Are sunrise alarm clocks worth the hype?


One of the sleep wellness gears doing rounds among those inclined towards well-being and healthfulness is the Sunrise Alarm Clock.

This trend of investing in a sunrise alarm clock is picking up as it promises to wake you up naturally, just like the normal sunrise.

Those of you who have not been keeping track of this rising trend need not worry as we will let you know in detail what is a sunrise alarm clock and how are they contributing to your sleep wellness.

What is a Sunrise Alarm Clock?

A sunrise alarm clock is a light alarm clock that incorporates sunrise or sunset simulation technology. This technology generates light in such a way that it mimics a natural sunrise or sunset and helps you wake up naturally to the increasing light intensity.

As your body is naturally adapted to wake up to the rising sun, the simulated sunrise alarm clock gives your body a gentle and natural boost in the morning. 

Unlike the traditional alarm clock, the sunrise clock makes use of light to wake you up in the morning. 

Just 30 minutes before your set wake-up time, the sunrise clock will start emitting a red light. This will slowly change to orange, and finally, bright white in color. 

Thus, the bright white light will illuminate your room and get you out of the bed. The entire purpose of the colors changing from red to bright white is that it mimics a natural sunrise, so you can wake up the way you would naturally.

What’s the Deal With the Sunrise Alarm Clocks?

The elementary particles of light, when transmitting through your eyes, get converted into electrical signals.

These signals trigger the part of your brain that maintains the balance of your body’s circadian rhythm, that is, natural wake and sleep cycles.

As a result,  it reduces the production of sleep hormones like melatonin and increases the levels of alert hormones like cortisol that help you get up and get going.

Thus, sunrise alarm clocks first became popular among those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It was because these light alarm clocks were observed to be an alternative treatment to bright-light therapy.

What happens when you don’t wake up to natural light?

Waking up at your non-optimal circadian phase leads to an asymmetry between your biological timing of waking up and the external timing of the natural environment. 

This happens as the phase-advancing stimulus of morning light is absent. Thus, the absence of gradually increasing light increases the sleep hormones and decreases the stress hormones inside your brain.

As a result of all of this, your performance and alertness during the day gets hampered. Furthermore, you feel sleepy, confused, and distressed after waking up.

This means if you wake up without daylight consistently (say very early in the morning or late at night), a huge gap will arise between your preferred and actual sleep timing. 

Such a gap will have a negative impact on your performance during the day as well as your overall well-being. 

So when are sunrise alarm clocks helpful?

A sunrise alarm clock can be helpful for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People living in regions that experience winter months or in dark spaces often experience depressive or low feelings due to lack of proper light.

However, the gradually increasing light of the sunrise clock prompts the reduction of melatonin, sleep hormone, and increases of cortisol, a hormone that helps you get up and go.

As a result, they feel brighter and more energetic. 

Plus, such alarm clocks also prevent abrupt waking up caused by the traditional sound alarm clocks. This means with sunrise clocks, there is no impact on your sleep phase upon awakening. Hence, there is heaviness or sleep inertia.

What happens if you don’t have a regular sleep schedule?

Improper sleep schedule may lead to asymmetry between your preferred time schedule and actual sleep time. This happens due to a shift in the circadian rhythms as changes occur in physiological and psychological parameters.

Thus, such an imbalance causes increase in stress hormones. This leads to reduced sleep quality, low levels of energy, changes in mood, depressive disorders like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), low levels of alertness, and hampered productivity.

Are sunrise alarm clocks better suited to the winter months?

You might have noticed that you wake up relatively early during summer than winter months. This happens because the sun rises early as compared to the winters.

Therefore, you end up waking more naturally during summers even before your the alarm in your sound clock turns on.

However, during winters, you stay longer in bed as the sun rises relatively late. Since the mornings stay dark for a comparatively longer period of time, it gets challenging for you to move out of the bed when it is still dark.

Now, some people may get impacted with this to a great extent. They are low on energy, experience irritability, tiredness, and have poor focus the entire day during the winter months. This is often called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD occurs in some people as there exists an asymmetry between their biological clock and the natural clock. However, sunrise alarm clocks can come to their rescue and help them get out of bed if they find it difficult to wake up at the right time during the darker winter months.

Are there any other tips you can give us to help us sleep better?

  • Expose your body to early morning sunlight for at least 10 minutes as it light is a powerful source that keeps your circadian rhythms in balance. 

  • Amount of sleep and light intensity both impact your body’s circadian rhythms. Therefore, taking proper amount of sleep is extremely important to keep your biological clock in check.

  • Do not expose your body to blue light before sleeping as it hampers the sleep quality.

  • Do deep breathing exercises in the morning sunlight as it helps you to enhance your energy levels and alertness.

  • Visit a therapist in case you get improper sleep for a longer period of time.

Our favorite sunrise alarm clocks

There are a host of brands selling sunrise alarm clocks incorporating different features having different functionalities. 

We have come up with a list of few of our favorite sunrise alarm clocks available in the market. The best ones are from Philips and Lumie. 

The light therapy lamps from Philips are clinically proven and wake you up naturally. The physicians and pharmacists recommend Philips Wake-Up lights as it helps in developing a healthy sleep and wake routine. 

Further, the Philips sunrise clocks incorporate certain other smart feature like FM radio, tap snooze, and a choice of natural wake-up sounds to make your waking experience all the more natural.

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