What is a Wake Up Light?
A few weeks ago, I shared on Facebook that I was trying a wake up light for the first time. I’ve used it for a good three weeks now and am eager to share my experience with my alarm replacement.
A wake up light produces an artificial dawn, also called dawn simulation, to wake you up in the morning. The gradual light – a type of artificial daylight – gently pulls you out of slumber and can support healthier hormone balance throughout the day.
The wake up light that I use is the Philips Wake Up Light with Sunrise Simulation, which I got here from Amazon.
Wake Up Light Benefits
I believe the human body is intrinsically tied to the rhythms of the earth. Now, we have more and more research showing exactly how these rhythms influence our health. For example, earthing – getting skin-to-earth connection – has been shown to reduce stress hormones. Daylight is another way in which nature shapes our wellbeing.
You may have read my post on Lunaception, where I explain how light can shape and balance menstrual cycles. By manipulating the light in your bedroom to mimic the light cycles of the moon, you can help re-align your menstrual cycle with the moon’s cycle to support hormone balance and fertility.
A wake up light follows a similar concept. By replicating sunrise, you can support balanced hormones and a healthy circadian rhythm.
1. A wake up light supports morning cortisol response
Light significantly influences cortisol levels. Cortisol levels should follow a circadian rhythm, peaking in the morning and gradually decreasing over the day. Chronic stress causes irregular cortisol spikes, eventually depleting cortisol production. This is frequently referred to as adrenal fatigue (a currently vogue diagnosis but something which is very real).
Do you experience debilitating grogginess in the morning? Do you rely on caffeine to get you going? Those symptoms often point to low morning cortisol.
Exposure to daylight in the morning via a wake up light can support that morning cortisol peak, which in turn supports a healthy cortisol response throughout the entire day (source, source). And because all hormones are intricately tied together, balanced cortisol means better overall hormone balance.
2. A wake up light helps balance melatonin
Light also controls melatonin levels. A light-responsive hormone, melatonin levels should follow an opposite pattern of cortisol – that is, lowest in the morning and peaking at night. I’m not a fan of using melatonin supplements, since they can really mess with overall hormone balance. However, tweaking your light exposure is a powerful way to balance melatonin.
Studies show that exposure to dawn stimulation in the morning supports better melatonin balance throughout the day (source, source).
3. A wake up light may help depression and seasonal affective disorder
Light therapy has been heavily studied as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder. This may make a wake up light more valuable during the dark months of winter, rather than summer. Studies suggest that dawn stimulation may be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (source, source).
My wake up light doubles as my Happy Lamp in the long, grey days of Seattle winters. I’ll turn it on the brightest setting and sit by it for 20ish minutes while I read or work.
My experience with my wake up light
I am a lifelong convert to my Philips wake up light (if you missed the link above, I have this version). Here are a few noteworthy points:
- First and foremost, I have no more morning heart attacks from my blaring alarm clock. Yay!
- For the first couple of days, I awoke at the dim light of the sunrise simulation. I have the sunrise simulation set for 15 minutes, and it peaks at the time which you set the alarm. (For example, if you set the alarm for 7:30 the sunrise starts at 7:15). Now, I awaken later in the stages of the simulation.
- I usually wake up with the gradual light, but I use the soothing alarm sounds as a “back up.” The wake up sounds gradually increase in volume and are very gentle, unlike a beeping alarm clock.
- Most importantly, I feel much more rested in the morning. I don’t know if I’ve noticed a significant difference in my energy during the rest of the day, but it is drastically easier for me to get out of bed.
Do you use a wake up light? What is your experience?
Kezia @ Super Naturally Healthy
I was just thinking about getting a lamp and was just deciding on weather to get a alarm just just a normal one. Is there an option with the alarm lamp to just have it on and use it like a lamp at other times of day?
I once went on a cruise and had an inside cabin (the cheap seats!). It was disconcerting to wake without any light cues. This would be ideal.
First off thanks!
Wonderful articles on Salt and Lard elsewhere on you site – and I look forward to reading more.. I stumbled here as I was looking for some paleo articles to post on G+ as I have paleo folk in my family.
With that said: Being natural and goofy can get very close and this is IMHO – totally goofy.
I have lives a much wilder life than many western folk. Choose one – single handed cruising trans Atlantic and inshore gathering and catching my own food as and when. This does not make me an expert, but it does offer some insights.
Naturally if you want to hunt or fish (some sorts of fishing) you get up well before dawn… You need to be in the right place and settled before the beasties are awake and kicking… Naturally we rise before dawn a lot of the time. If one does this regularly our body clocks do the rest.
