We’ve never combined 3 products together in a single review, but a few months back I had several unopened boxes lying on the desk, and it occurred to me that it may actually be quite informative to do a side by side comparison for a change.
So, grab you favourite beverage, this is our in-depth 7000-word review and comparison of three of the best light therapy wearables you can buy right now: Ayo, Pocket Sky and Luminette 3.
Now, if you’re scratching your head and thinking ‘what the heck is light therapy and how can it help me sleep better?‘…… don’t fret, we’ve got you covered – just head over and check our in-depth guide to light therapy glasses where we’ve gone into great detail (7000 words no doubt!) to explain the science of how timed light exposure can help improve your sleep at night, increase your energy during the day time, and generally bring about world peace…..OK, so I made up the last one…
But if you want to skip that, just read on for a shorter explainer about the science, and then a deep-dive in the product reviews. Enjoy!
What are light therapy wearables and how can they improve your sleep?
For millennia, humans have known about the myriad positive effects that sunlight has on our physical and mental wellbeing. Today, in current medical practice, light is used to treat a range of health conditions. Perhaps the most famous of these is in treating seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder, SAD or the ‘winter blues’.
The standard treatment protocol for SAD involves the patient sitting in front of a special type of bright lamp called a ‘light box’ every morning for around 30 minutes. Light therapy has been repeatedly shown in clinical trials to relieve symptoms of SAD, and generally give you a psychological, emotional and physical energy ‘boost’.
Bright light treatment for SAD works because it effectively replaces the missing daylight hours during the winter months. By doing so, bright light therapy increase your levels of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood), whilst at the same time putting a brake on the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy).
This is where light therapy as a treatment for sleep issues comes into the frame.
You see, before the dawn of modernity, electric lights, smartphones etc etc – we would essentially wake and sleep more or less in sync with the rising and setting sun. The ‘solar’ clock (you know, that big flaming ball in the sky), for 99% of human’s time on this earth, was the body’s signal to start and stop producing melatonin, and hence when to feel sleepy and alert.
But in the 21st century, we’re too often forced into ‘unnatural’ work/social routines – we get up when it’s still dark, and then come home and stare into our iPads until it’s way past bedtime.
That may mean your body is still producing melatonin throughout the morning when you’re getting ready for work, commuting, or maybe even when you’ve reached the office.
Conversely, light exposure at night, prevents the onset of melatonin production, meaning you’re less likely to feel naturally sleepy.
All of this can result in tired, groggy mornings, low energy throughout the day, and an inability to fall asleep at an appropriate bedtime.
Fortunately, light therapy can help to mitigate these problems.
A typical light therapy wearable program involves donning a pair of ‘glasses’ which are equipped with specially filtered LED lights to mimic the brightness and colour properties of natural sunlight.
The obvious difference between a SAD light box and one of the new generation wearables is that you don’t have to sit static, in front of a lamp. You can be getting ready in the morning, eating breakfast, even doing your morning workout.
If you use a light therapy wearable regularly for a week or so, you should start to see changes in your sleep habits as your body clock starts to shift its phase naturally so that you feel more alert in the morning/daytime and more sleepy at bedtime.
You can also use light therapy to help ease the negative effects of jet lag, shift work, and as a natural substitute for caffeine, energy drinks during the day, when you normally feel like you need a pick up.
OK, so enough with the background, you want to know about the products, right? Well, let’s get into it!
Product overview: Luminette 3
Luminette 3 Quick Specs
- Website: – https://www.myluminette.com/
- Light source/colour: – Blue-enriched white light (peak 468/ 570 nm)
- Session duration: – 20-45 mins
- Brightness/luminosity: 3 levels – 500, 1000 or 1500 lux
- Typical battery life: 10 days
- Weight: 50 grams
- Wireless charging: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- App features: basic
So the first of our products is from Belgian health-tech company Lucimed, who were the first company to bring a light therapy wearable to market, way back in 2006.
Now in its 3rd generation device, Luminette V3 is marketed as a “wearable light box” allowing you to enjoy all the benefits of light therapy whilst going about your normal daily activities.
Luminette distinguishes itself in a couple of ways. First, it’s the only device that uses a ‘hologram’ lens system. Essentially this means that the LED lights point away from your eyes, onto a mirrored surface which then reflects the light back into your eyes.
