The alarm clock is a necessary evil for most of us. It jolts you awake with a loud, blaring sound in a dark room. You may or may not hit snooze a few times, then stumble out of bed into the darkness and hope you don't trip on something before finding a light.
That was me. I hated the alarm clock and the instant stress I felt waking up to it every morning. I started doing research into alarm clocks. I wanted something that woke me up in a gentler but still effective way. That's when I found out about daylight simulation alarm clocks. A daylight simulation alarm clock starts waking you up to half an hour before your alarm time. It begins with a soft glow and ramps up to full brightness by your wake-up time. There are many health benefits to waking up naturally with light, along with multiple reasons to move away from the traditional alarm clock.
What are the health benefits of waking up to natural light?
Light tells your body it's time to wake up. Imitating a sunrise in your bedroom can positively affect the way your body responds to waking up and promote an overall healthy wake-up response.
- A group of researchers at the University of Westminster found that exposing people to a simulated version of morning light helps them start the day feeling more active and less groggy.
- Other studies, like the one conducted in 2013 in Switzerland, found people were generally happier and more alert when they were exposed to simulated morning light.
- Exposing yourself to light upon waking results in an increase in morning cortisol levels on the body. This is a good thing as our bodies naturally have more cortisol in the morning, known as the awakening cortisol response, which prepares our mind and body to tackle the stresses of the day.
- Another hormone responsible for our quality of sleep is melatonin. Where cortisol levels should peak in the morning, melatonin levels should be at their lowest during waking. Melatonin is sensitive to light, making the use of a morning light simulator a natural way to positively affect your melatonin levels during the waking process.
Your alarm clock is stressing out your body.
You're sleeping peacefully when all of a sudden there's a loud blaring sound startling you awake. That's how many people wake up every day, to a noisy alarm clock. If we're being honest, it's not a pleasant experience.
Being jolted awake, like by an alarm clock, starts a chain reaction of unhealthy responses by the body including a rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins. Adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone, increases our heart rate and breathing. It's released most often during times of stress, which is what the body experiences when it's ripped out of its peaceful slumber.
A study done by the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan confirmed that the body's response to an unnatural wake-up results in an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
The effects of being jolted awake also affect your mood and your mental clarity. The groggy feeling you experience after waking up to an alarm clock is known as sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is why you shouldn't make any big decisions right after you wake up and potentially for a few hours afterward. It's basically the mind and body getting up to speed after being forced to wake up, which can take minutes or hours depending on the sleep cycle stage you were in. The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study detailing the effects of forced wake-up and the resulting sleep inertia.
I was skeptical, so I did a simulated sunrise experiment.
I consider myself a morning person, but I'm not one of those people who can wake up without assistance. I need an alarm and waking up to buzzing or loud music started my day off on the wrong foot, every time.
I'd mentioned my interest in trying a daylight simulation clock and one day I came home to an unexpected gift: a daylight alarm clock. I instantly liked the modern look of it, but the true test was how it woke me up. The setup was like any alarm clock. I appreciated the touch controls even though they took a moment to get used to.
There are a few options for the sound part of the alarm including birdsong and radio. I went with one of the birdsong options as I wanted a natural wakeup. Informal anecdotes can be found saying that natural sounds aid in a gentler wake-up, but the verdict is still out on the validity of that statement. Regardless, if I was going with the wake-up light, I figured birdsongs were a more natural option than music.
I set the alarm and was a little apprehensive. I wasn't convinced that light and birdsongs would wake me up, but I was willing to give it a chance. That next morning I found myself awake before the chirping birds even began. The alarm clock was brightly lit and had successfully woken me without any stress-inducing noise.
I started my day off on a relaxed, dare I say, pleasant note.
I don't always wake up before the bird chirps start, but the sound is natural. Most times I find myself waking up surprised that I can hear the birds outside. Then I realize it's the alarm clock.
For those of us that have issues with the loud, stressful wake-up that occurs with a standard alarm clock, there is a solution. I had doubted the effectiveness of a sunlight simulation alarm clock waking me up in the morning, but it's proven itself multiple times over. There are multiple options out there, so find one that suits your needs and budget and start waking up with the sun or at least a nice simulated version of it. Happy waking!