Light Therapy


[Boris] wanted to help ease his sister’s seasonal affective disorder. The most common way to do it is with fairly expensive light boxes. [Boris] built one of his own instead.  Now his sister can blast her sadness away with over 10,000 lumens of CFL happiness.  This is pretty much the same method one would use to create a ring light for photography.


  1. Jack says:

    Or you could use this method to grow plants indoors…

  2. Bhima says:

    This is really, really great… only he should loose the foil interior and replace it with high gloss white paint.

    I bought a Phillips light for like €140

  3. Sol says:

    I like the idea of combining this project with one of those flashing light ‘mind machine’ projects, maybe use LEDs and a fresnel lens.

  4. Rich says:

    I did this:

    I built myself a happy lamp

    More lumens, less elegant.

  5. K. says:

    His choice of bulbs is very poor for the application; I just wired up my wifes painting studio with sunlight spectrum fluorescent bulbs which are just as efficient and much better for treating SAD.

  6. epicelite says:

    More like bulls**t defectiveness disorder.

  7. Irons says:

    I would suggest a diffuser and several different multispectrum bulbs.

    I live the north east in an area known for heavy dense clounds. To help I use a fish tank with live aquatic plants. Using hacked “work shop” fluorescent strip lights with multipectrum bulbs. Once with high yellow peak, 2 with high red/blue, and one “standard”.

  8. mike says:

    I’m agreeing with epicelite on this one. Why not just open the curtains or something? Maybe go outside during the daytime instead of the middle of the night?

  9. Skitchin says:

    If I were to build something similar, I would alternate red and blue spectrum bulbs. A frosted diffuser would be a nice touch, and as someone else suggested, white gloss paint. I know CFL’s don’t put out too much waste heat, but with the addition of a diffuser, a cooling fan would be in order.
    Going the DIY route here could certainly save money, don’t try to DIY with the initial diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  10. robind says:

    I like the idea, but I think for it to work for me I’d need to put it on a timer or something. Knowing that I was doing it would sorta nullify the effect.

  11. hockeytree says:

    That is not over a thousand lumens. I grow alot of plants indoors… I know alot about lights, go with an hps to more directly emulate the sun. CFLs do work but you need way more and you need several different types to match the suns spectrum.

    A diffusor will not work for CFLs because of the tiny lumen output.

    Matte white paint is much better than tinfoil, as is mylar

  12. Bhima says:

    For Mike and epicelite: There is place in the world called “north”. In this place the days are rather short during the winter… today it got dark at 16:00. Some folks don’t get on well with that… particularly if they came from some place which is “south”. If you don’t get it, don’t sweat it… no one is telling you build one.

    Anyone else… if you think that you get the “winter blues” or such… try light therapy! It’s not going to hurt anything and it may just make your winters much better.

  13. mark says:

    that seems liek a good idea, if it was me i would probaly just replace the light in the room with a brighter one, or i would get a flood light from wickes insted of building a biger light.

  14. mark says:

    these were the flood lights i ment btw:

    however they will probaly use more power then your setup

  15. Skitchin says:

    hockeytree: How much for a QP?

    I’m not sure how lumen intensity is measured when it comes to combining light sources – 10 1,000 lumen bulbs may or may not stack up to 10,000 lumen. I wonder what could be accomplished with LED’s?

  16. kumekay says:

    I use office lamp with colour paper.
    It also applicable as Christmas lights.

  17. On the one hand, this looks to be a decent attempt at building a cheap lightbox.

    However, it’s not in ANY way a hack or a project with anything interesting at all. It’s just a bunch of bulbs!!!

  18. DarkFader says:

    Combined with blue & UV light it also treats acne and disinfects. An RGB-light won’t do but it could create a nice rainbow effect.

  19. SOOPERGOOMAN187 says:

    Add some near-infrared high powered LEDS and you have 4x healing and 6x growth in plants all in one.

  20. epicelite says:

    The people who believe in light therapy are the same people who buy headlight fluid.

    It is called the placebo effect.

  21. happypinguin says:

    Just put a white image on a big CRT,
    turn the brightness into maximum
    and put the face on front of it.
    Extra: Gamma rays to make your skin

    Now, seriously. I’m glad I live in a
    place with good natural light all year.
    That seems a good solution for the lack
    of light. Nice.

  22. larrysanchez says:

    @ Skitchin , You are right, having 10 1,000lm lamps together will not yeild 10k lumens… Light works by the inverse sqaure law, meaning that if you measure the lumens at the middle of the unit, from 1 foot away, the lamp in the middle will appear the strongest, and even spaces between lamps of mere centimeters can diminsh luminous output quite a bit.. It’s all a bit hard for me to explain at 2.40am!

    Personally I would cover the front of the box with frosted theatrical gel to make the light come from one source – it would soften the overall light and luminous hotspots would be eradicated.

  23. Wolf says:

    @mike, Next you’ll be suggesting that we turn our lights on and off with switches, and cool our computers with regular fanned heatsinks.