Secondly, out of all of our 3 devices, Luminette is the only one to have undergone a range of scientific validation tests and clinical studies. The research background into Luminette is particulary impressive, and indeed there are several ongoing trials underway right now using Luminette. Read more about the research credentials of Luminette here.
Product overview: Ayo
Ayo Quick Specs
- Website: – https:goayo.com
- Light source/colour: – Blue-turquoise (peak ~470 nm)
- Session duration: – 20-40 mins
- Brightness/luminosity: 3 levels – low, medium or high (100% intensity approx. 250 µW/cm²)
- Typical battery life: 26 days (with charging case)
- Weight: 31 grams
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Wireless charging: Yes
- App features: Travel, Sleep, Energy programs and more
- Price: $299 with 60-day 100% refund policy. Take 10% off Ayo (use coupon SG10)
- Read Ayo Reviews on Amazon
Ayo is one of the newer light therapy wearables to hit the market, debuting on Kickstarter in 2015, and raising over $400k for their novel “light-based personal energy system’”. In our 3-way review, Ayo tops the list when it comes to number of features and overall functionality.
For starters, Ayo is the only product here that’s designed to work hand in hand with a companion smartphone app – which includes separate programs for sleep, energy and travel. Next, combined with its hard shell case which doubles as a wireless charger, it boasts the best battery life out of the bunch by far (up to a months use).
Then there’s the capacitative sensor that detects when the wearable is on your head or not. So if you need to pause your session, Ayo will automatically do so, and then resume when you put it back on – very useful if you need to answer the door and don’t want to freak the mailman out with your strange headgear!
Product overview: Pocket Sky
Pocket Sky Quick Specs
- Website: – https://www.pocket-sky.com/
- Light source/colour: – Blue-enriched white light (peak 470 nm)
- Session duration: – 20mins
- Brightness/luminosity: 500 lux (equivalent to 8000 lux light box)
- Weight: 12 grams
- Typical battery life: 14 days with charging case
- Wireless charging: Yes
- Bluetooth: No
- App features: None
- Price: €165 (~ $195)
Finally we have Pocket Sky. This wearable is the baby of bunch in more than one way. Barely a year old, since its crowdfunding debut in 2019, Pocket Sky is not only the young ‘un of the bunch, it’s positively diminutive.
Weighing about the same as a compact disk (that’s around 12 grams/0.4 ounces for those who don’t get my retro tech references), Pocket Sky is the most minimalist of our three light therapy contenders. The invention of two Austrian industrial designers with decades of experience in creating innovate wearables, Pocket Sky has been created to be fuss-free, the designers plumping for an Apple, rather than a Linux design ethos, when it comes to the user experience.
So, in contrast to some of its peers, there’s no companion app, no options or settings to wade through – there’s not even an on/off button. Instead Pocket Sky comes with an elegant clear shell case that doubles as a charging station. When you want to use it simply take the glasses out of the case, and they automatically switch on. When you’re done, put them back in the case to charge.
So, that’s an overview of our three wearables today. Let’s see how the unboxing experience is.
Unboxing/ First impressions
First off, I must say all three light therapy wearables did really well in terms of packaging and presentation. These things might seem trivial, but when you’re spending a few hundred bucks on a tiny piece of technology, you want to feel you’re getting your money’s worth throughout the whole experience, including the moment you unbox your new gadget. So hats off, to Ayo, Pocket Sky, and Luminette for putting the effort in. Now let’s take a look at each wearable in turn.
Unboxing Luminette 3
The biggest of the three boxes, Luminette, when you lift the lid, inside there’s a really nice blue/grey case, like an oversized version of something you’d get for an expensive pair of sunglasses. The case is some kind of semi-rigid plastic, so whilst it’s not a hard-case per se, it will definitely do a good job of protecting your device if you want to pack it inside a suitcase.
Unzipping the case reveals Luminette, cradled in plush fabric lining, with a handy zip section at the top for keeping your accessories, and the device fits inside the case nice and snugly, no rattling about.
Taking Luminette 3 out of the case, I was impressed by the build quality and engineering. The product feels very solid, the result of over a decades experience of being in business. The plastics feel durable, solid hinges, and out of the three, it gives the most impression of being a ‘medical device’, which is fitting in a way, as Luminette has indeed been used in countless clinical settings and research studies.
