Should You Use an Automatic Light Alarm Clock?

When it comes to sleep, the topic of conversation usually centers around the struggle to get significant rest. We tend to focus on the various issues that affect our ability to sleep rather than the struggle to wake up or what might contribute to a bad wake up experience. Research has shown that 57% of Americans report still feeling tired after waking up and only 33% can define their wake-up experience as pleasant. Additionally, 76% of Americans wake up abruptly to a loud alarm and of that percentage, 79% said those bad wake up experiences can negatively affect the rest of their day. This is a recurring issue regarding the wake-up experience, however, there are ways to combat this. Researchers have found that an automatic light alarm clock, or a sunrise alarm, can significantly improve the wake up experience.

Our exposure to light influences when we go to sleep and wake up. 

The Sleep-Wake Cycle

For the most part, humans are biologically wired to be awake during the day and asleep at night. This 24-hour sleep-wake cycle relies on external and internal cues. This cycle’s most influential cue is light, and we register light through our eyes, specifically through the retinal ganglion cells. These cells then send this information to suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) within the hypothalamus. This cluster of nerve cells then prompts the pineal gland to either increase or decrease the level of melatonin production. If the eyes detect light, the SCN will signal for a decrease in melatonin. But if the eyes detect an absence of light, the SCN will call for an increase in melatonin, which will make us drowsy. Despite how innate the sleep-cycle is, it can still be disrupted. Having a hard time waking up is also considered a disruption to the sleep-wake cycle, and can be improved by manipulating light exposure.


The Role of the Automatic Light Alarm Clock

As mentioned earlier, our exposure to light influences when we go to sleep and wake up. Exposure to natural light signals the brain to wake up, so if you’re struggling to wake up you can try to manipulate the light around you. Enter the automatic light alarm clock. This alarm clock, which wakes users with what can be called a sunrise alarm, mimics natural light from the sun. Over the course of about 30 minutes or so before your wake-up time, this clock gradually gets brighter and brighter to imitate a sunrise. Even though your eyes may be closed, the retinal ganglion cells still detect the increase in light. Thus, the SCN will send out a signal to lessen our melatonin production, allowing a more subtle wake up. Instead of being abruptly awakened by an alarm clock sounding off, you are slowly transitioned into waking up, which allows your body to be more responsive and feel more refreshed throughout the day. 

Who Can Benefit from a Light Alarm?

Overall, everyone can benefit from an automatic light alarm clock. This light alarm has proven to not only reduce sleep inertia, but it can also lower the risk of heart attacks, which are benefits everyone stands to gain from. However, there are some who might benefit from a sunrise alarm more so than others. This group can include:

  • Early risers: Individuals who need to wake up before the actual sunrise. Waking up before the sun rises is often a struggle because this is the time in which our bodies are programmed to sleep. The automatic light alarm clock can trick the brain into thinking that it is supposed to be waking up at this time.
  • Late risers: Since sleep-wake cycles vary, some people naturally wake up later than they want to. The light alarm can help shift their sleep-wake cycle to earlier times.
  • People diagnosed with sleep disorders: Those with seasonal affective disorder or delayed sleep-phase syndrome can use this alarm as an additional method of treatment. 


What to Consider When Choosing an Alarm

There are different factors to think about when you decide to purchase an automatic light alarm clock. Such considerations include:

  • Appearance: The light alarm definitely stands out so you want to choose an alarm that compliments your room’s aesthetic. You want something you are happy to see displayed on your nightstand.
  • Time Display: You sleep best when you’re surrounded in darkness. So, you want a clock that doesn’t have the time glaring brightly at you. Unobtrusive lighting is preferred.
  • Alarm Tone: One of the advantages of an automatic light alarm clock is that it gradually transitions you to wake with light, unlike a regular alarm clock. It would be best then to have an alarm that has a gentle, pleasant tone when it goes off.
  • Back-Up Alarm: Naturally, there will be times when you accidentally oversleep. Thus, your alarm should have the capability to set a back-up alarm just in case.