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.
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?