In terms of connectivity and buttons, you get a power button on top of the device and inside the visor section there’s a micro-USB port for charging as well as a 3-LED display for battery status. Plus on the side you have another 3 LEDs to indicate light intensity.
In terms of accessories you get an obligatory mains charger with a micro-USB lead to connect to the device, a soft lens cleaning cloth for the hologram mirror array, a pair of silicon ‘ear-hooks’ for attaching to the ends of the device arms if you want an extra secure fit.
There’s also a rather thick user manual which I was initially daunted by, but on closer inspection the instructions are only 20 pages, but repeated in 13 different languages!
Ayo have gone for a totally different aesthetic with their packaging and branding. Opening the box reveals a curiously-shaped hard plastic shell case, which doubles up as a charging station.
To best describe the case, imagine a blue and white medicine capsule, but blown up to around 100x the normal scale – this case is big, compared to its competitors. However, it’s very tough and robust, and the perfect form factor for travelling, protecting your expensive glasses when they’re stowed away inside your suitcase or carry-on bag.
Sliding open the case you’ll find the Ayo wearable nestling inside, the glasses themselves following the same blue/white branding aesthetic. Again, the build quality and engineering comes across as high quality – all hinges and moving parts seem built to last. Out of the 3 wearables, Ayo is the medium sized of the bunch. Whilst the LED array ‘visor’ section is quite slim, the earpieces are noticeably larger, no doubt to house the extra electronics needed to communicate with the companion app.
There are noticeably no buttons or controls on the glasses at all – every single function on Ayo is app controlled – indeed, Ayo qualifies for being the ‘smartest’ device out of the bunch as it’s the only one with such functionality.
As usual you get the obligatory micro-USB lead inside the box and a tiny user manual but that’s it in terms of accessories.
Unboxing Pocket Sky
And now the baby of the bunch. Again, to repeat myself, the packaging design of Pocket Sky is top notch. The outer box really is tiny, like that of a small fountain pen. Opening up reveals a hinged case with a clear perspex lid and a magnetic fastener.
If you didn’t know, you’d think this was just a regular hard case like you’d get with a pair of normal glasses. So credit to the designers, because the innocuous looking case is actually the charging dock for the wearable, and they’ve managed to conceal the fact that inside there’s a battery and charging components that give you a quoted 14 days use between charges. The only giveaway that this is actually a sophisticated piece of tech is a single USB-C port on the side.
Taking the glasses out of the case reveals the tiny dimensions of Pocket Sky. It truly is a marvel of engineering that they’ve managed to shrink a light therapy wearable into something so small and at 12 grams, it weighs 4 times less than Luminette. As a fan of tiny gadgets I would have to say that small is beautiful, and in my opinion Pocket Sky wins in the good looks category. Whilst fashion might not be a consideration for everybody, it may be for some. For instance if you want to take your wearable to the office, the sleek and unintrusive aesthetics of Pocket Sky are much less likely to raise eyebrows in the office than the more bulky ‘sci-fi’ looks of Luminette and Ayo.
True to its minimalist ethos, there’s hardly anything else in the box except for a slim user guide pamphlet, and a plastic insert contain 3 nose-bridge piece to suit the size of your…. er, nose.
So, that’s the first impressions, how do these wearables feel like to wear and in everyday use?
In many ways, Luminette is the most ‘old-skool’ device here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The design may not be as sleek as the other two wearables in this review, but still, this is the third generation product iteration, and all the improvements have been made based on thousands of hours of user feedback, and indeed a considerable amount of scientific research carried out over the years using Luminette as a bona-fide therapeutic medical device.
So in that respect, I was glad to discover that Luminette was the simplest in terms of ergonomics to understand how it works and how to use it. In fact it was the only device I figured out how to start using without reading the user manual – and that for me is a good thing.
(As an aside, there is actually a companion app to go with Luminette, but to be kind, with a 1.4 star rating, it’s probably best to gloss over this, and consider Luminette a standalone device – the app clearly has not been given much attention.)
Before you get started, you need to peel off the adhesive strip that protects the ‘hologram’ mirror array. The device already had some charge in the battery so I was delighted that a single press on the power button (with a very satisfying mechanical click I must say) kicked the wearable into action. Luminette always starts off at the lowest brightness setting, so a second click of the power button increases the light intensity to medium, and a third, you guessed it, to high intensity. On the right hand side of the visor housing there are 3 LEDs which light up accordingly depending on the light intensity.