  24. hockeytree says:

    skitchen well of course you mean a quarter pound of “Basil”…. its some pretty damn expensive basil, about 500 bucks… err haha

    about the leds they need to be about an inch away (max) from the skin for any useful effect

  25. swiitboard says:

    It is not the strength of the light, but its color spectrum that counts. Solar spectrum lamps are quite expensive. So if this does not heva the desired effect, try to find the right lamps.

  26. ragnar says:

    @epicelite, why so offensive, when you obviously have no clue?

  27. Wwhat says:

    I used to be sceptical about the concept of winter depression and light treatment, but frankly if you are in a more vulnerable state you start to notice there is a huge shift, and that exposure to light does actually help your mood. (and that it’s too damn cold outside :)
    To the cynics: have you ever seen a poorly illuminated place? Or lighted with bad fluorescent lighting? And didn’t you then say ‘damn this is depressing’?
    Now if as is stated opening a curtain and being at the window at daytime is just as effective I’m willing to believe.
    Lastly, even if it was a placebo, if it helps why not?

  28. Matt says:

    Being a skeptic does not mean you shout “bullshit” at every thing you think sounds like bullshit. It involves actual critical thinking, and if some of you did that, you’d know that SAD is a well-documented, not well understood phenomenon.

    I was under the impression, however, that full spectrum bulbs were needed to have any kind of efficacy.

  29. fartface says:

    Beh. More homeopathic crap that has zero basis in science.

    Plus, when is a bunch of lightbulbs in a cardboard box a hack? Can I throw a bunch of CD’s in a cardboard box and call it a new data storage system and get a article on hack a day??

    It seems there’s more technical stuff going on over at ikeahacker compared to this place lately.

  30. Larry says:

    I live in southern California and the only time I lay in the sun is in the winter. The warm sun on my skin on a cool day sure makes me feel better. I question the use of CFLs used on this project but if it works then that’s good enough.

  31. Hey guys, thanks for featuring my lightbox!

    I naturally did some research before building it, and this is what I found:

    *) Light therapy is effective against s.a.d., which has been proven in various studies, see for example and the references therein.

    *) The colour of the light is actually not that important (humans are not plants), you just have to avoid UV light, or else you might give yourself skin cancer to replace your depression – or at least develop a weird tan in your face.

    *) Recommended intensities are between 2500 to 10000 Lumens, I figured with 10 1500 Lumen light bulbs I should be on the safe side. The inverse square law does of course hold – you should sit as close as comfortably possible.

    *) I actually considered having some kind of diffusor in front, but in the end decided against it. For one, it would mean a drop in luminance, and the box is meant as a medical device and not as a pretty lamp. furthermore, with an open box a I don’t have a problem with heat build-up, so no need for fans.

  32. BlokefromOhio says:

    My blind pal does just fine in the winter… bologna

  33. Jules says:

    Did this light therapy really works ?


  34. octelcogopod says:

    Light therapy is NOT homeopathy. Not even close.
    Do a little reading and educate yourself:

    This page is particularly useful:

    These kinds of light boxes can be also used for treating rapid cycling bipolar disorder:

    Also, Boris, the color of the light IS pretty important. It should be around 470nm for optimum effect. Fluorescent lamps have a peak around ~430nm, which is helpful provided the intensity is high enough. Blue LEDs are the best way to go, IMHO.

  35. Wwhat says:

    The thing though is Matt that a cynic would know that much of the stuff that is ‘well established’ and ‘known’ is complete BS, science just isn’t as scientific and flawless as it should be, and whole groups of scientist support obvious nonsensical theories (which they sometimes not even acknowledge as being theories but herald as truths), either because they feel a psychological need or because it maximises financial gain or to fit in the group.
    Also a cynic starts from a basis of ‘what I just heard is possibly not true and therefore probably nonsense’ then have the facts convince him/her.
    Of course going around shouting and posting comments something is absolutely not true (without even researching) is a whole different kind of psychology.

  36. Andar says:

    Bullshit, I don’t have tiny invisible creatures inside me, making me sick. It was that old lady in the woods, she must be a witch! Burn her!

    Its funny how people will comment negatively on things when they choose to ignore the facts. It is a fact that some people are genetically determined to favor mornings, others evenings. Sure, not getting enough sunlight can definitely mess with your internal regulation.

    Remember, we’re not far removed from hunter-gatherer lives. Our bodies are designed to conserve energy during the winter (cause food was likely to be less plentiful) and be more active during summer. Where do you think it got its stimuli from? The amount of sunlight?

  37. limpinlou says:

    What you need are UVA bulbs including the visible spectrum. These are similar to those used in tanning booths. They do NOT produce (nor should you use bulbs that do) UVB. This link address,, shows a company offering bulbs that provide this. I have been going to the doctor for UV treatments 3x per week for over 9 years. It works.


  38. Brian says:

    Idiots who scream bullshit obviously are idiots. If using light therapy makes a difference who cares why? Placebo effect or not screw the naysayers. It truly does not matter, as does nothing!!

  39. good goodthis post deserves nothing hahaha just joking :P nice post :P

  40. Acne says:

    Aw, this is a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

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