I have only ever needed an alarm to wake me when I have been on the helm for over 20 hours and an alarm every 10 minutes stopped me from falling asleep in coastal waters.
We have the most wonderful body clocks if we learn to use them.
And then sit at your window and quitly (mindfully) contemplate the real dawn… even in an awful urban environment you will gin insights which will encourage you to re-balance yours life..
There is no gizmo or purchased product that will give us reality… We are reality and the world around us is our reality too..
With thanks for your many great posts.
Sorry – a lot of typos there… please forgive 🙂
I absolutely love the idea of this! Living in a basement, we don’t get a lot of sunlight. I wish I could find a more affordable lamp, though. Any suggestions?
You mention that this may help with SAD, so can it function as a SAD light or did you mean that it may act supplementary to one? Thank you so much for the post, as a long time insomniac who has final figured out how to curb the habit every useful aid can still make a world of difference! 🙂
I have a lot of skepticism about what you’ve written. First, where’s the proof that these Wake-Up lights actually emit artificial sunlight? All of the claims you make about the wake-up light are about actual sunlight. The problem I have is you reference light in general. The rays from sunlight are very different from what a 50-dollar light-up alarm clock gives off. Just because it has a yellow light inside doesn’t mean it actively gives off the same rays. If it does, than why isn’t it properly regulated by law? Too much exposure would be dangerous.
At best, you’ve done a great job training yourself with behavioral therapy. This isn’t a bad thing, but you’re fooling yourself into thinking you’ve been using a light that emits sunlight. If a morning “heart attack” is all you’re worried about, something as simple as changing your phone’s built in alarm clock to a soothing sound would be more cost effective than investing in an expensive alarm clock. As for the light, why not just crack open your blinds, or have the bed face the window each morning? There are also proven benefits to drinking water as soon as you wake up. It’s more commonly heard of in Asian countries.
I don’t have one of these alarm clocks, but I am currently looking into getting one because I wake up for work well before dawn and am having a really difficult time getting up on time and feel groggy for hours. If I could wake up later through the week, I would prefer to wake to natural light, but some of us just can’t do that. I also greatly dislike the annoying beeping of my current alarm. However, I also can’t turn down the volume, or make it a more pleasant sound (I would love birds chirping), because I know I would sleep right through it.
I have never been a morning person (in all of my 60-plus years) and have always had to use an alarm clock to get up on time. During the winter when it was dark in the morning was especially troublesome.. For many years I have had trouble sleeping through the night and I hardly ever got a refreshing good night’s sleep. I have repeatedly tried to retrain my body to be more of a morning person (by taking melatonin and things like that) but nothing seemed to work much, if at all. I got a Phillips Wake-up light last fall and have used it since then. The difference is stunning! I have mine set to start lighting up 30 minutes before the alarm goes off and I never have to even use the alarm, I naturally wake up about 10 minutes before the alarm goes off and it is a wonderful, gradual natural-feeling awakening without grogginess. I love this light! I’m sleeping better in general and my body wants to go to bed earlier, which really helps with getting through the day without sleepiness. My advice to anyone with sleep problems is too try one of these lights and give it a few months. I think you will be amazed. I don’t know anything about the scientific reasons why it is working, but I know I feel great and the difference is VERY apparent. So I’m not going to overthink it, I’m just going to continue to use this light and enjoy feeling really good and refreshed again, and being able to be much more of a morning person.
On Thursday morning my electricity went out. In my fluster to continue getting ready for work, I broke the shade in !my bedroom. I pulled the whole thing down and decided to tackle that problem over the weekend. Well, its Sunday and I have woke up feeling so refreshed in these 3 mornings, I decided to google wakimng to natural light. I found your testimonial and wanted to let your readers know there is truth to this.
My son just moved to a new studio apartment with no window. His sleep schedule is getting disrupted. How should we proceed?
Sounds like this lamp could help. But I actually think that an apartment with no window is illegal, unsafe. I had very difficult pregnancies and the rooms that they triage you in have no windows – but they are just to evaluate and then move you to the appropriate place – another room or home usually. Once they were having a hard time finding he a room… I said – well why can’t I just stay here? They said you aren’t allowed to be in a windowless room for more than 24 hours! So living in one would be much worse… also every room is to have 2 exits to escape fire. One of those is usually a window. I would rethink where he is at…
Well I just noticed that the previous post was more than 3 years ago but I will leave my post above as no one should be anywhere windowless for very long