According to your chosen brightness setting, the device will automatically switch off after a predetermined amount of time – 60mins, 30 mins and 20 mins at the highest light intensity. So, with no app, or settings to fiddle with, you simply put Luminette on and wait for the program to finish.
Luminette 3: Comfort/Ergonomics
OK, let’s not beat about the bush… Luminette 3 is definitely the least stylish in the looks department, out of our 3 wearables on review here. It lacks the elegance of Pocket Sky, and the futurist aesthetics of Ayo. However, the boxy, slightly old-school styling of Luminette 3 is not the result of lack of imagination or vision by the designer, but instead, a product of years of innovation, testing, research and iteration.
When you compare the journey that Luminette has taken, from the original product way back in 2006 through to the third version, it’s clear that, rather than try to reinvent the wheel, Lucimed, the Belgian company behind Luminette have instead used the positive feedback from tens of thousands of users to make incremental changes, gradually improving the design over time. So, as the design ethos has already proved to be very successful over the years, why try and change a winning formula?
Well…., actually, there are a few changes. Luminette 3 is 15 grammes lighter, 8 mm thinner, and has more autonomous features than its 2014 predecessor. Still, putting on Luminette, you’re still very aware of its comparative size -the most noticeable aspect of this being reduced upward peripheral vision, caused by the height of the visor section. But to be perfectly honest, if I wasn’t doing direct comparisons with other similar wearables, this wouldn’t really flag up on my radar. Luminette 3 feels very comfortable and you quickly get used to the size and form factor, because the ergonomics are good, and have been put through years of user testing.
One of the advantages of Luminette 3’s size is that of the three wearables, it feels very well planted and secure on your head. Shaking my head around, even bending over so my head is upside down doesn’t dislodge the device. Pocket Sky by contrast, starts to slip off my head if I do the same. This means Luminette is a good choice if you’re doing any active movement during your light therapy – such as gardening or exercise.
With regards to the fit, there’s a three-position nose piece adjustment which you have to get right as Luminette is designed to sit above your eyes. Noticeable too is that the visor is actually quite a distance from your face – so much to that you can actually slide your hand in between the visor and your face. The arms are quite rigid and fixed with hinges and there are no earhooks, but as I mentioned earlier, the device feels very secure – at least on my average sized head!
Luminette 3 Pros and Cons
|Luminette 3: Pros
|Luminette 3: Cons
|Only scientifically/medically validated LT wearable
|Simple one-click operation
|Bulkier than other wearables
|3 light intensity settings
|No charging case
|On-board battery life indicator
|True standalone wearable
Using Pocket Sky
In keeping with the minimalist ethos, of the three, Pocket Sky has the most stripped-back ergonomic approach. This is a conscious choice and will appeal to people who don’t want to mess around with apps, options or buttons – people who perhaps love technology and design, but don’t identify as ‘geeks’.
When not in use , the glasses just sit in their case, which elegantly hides the fact that it’s a USB-C equipped charging dock.
As soon as you remove the glasses from the case the LED array starts to glow with a pleasing pink/red hue. Then, when you put the glasses on, over a period of around 20 seconds, the colour starts to gradually and subtly shift from red, to amber, to yellow, green, finally settling to the blue enriched white light that the inventors have chosen to shift your circadian rhythm.
I like this colour shifting idea. It’s a smart way to gently accommodate your eyes to the brightness. Softer colour hues like reds and oranges are much easier on the eyes, so the effect is to ease you into your light therapy session, rather than jolt you into it.
After that however, there’s not much more to say about how this wearable operates. Simply, once you’ve put the glasses on, they just stay on for a pre-defined 20 minutes, and then shut off.
There are no options to increase or decrease the duration of the session. There are no ways to change the brightness of the LEDs. Using Pocket Sky is a binary affair – it’s just on or off.
To be perfectly honest, I have mixed feelings about the designers’ deliberate choice to make the device as simplistic.
On the one hand, I absolutely love the idea that you have a piece of technology that only does one thing, on way. Design choices like this can remove a lot of the stress and anxiety that people suffer when using tech. But there can be downsides to simplicity too. Whilst in general I applaud the zen-like minimalism of Pocket Sky, one feature I really would have like to have is the ability to have some adjustment for the brightness of the LEDs.
