lighting retailers can improve consumers' health with light therapy
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

More than 50 million Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each year. Most researchers believe the affliction is caused by decreased exposure to the sun during winter’s shorter days. Much more than mere “winter blues,” SAD leads to changes in brain chemistry and circadian (sleep) rhythms, causing depression, lack of energy, unusual food cravings and even social withdrawal. Fortunately for those who suffer, lighting retailers are uniquely positioned to help many combat SAD.

Those diagnosed with the most severe cases of the ailment must sit for hours in front of a box that delivers intense light therapy. Lighting showrooms can certainly invest in and stock these boxes (see below for a list of manufacturers who make them). But most already carry a range of products that can be used to alleviate many SAD symptoms: Companies like Ott-Lite, GE and Satco manufacture daylighting and natural light bulbs specifically designed to replicate sunlight and outdoor light levels; most even sell products that comfort aging and failing eyes—another lighting-related health concern. Pulling such products together in a dedicated, in-showroom “health” corner is an easy way to show customers you care.    

GE Energy Smart Daylight CFL
GE Energy Smart Daylight CFLs provide a cool daylight color that can help combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, all while saving energy.

Supplementing that display with helpful information and a knowledgable sales staff is important, as well.           

“Lighting is for people, so there must be an understanding of the visual quality users need for health, safety and enjoy-ment,” says Dee Ginthner, lighting consultant and Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Design, Housing and Apparel. According to Ginthner, too many lighting professionals focus on the importance of task and ambient lighting, but “the psychological response may be equally important.” A healthy environment needs illumination that “adds a touch of magic or something to tickle the user’s ‘joy button,’” she says.           

Seattle’s Indoor Sun Shoppe thrives on that kind of joy. Not only is it one of the largest sources in the Northwest for artificial, SAD-therapy lighting (Dawn & Dusk simulators sell for between $130 and $200), the store also stocks a range of interesting plants and fountains—an excellent supplement for health corner displays. “Our lives today are pretty cut off from nature,” employee Jerry Addington says. “We live and work in little office cubicles, and we have to do what we can to make that more natural. Everything in here [is designed to do] that.”


Manufacturers of Therapeutic Light Boxes and Dusk-to-Dawn Simulators

Alaska Northern Lights 


Apollo Light Systems Inc. 

Full Spectrum Solutions 

Lumax Industries/Nu-You Lighting 

OTT-Light Technology 

Pi Square Inc. 


Sunnex Biotechnologies 

The Sunbox Co. 



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