Story at a glance

  • Waking up to a traditional alarm clock can be jarring to the senses.
  • Feeling jolted awake in the morning can be bad for your health, studies have shown.
  • New technology has led to the creation of sunlight-mimicking alarm clocks that better match your natural circadian rhythms.

Do you ever struggle waking up in the morning, especially on weekdays when a full day of work looms ahead? If you do, you’re certainly not alone; it’s human to feel this way — teeming with grogginess and the anticipation of a long day mixed with the blaring sound of your smartphone’s alarm clock is not exactly a recipe for a happy start to your day. These feelings can only be heightened for many by the onset of SAD symptoms.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short, is the feeling of depression that many experience during the cold months of winter, when the days are shorter and exposure to natural sunlight is at a minimum. While only 4 to 6 percent of people may experience true SAD, a much higher 20 percent may experience mild SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. (See more about what counts as seasonal depression here)

An abrupt wake-up call

During the winter, you may also be waking up while the sun is still below the horizon, and despite the days growing slightly longer throughout the month of January that extra sunlight time is tacked on the end of the day, not the beginning. It’s also been found that using an alarm clock to wake up might actually be bad for your health.

According to research by the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan, waking up to such a jolting noise can be bad for your heart, causing higher blood pressure and heart rate. It can also add to your stress levels by giving you an adrenaline rushing first thing every morning, triggering your body and mind in negative ways.

A sunnier option

Companies like Philips and Casper have been searching for alternative solutions to the unhealthy wakeup buzz we’ve all begrudgingly become accustomed to, releasing products designed to get you up in the morning using only light.

This new breed of alarm clocks utilizes warm light that gradually glows brighter over the course of a set amount of time, starting as a soft glow and ending with a bright enough light to wake you from your slumber.

“The primary treatment [for SAD] is light therapy. Since it seems to be triggered by the shorter day length in the winter, essentially what you're doing with light therapy is trying to trick the brain into thinking that the sun's up for longer. What people could do to self-treat is just to try to increase their light exposure,” says clinical psychologist and associate professor Philip Gehrman of the University of Pennsylvania. “You can just go on the web and buy these light therapy boxes yourself — you don't have to get them from a health care provider.”

One of those options is the Glow Light from Casper, which is made from diffused polycarbonate and contains an array of warm white and amber LED lights. That warmth means little to no blue light — AKA the kind that has been shown to disrupt natural sleep cycles and prevent you from getting that much needed shut-eye.

Hook your Glow Light(s) up to an application on your smartphone and you’ll be able to set up your sunlight-mimicking alarm, as the lights gradually become brighter over the course of 30 minutes to gently wake you up.

 

 

How it works

Adult sleep cycles follow a circadian rhythm based on natural light and darkness, which means that we start to become sleepy in the absence of natural light and increasingly become alert when natural light reappears. Sunlight-mimicking alarm clocks aid sleep by mimicking the natural dim of sunset and brightening of sunrise.

The Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light

similarly calls upon a warm-tinted light to mimic a naturally occurring dawn, emitting a red-tinted light that gradually grows into a bright white light. They also have the option to add the noises of nature to your wake-up call too, like bird songs or ambient music.

 

In a recent study performed on the effects of artificial dawn on daytime cognitive performance, well-being, cortisol and melatonin levels, researchers found that exposure to artificial morning

dawn simulation light improves subjective perception of well-being and mood, as well as cognitive performance, under conditions of mild sleep restriction.

Published on Jan 16, 2020