Pocket Sky: Comfort/Ergonomics
In terms of feel and tactility, there’s no doubt, the tiny form factor of Pocket Sky easily makes it the most comfortable wearable out of our three contenders. In fact, apart from the light shining in your eyes, it’s barely noticeable when they’re sitting on your face.
Part of this is the incredulous weight, or lack thereof…, but another reason is that there’s very little of Pocket Sky that’s in contact with your head. There’s only the removable nose-piece that stops the device sliding off your face and keeps the wearable at a uniform distance from your eyes, and then the super-thin arms which rest on top of your ears. The effect is such that Pocket Sky almost seems to float on your head, rather than being something you ‘wear’ as such.
The hingeless design is also an attractive feature. Because the device is so light, the arms have no need for screws, instead the whole device consist of a single, flexible moulded plastic frame which just folds elegantly when not in use. The whole thing seems ‘dainty’ but at the same time very durable.
Another benefit to the micro-dimensions is that the LED housing is extremely thin, which means, of the three devices, it’s the one that blocks your line-of-sight vision the least. This is a significant benefit because one of the main attractions of light therapy wearables is that you can go about your normal day to day duties uninterrupted, and the more obscured your vision is, the harder this will be to do.
The one downside I would say about the comfort and fit is that because these glasses ‘float’, although they’re very secure when standing/sitting upright, I did find that bending forward, or tilting your head too far down would cause the glasses to slip slightly out of place. This is of note if you intend to do any type of activities such as exercise, yoga or indeed just bending over, you might find Pocket Sky moving around your head a little too much.
Pocket Sky Pros and Cons
|Pocket Sky: Pros
|Pocket Sky: Cons
|Stylish minimalist design and ergonomics
|Only one light intensity setting
|Marvel of miniaturization
|Lightweight design not optimal for vigorous exercise
|Hardly noticeable when wearing
|Plug and play, simple operation
Finally we come to Ayo which is midway in terms of size between the other two. Taking the glasses out of the hard case, and opening the arms prompts the LED array to flash 3 times, I’m guessing to indicate whether the device is holding any charge or not. But to do anything else, you’re going to have to get out your phone or tablet, because there’s no way to switch Ayo on without the app – more about that later.
Like the other two wearables, the comfort and ergononics are very good. Although it’s quite a bit heavier than Pocket Sky, Ayo’s weight distribution is such that the grip comes more from the rear, where the angled temple tips rest above you ears. Combined with the angled nose-piece, this makes Ayo feel extremely secure on your head, even more so that Luminette. Try as I did, no amount of vigorous shaking would unseat Ayo from my head! Once small concern is that because this wearable give you the most ‘wraparound’ fit, I wonder if you had an unusually large head if it would feel a little tighter than the others.
Unlike the others, Ayo comes with a single nose-piece, made of flexible silicon-type material, which you can bend in and out to suit the size and shape of your nose and position the device correctly. This works well, and gives a good range of adjustment and has the advantage that you don’t have to scrabble around looking for bits of plastic if you want to lend your wearable to someone else who has a different head/nose profile to you.
A couple of ‘smart’ features unique to Ayo are the built-in capacitive sensor, and the ambient light sensor. The first is a touch-enabled sensor, similar to what you get on your smartphone screen, which can tell if you’re wearing the device or not. This is a pretty handy feature and works well. Basically if you’re using Ayo and you want to pause your light therapy program because; the doorbell rings, etc etc, the sensor will pause the program, and the app will prompt you to restart within 15 minutes. After that the program will automatically close.
The other feature, the ambient light sensor is, in my opinion less useful. The idea is that, according to the lighting conditions whereever you’re wearing Ayo, the light sensor will automatically adjust the intensity of the LED’s to compensate for the level of ambient in your environment. I get the theory behind this, and it makes perfect intuitive sense – if you were using Ayo whilst walking around in your garden on a bright morning, you’d probably need a lower light intensity than you would if you were wearing Ayo in a dimly lit, basement office.
The point is however, all of the scientific research on light therapy has been conducted on devices that emit with constant light source. There’s just not enough evidence yet to say that a variable light source is going to be effective. So in that vain, whilst I like the idea of the feature, and indeed, it does work – I preferred to keep the ambient light sensor turned off.
