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Alarm clocks are a necessary evil. In a utopian world, we’d all wake up naturally. But commuter trains, work schedules and the school run mean that most of us rely on an alarm to shake us out of slumber every morning.
The problem is that alarm clocks don’t respect our natural biological rhythms, they just provide a rude awakening, regardless if we’re in deep sleep, lightly dozing, or in the middle of dreamland.
This often results in that groggy, lethargic ‘wrong side of bed’ feeling, especially on dark winter mornings, when there’s less daylight around, and the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can cause even more misery.
If this sounds familiar perhaps you want to try waking up with a gradual light alarm clock – also known as a sunrise alarm.
A sunrise alarm clock (also referred to as a wake-up light, or a dawn simulator) allows you to wake up in a gradual way, easing you into the day, instead of jarring you out of bed with a loud buzzing alarm tone.
Sunrise alarm clocks simulate the natural dawn sunlight with a gradual increasing light. Because our bodies have evolved naturally over millions of years to wake up this way, a dawn simulation can be a much more natural and healthy way to start your morning than a normal alarm.
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One of the physical sleep aid methods is the lighting, also called scientific light therapy. Gentle lighting can calm the mood, stabilize emotions and effectively promote people's sleep. This is especially important for babies, their sleep quality has a big impact on their growth. Good sleep can make you feel good and thrive every day.
simulate 20 minutes of sunrise and sunset by gently and gradually increases light from 1% to 100%. Unique temperature and humidity meter function (anti-ash design) always keep you aware of the changes in the environment.
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Types of sunrise alarm clocks
Wake up lights come in many different shapes and sizes, but the principle is the same. You set your wake up time before you go to bed. Then, a set number of minutes before your alarm goes off, the light gradually increases until it reaches maximum brightness at your desired wakeup time.
Many sunrise alarm clocks can also play a choice of sounds to accompany your wake-up light. However, because the light has helped ease you out of deep sleep, you can opt for a gentler sound track to wake you up, rather than an ear-splitting alarm tone that would normally wake the dead.
Is a wake up light better than a normal alarm clock?
The problem of using a traditional alarm clock and being startled out of your sleep by a loud noise is that it can result in a feeling of grogginess which can make you feel grumpy, tired, and can last for hours, or sometime even the whole day.
This phenomenon is known as sleep inertia and it happens because you’re woken when you’re in the deep, or slow wave phase of your sleep cycle and is what you experiencing when you say you ‘got out of the wrong side of the bed’ in the morning.
A sunrise alarm clock allows you to wake up each morning in a more natural and gradual way, helping your body clock to naturally shift from deep sleep into light sleep, then into wakefulness.
This more natural way of waking can help to prevent the negative effects of sudden awakening, which can ruin your morning, and even your day.
Short answer… yes.
Scientists first studied the effects of artificial dawn simulators in the 1970s and have found them to be effective at controlling the circadian rhythms of animals, even at a relatively low brightness.
Light is effective as a wake-up mechanism because even though you’re asleep, light enters through the eyelids, triggering the release of cortisol, and kick-starting the body’s wake-up cycle.
By the time the wakeup light has reached full brightness, the sleeper generally wakes up on their own, without the need for a blaring alarm tone or hitting the snooze button multiple times.
Compared to other types of exposure to bright light, early morning sunlight is more effective in shifting a your biological clock forward and hence
As well as helping to prevent sleep inertia, wake up lights have many other benefits for your sleep and general well-being.
Fortunately if neither a traditional alarm clock, or a smart alarm isn’t working for you, there’s another option. Instead of waking up to sound, you can wake up to light.
Here are some of the main benefits of using a sunrise alarma compared to a traditional alarm clock:
Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to wake up with the rising sun. Our eyes contain special photo-receptors that use the signal of early morning light to prepare the right cocktail of hormones such as cortisol, to ready us for the day ahead. With a gradual sunset effect, your brain can respond to the light, and ensure you’re best prepared for wakefulness.
When a loud alarm startles you awake from deep sleep, you may think you’re fully alert, but your brain is still playing catch-up.
The foggy feeling of sleep inertia slows you down, and makes it harder to get out of bed. With a sunset alarm clock, the wakeup process is gradual and gives your body and brain an opportunity to prepare for the transition from sleep to wakefulness.
The end result being you’ll have more energy, and will be less likely to want to roll over and hit the snooze button
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a clinical condition where lack of daylight can cause depression and many other mood disorders.
But the ‘winter blues’ is a general feeling we all have. When it’s pitch black outside in the morning, it’s much harder to get out bed.
