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For many sleepers, wake-up light alarms are a more pleasant alternative to blaring alarm clocks. Wake-up lights mimic the sunrise by gradually brightening prior to the set alarm time. By the time a sleeper is supposed to wake up, his or her room will be partially or fully illuminated; this helps them feel more wakeful and well-rested, since our internal circadian rhythm aligns with natural light and darkness cycles. Some also produce light beeps for heavy sleepers who need audible stimuli in addition to bright light. Wake-up lights are widely available, and most are priced below $50; high-end models usually cost $80 to $100.
This guide will explore the functionality of wake-up lights, some advantages and disadvantages of using them, variables to consider for first-time buyers, and our picks for the best wake-up lights sold today.
How Do Wake-Up Lights Work?
Our bodies operate on an internal clock that controls the circadian rhythm. During dark periods, the brain releases more melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel tired. This is why most adults feel sleepy at night and more alert in the morning. Circadian rhythm also explains why people tend to feel more tired during the winter and fall, when daylight is less prominent.
Traditional alarm clocks may be effective for many sleepers, but the harsh, loud beeping associated with most models can make waking up more of a chore. Sleepers are more likely to hit their snooze button or sleep in if the alarm goes off but they still feel tired. By simulating natural light, wake-up light alarms help sleepers feel more alert when they awaken. Most clocks will produce light roughly 30 minutes before the audio alarm goes off.
Wake-up lights sold today may have up to 20 brightness different settings, though most have between three and 10. Light brightness is measured in ‘lux’ units. Most wake-up lights offer settings of at least 200 to 230 lux, which is comparable to a low-lit office. Some models provide up to 10,000 lux, which is comparable to outside light on a bright day.
Other features and functions of some wake-up light alarms include the following:
Multiple light color options: Some wake-up lights allow owners to change the color of the light, but most offer one option (usually white or yellow).
Different alarms: Like traditional alarm clocks, some wake-up lights come equipped with multiple alarm options, including ambient sounds. Some models, however, only have one.
Adjustable volume: The volume of the alarm may be adjustable or set, depending on the model.
Snooze option: Most wake-up lights have a snooze option for people who wish to sleep a few minutes longer, but some do not offer this feature.
Radio: Some wake-up lights offer FM radio channels, but very few feature AM and FM options.
Sunset settings: In addition to sunrise settings, some wake-up lights will become dimmer as darkness falls to help owners fall asleep more easily.
Important Considerations for Wake-Up Light Shoppers
Here are a few variables to keep in mind when shopping for a new wake-up light and comparing different brands and models.
What is your wake-up light budget? High-end wake-up lights may cost up to $100, but low-budget models typically cost $20 to $40.
Does the clock feature adjustable brightness and/or color settings? Wake-up lights that only have one brightness and color setting may be somewhat limiting for sleepers with varying preferences, or preferences that differ from that model’s options.
Does the wake-up light have a back-up alarm? Most — but not all — wake-up lights come with an audible alarm. Most sleepers are urged to use a wake-up light with an alarm in case the gradual light doesn’t consistently wake them up in the morning.
Are the alarms and alarm volume adjustable? Volume and sound adjustment is important to some sleepers, so you should research the product’s settings to make sure it will be effective for you.
Does the wake-up light offer a snooze option? Using the snooze alarm is generally not recommended, but some sleepers prefer to hit the snooze at least once in the morning — and some wake-up lights do not come with this feature.
Is the wake-up light compatible with AM/FM radio? Most wake-up lights do not offer AM radio, but some allow owners to listen to FM stations.
Does the light have a ‘sunset’ setting? Sunset settings can be helpful for people who have a hard time falling asleep, but this feature is somewhat rare.
How long is the product’s sleep trial? Like mattresses and other sleep products, some wake-up lights come with ‘sleep trials’ that allow purchasers to test out the device for a certain length of time and then return it for a refund if they are not satisfied. However, other models do not offer any sort of sleep trial.
Does the wake-up light come with a warranty? Warranty coverage is especially important for models with non-replaceable bulbs. Most wake-up light warranties span two years or less, but some do not come with any sort of warranty.
Best Wake-Up Lights: Brands and Models
Now, let’s look at the top-rated wake-up lights according to people who use them. The following wake-up lights have earned the highest customer and owner satisfaction ratings among models with at least 100 verifiable reviews. To learn about purchasing, click the links in the second-to-last row of the table.