Ayo Pros and Cons
|Charging cradle/case great for travellers
|Needs app to operate
|Automatically pauses when you remove wearable
|Create your own sleep schedules in app
|App notification reminders
Using the Ayo App
Now, it needs to be said of course, you don’t actually ‘need’ an app to benefit from light therapy, as is made obvious by our other two devices. However, by marketing their device as a ‘smart wearable’ Ayo stands apart from its competitors – offering a range features that may align with some users’ preferences for their gadgets to have that extra bit of flexibility, functionality and automation.
Setting up the app involved the usual rigmarole; creating a user account, adding a few personal details – age, gender – and then using Bluetooth to pair with your phone. This was all straightforward and hassle-free I’m glad to say.
The app is mainly centred around the three different types of light therapy programs; Sleep, Travel and Energy. These are timed light therapy programs that differ depending on your specific needs. To help you stick to your program, the app send you notification reminders just before your scheduled start times. Here’s a rundown of the three programs.
Energy, is the simplest – and you can use it any time of the day, to combat winter blues, to revitalize you after a bad night’s sleep, or during the post-lunchtime ‘circadian dip’. To use this program simply select Energy, under Programs, and then move the slider to adjust the duration from 20 to 40 minutes.
The Travel program is designed to help you combat the effects of jetlag when you’re crossing time zones and you should be sleeping when you’re awake – and vice versa. Alongside acclaimed jetlag app Timeshifter , Ayo is part of the new wave of technologies hoping to banish jet lag to a thing of the past. To do this, the app uses an algorithm to calculate the optimal time to receive a boost of light therapy – based on you inputting your city/country starting point and destination, and arrival/ departure times into the app. This is a really useful function for frequent travellers, helping you to be more productive when you arrive at your destination, and recover faster when you return home.
Finally, the Sleep program helps you to adjust and optimize your sleep patterns, by entraining and shifting your circadian rhythm with timed light exposure. There are two possible selections within the Sleep program – ‘Without sleep-wake change‘ and ‘With sleep-wake change‘. The first is for people who are happy with their go to bed, and wake up times, but need more energy during the day and want to sleep better at night. To set this up, simply enter your regular sleep/wake times into the app, and you’ll be prompted in the morning with an app notification when to start your program.
‘With sleep-wake change’ is a more advanced program designed to achieve something called a ‘phase-shift’ in your circadian rhythm. This is for people who either have a conflict between their biological sleep preferences (aka your chronotype – whether you’re a lark, owl or in-between), and their work/social commitments – or for people who just find it hard to go to bed early enough, and hence always feel sleepy in the morning.
Many people will sympathise with the need to change their sleep/wake habits, so this is a super-useful feature. The app’s alogrithm in effect advances your circadian timing, shifting your body’s natural inclination from drowsiness to alertness in the morning, and conversely from wakefulness to sleepiness at your desired bedtime. To achieve this, enter your current sleep/wake times into the app, and then enter the times you would like to wake up and go to sleep, and the app will generate timings for a week’s schedule of light therapy sessions, designed to gradually nudge you into a more healthy sleep routine.
Finally, there’s no built-in program if you want to use Ayo to help with optimising sleep habits if you’re a shift worker, but there’s a handy in-app link to contact the makers directly should you wish to use the device for this purpose.
Generally speaking, the app is stable, well designed and does what it says on the tin. There are a few more settings to tweak with – 3 light intensity levels, the ability to turn off both the ambient light and capacitive sensors, the types of notification reminders you like to receive.
Subjective quality of light
I’ve saved this for a separate section, because describing the physical experience of how each device’s light therapy feels is something that’s extremely subjective and needs some nuance to explain succinctly. In addition, recent, ground-breaking sleep research has shown that there’s a huge range of sensitivities between individuals regarding how we respond to light and its effect on circadian timing.
So basically, whilst we know that light therapy is a scientifically proven, effective intervention for a range of sleep and mood disorders, we don’t really know enough yet, about each individual’s preferences, regarding exactly how bright the light intensity should be, and how long the light therapy session should last. In short, there are no recognised standards yet for light therapy wearables, so it warrants attention to recognise that each of these devices, at least according to my subjective experience have slightly different qualities that are worth knowing about.
If I was to guess about my own sensitivity to light, I would guess, from using these devices that I’m more at the sensitive end of the spectrum. I say this because I gravitated towards using the lower settings on all of the wearables. Also worth mentioning is that the whole concept of light with regards to its effects on circadian timing is extremely complex – for lots of reasons to do with optics, neurobiology, psychology and probably a dose of black magic too.