It’s well known that exposure to different levels of light can have an effect on our psychological well-being. Light therapy is a treatment that uses a very bright (usually at least 10,000 Lux) lamp to treat winter depression (aka SAD).
However, studies have shown that dawn simulation devices, using much lower brightnesses are also effective in treating winter depression.
But when an alarm clock rudely awakens us in the middle of deep sleep, it messes with the delicate balance of hormones that help to regulate our sleep and wake cycles. The two main hormones affected are:
– cortisol : cortisol also performs many other vital functions including reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure, and also controlling our sleep/wake cycle. Exposure to simulated daylight in the morning can help boost cortisol in the morning ensuring better overall hormone balance.
– melatonin : this hormone helps to ready the body in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Some people use melatonin supplements but studies have shown that early morning light exposure can help to influence the onset of melatonin at night by shifting the body clock.
There are lots of considerations to look out for when choosing a wake-up light. Here’s a run down of the most important features to take into account:
Probably the most important factor to consider in a wake up light is the maximum brightness of the light source. You can think of the brightness of the light as being similar to the volume of an alarm tone. The brighter the light source, the more effective it will be in rousing you from slumber.
Just as standard light bulbs vary in brightness, so do the light sources in sunrise alarm clocks. Whereas domestic light bulbs are usually measured in terms of power ( Watts or ‘W’), sunrise alarms are measured in terms of light intensity using a unit called ‘lux’. However, lux needs to take into account the distance to the light source, and manufacturers don’t always quote the full specifications, so take note when you’re looking around.
Most sunrise alarms fall into the range between 100-300 lux, however, light therapy lamps, often used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) aka the ‘winter blues’ can go all the way up to 10,000 lux. Generally speaking, you should go for as bright a light as you can afford.
Another important factor is the color of the light source in your sunrise alarm. The more basic models feature only one color, usually a yellow/white light, similar to the glow of a standard light bulb. Higher end models feature multi-colored light spectrums which mimic the natural effect of the sunrise in more detail, subtly morphing from red, to amber yellow and white as you approach your wake up time.
Lighting technology has moved on considerably in the last decade or two. Most of the modern sunrise alarms now consist of low-energy LED’s. The benefit of using LEDs is that they don’t generate much heat and can come in multiple colors. The downside is that LED lights are generally not replacement, although they do tend to last for a long time.
The company that invented the dawn simulator, Lumie, however, still uses replaceable halogen bulbs for many of its wake-up lights. Some people prefer the quality of halogen over LED light, so this may be an important decision making factor in your purchase.
Again this is a very important consideration. Most people like to combine their sunrise alarm with a traditional audible alarm. Fortunately, most wake-up lights also have some form of alarm tone, although there are a lot of options.
Whilst the most basic dawn simulators feature only a basic beeping alarm, more sophisticated devices may sport an FM radio to play your favorite station, nature sounds, or even integrate with Spotify to choose from a library of millions of songs to choose to wake up to.
If you want to control the length of your ‘sunrise’ you will need to pick a device that gives you adjustable timing control. Whilst some wake up lights have a fixed (usually 30 minutes) amount of time before they reach maximum brightness, other devices let you control the amount of time, from 15 minutes up to an hour. This is very much a personal preference, so make sure you choose correctly.
Many wake-up lights also double up as ‘sunset’ simulators. This allows you to have a fading sunset effect at night to help you wind down. Instead of gradually increasing in brightness, from warm colors through to bright white light, a sunset effect starts off in the yellow spectrum and gradually dims to complete darkness, and depending on which model you choose, it can also change to warmer red spectrum light as it’s fading out.
Sunset effects are useful for people who have trouble falling asleep, and would prefer to ease more gradually into darkness, rather than merely switching off the light and lying awake in bed.
Light therapy is a recognised treatment for a range of conditions including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), mood and sleep disorders, skin complaints and eye conditions. Many people use SAD lamps during the winter months to compensate for the lack of natural daylight and they tend to have light intensities measured in thousands of lux rather than hundreds.
A lot of light therapy lamps now double up as a wake-up light, so if you’re looking for the ultimate in the brightness stakes, look for a sunrise alarm clock with light therapy features.
Waking up to light is great way to boost your energy in the morning and align your body clock. As you can see there are many different options for sunrise alarm clocks – standalone devices, smart light bulbs, light therapy lamps – but they can all achieve the same end goal, to gradually bathe you in gentle light and avoid startling you out of sleep.