So, unlike choosing a light bulb for your living room based on its rating in lumens or watts, you can’t really compare easily the brightness settings between these three wearables directly – because each has a slightly different specifications regarding LED arrangement, colour spectrum profiles, distance from the eyes etc etc. But perhaps the easiest, if not a slightly simplistic way to understand how Luminette 3, Pocket Sky and Ayo measure up against each other is to use the widely recognised standard used for SAD therapy using a light box – which is a light intensity of 10,000 lux (at a distance of ~ 12-24 inches).
Regarding the manufacturer’s own specs, here’s how the numbers measure up:
LED Light Specifications
|Blue enriched white light
|500/1000/1500 lux (study shows equiv. to 10k light box)
|250 µW/cm² at 100% intensity (equiv. to 10k lux light box)
|Blue enriched white light
|500 lux (equivalent to 8k lux light box)
As you can see, each of the manufacturers claim their device has some kind of equivalence to a 10,000 lux light box. However, each wearable is different, and here are my impressions – but please heed, these are not scientific observations, these are just my own subjective opinions, based on my user experiences. It may be that you, personally, are more or less sensitive to light than I am so please take this into account.
Light source: Luminette
Out of all three devices, by far Luminette 3 seemed to be the brightest. Even at the lowest light intensity, the quality of the light seems the most ‘in your face’ which I’m guessing is partly due to the unique mirror hologram construction which bounces and refracts light back into your eyes.
Even at the lowest setting, I found the quality and intensity of light to be the strongest – this thing is a beast! But I’m afraid that for me, the light seemed a little too strong – I felt a little ‘dazzled’ by the strength and quality of the sparkly, reflected light.
Curiously, Luminette is the only wearable here to have a credible body of scientific research and the device has demonstrated proven efficacy in numerous scientific/medical studies and clinical trials. Hence it’s clear that Luminette is a bona-fide effective therapeutic device, plus it’s sold over 80,000 units.
So my only conclusion is that I must be at the high end of the spectrum when it comes to light sensitivity and I just wished I could dial down Luminette a little as I found it hard to wear for more than around 10 minutes.
Light source: Ayo
Next up, Ayo‘s LED array design is completely different, so obviously the subjective experience is markedly different too. Out of the three, I found the quality of Ayo’s light source to be the most ‘pleasing’ to my eyes. There are actually 3 different light settings inside the app, but to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell a huge difference between Low, Medium and High, and I just left it on High setting all the time.
Ayo’s LEDs are hidden inside the frame and point downwards onto a clear perspex strip above each eye. So the effect is of a softish blue glow, just above your eyebrows, rather than a light shining directly into your eyes. And whilst the light source is actually enriched white light, the light appears very blue, and not white at all – a trick of the eyes no doubt!
I had no problems wearing Ayo for extended periods of time – making breakfast, checking emails, phone calls etc etc – although the maximum session length I ever used was 20 minutes.
Light source: Pocket Sky
Pocket Sky uses a blue-enriched white light source, at a quoted luminosity of around 500 lux at eye level. This puts it at the lower end of the range in terms of brightness out of our three wearables here. And indeed Pocket Sky does subjectively appear to be the ‘gentlest’ of the three and the light source is definitely the least intrusive when you’re walking around the house.
The featherweight nature of the design too makes Pocket Sky less noticeable than the others – there’s less pressure on your head and less restriction to your vision, so the overall effect is that Pocket Sky is the only device that can claim to really blend into the background – sometimes I even forgot I was wearing it as I was scrabbling round the office or doing some clearing up in the house.
If I was to make a criticism, it would be the opposite of my observations with Luminette in that I actually wish I could dial up the light intensity with Pocket Sky. There’s only one brightness setting with this wearable, and I think it could definitely benefit from having a brighter option.
The big question – did they work for me?
Well, I guess this is the whole point of the review, and in short, yes, I felt a positive, noticeable impact from all of the three wearables I tested here.
Admittedly I was not using any of the devices to change or shift my long-term sleep patterns. I have quite a regular wake-up routine because of school duties, but on some mornings, when I’d had a late night beforehand, and felt particularly groggy, that’s when I reached for the wearables, trying out each one in turn, across many different days.
Although I found Luminette 3 to be quite harsh for my eyes, a 10 minute blast in the morning had a noticeable effect – not that dissimilar to downing a double expresso, but without the immediate headrush. The effect seemed to carry over for at least a couple of hours, helping to lift a great deal of the fog from those groggy mornings.
With Pocket Sky I felt there wasn’t such an immediate effect, so I tended to wear the device for the full duration of the session until it switched itself off.
The effect is definitely much subtler than Luminette, almost to the point where I sometimes found it hard to discern whether the wearable was making any difference at all. But using the device on and off for several weeks, it became clear there was indeed a noticeable effect on my energy levels, concentration and general disposition, when I used Pocket Sky on sleep-deprived mornings.
The sweet spot for me at least, was with Ayo. Although I would have preferred to have a standalone mode – Ayo seemed to have just the right type of light source for me. The effect was pretty immediate, and a 20-30 minute session proved to work wonders when I was particularly groggy or grumpy in the mornings.
Another discovery I made during testing is that light therapy seems to be an excellent hangover cure for some reason. A couple of occasions during the review period, I tried Ayo to see if it could lift my slightly wine-addled morning brain fog. I was delighted to discover that it really helped!
Summary and Recommendations
I spent a lot of time digging into the practicalities and technical capabilities of all of these wearables. At the end, my conclusion is, I can’t really recommend one over the other. None of these devices are duds. They all feel and operate like the premium products their respective price tags convey – they just all do things a little differently.
This makes sense, because this type of technology is so new, and there’s a very healthy degree of competition in the market, and indeed, a heck of a lot of scope for design, innovation and new ideas to bring light therapy to a mainstream consumer audience.
But for risk of sounding like a cop out, I do have some recommendations, based on the different strengths and weaknesses of each device. So, here we go.
Best for medical/ therapeutic use – Luminette 3
If you’re looking for a device with the most guaranteed therapeutic outcomes, there’s only one contender – Luminette 3.
It may not be the winner in the good looks department, but it’s a direct descendant of the first ever light wearable, and it’s the only device that can boast clinical trials, and demonstrated medical outcomes, based on numerous scientific papers that have examined Luminette under lab conditions over the years.
If you’re exploring light therapy because you’re someone who has a bona-fide sleep issue, or perhaps a circadian rhythm disorder like delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). Luminette 3 would be my go to recommendation for all of these reasons.
Best for functionality – Ayo
If features and functionality is always high on your list of priorities when you make purchasing decisions, again, it’s a no-brainer, the winner here is definitely Ayo.
It’s the only device with a smartphone app (that actually works…. 😉 ), hence it’s the only wearable that can provide personalized, automated schedules with app notifications to prompt you when to start your light therapy session for sleep, phase shifting, or jet-lag reasons.
The nifty, medicine-capsule shaped hard case/ charging dock is also a great boon if you travel alot – as are the neat sensors that automatically detect ambient light and sense if you’re wearing the device or not. None of the other devices offer these functions, so Ayo wins the award for the only truly ‘smart wearable’.
Best for style and every day use – Pocket Sky
In order for technologies to gain mass adoption, there has to be a optimal balance of engineering, design, and ergonomics so that ordinary folks, can embrace the new, with as little fuss as possible. These are the strengths, in my opinion of Pocket Sky. There are no buttons to press, there’s no app to deal with – just take it out of the case and put it on your head. Pocket Sky is a refreshingly stripped back, exquisitely designed minimalist piece of tech. What it may lack in smarts or features, it makes up for in terms of style and simplicity of operation, which increases the likelihood you’ll actually use it regularly, rather than consign it to the bedroom drawer after a few uses. Plus it’s the only wearable I would consider using in public, due to the fact it doesn’t make you feel like you’re a bit actor in a sci-fi movie.
It’s been fascinating to try out these three wearables and contrast/compare how different companies have taken up the challenge to help consumers tackle sleep, energy, shift-work and circadian rhythm disorders with this exciting new technology. It’s certainly a cuttting edge field of tech, and this last year, we’ve seen even more companies like Sula Health, Lumos and Bioclock join the fray, bringing new, innovative light therapy products to market.
But we believe that Luminette 3, Ayo and Pocket Sky are three solid protagonists in this evolving field. Depending on your specific needs – medical efficacy, ease of use, smart features – each one of these devices fulfils their brief with aplomb. We give a big thumbs up to all three. 👍👍👍