Waking with the artificial sun – Two weeks with a sunrise alarm clock

A couple of weeks ago, Josh went to a conference during which one of the breakout sessions was about the effects of phones on your home, health, and relationships. Part of that talk had been about charging your phone in your bedroom, particularly on your nightstand next to you while you’re sleeping. Having the phone so close, the presenter suggested, was disruptive to natural sleep patterns as the sound, light, and one’s subconscious knowledge of the phone’s presence nearby all had effects on the quality of sleep.

You can find out more about why cell phones in your bedroom are a bad idea linked here.

As I was just coming off of my social media hiatus, and I’m always in the mood for a little self improvement project, I was immediately game to kick cell phones out of our bedroom. There was just one catch…we’d need an alarm clock.

We have friends that wake up every morning at the same time, no alarm clock required. We are not those people! Generally, I set my alarm for work, and Josh stays in bed dozing another 30 minutes or so after that. On the weekend, we just wing it, unless we have somewhere to be. But then again, I’m generally the one to set the alarm.

Image result for yostyle sunrise alarm clock

So we decided I needed the alarm clock, and as long as we were looking at healthy sleep cycles and making a better life for ourselves, we decided to look into more “natural” alarm clocks. No, this is not your standard issue digital clock display on your nightstand. This, is the Yostyle Wake Up Light Alarm Clock. And for two weeks now, we’ve been waking up to this artificial sun.

There are lots of sunrise alarm clocks on the market, and Phillips has the industry leading options available for upwards of $200. This model is an “Amazon Best Buy,” and at $30 we were mostly concerned that it had the most basic level of functionality that we were looking for. Here’s how it works.

You set your alarm for the time you want to wake up. The alarm clock has a light only feature, a light + sound feature, or a light + sound + radio feature. You’ll notice all those combos include the light. That’s because the light is what’s actually going to wake you up.

At 30 minutes before your scheduled alarm time, the “sun” begins to rise. One thing we looked at when picking out which clock to buy was that the “sunrise” went through a spectrum of brightness and color (more like a real sunrise). Some less expensive clocks just have a light that comes on at the given time, an effect you can achieve in your bedroom with a simple smart light bulb. A sunrise simulation clock starts with a dim red light, and then gradually progresses through orange/yellow levels while getting brighter, and eventually landing on white, simulated sunlight.

As the light increases, it’s meant to disrupt your sleep cycle in a more natural way. No jarring radio advertisement or blaring cell phone alarm noise to startle you awake. This is proven to be a better way to wake up as it generally eases you out of your REM sleep cycle, and into lighter sleep which is easier to wake from, and leaves you feeling less groggy.

In the event that you do sleep all the way through the rising sun, you can set the “back up” alarm, choosing from one of eight natural sounds (like birds or falling rain), the FM tuner, or recording your own message to wake up to. We use the bird sounds as a backup, but honestly, there’s only been one time that I ever made it all the way through the “sunrise” without waking up.

So has our quality of sleep improved, and how do we feel about the new addition to our morning routine?

Let me tell you, the first couple days were weird!

The first night, I ran two or three test runs making sure the alarm ran properly and that everything was set and ready to go. The clock has a lot of buttons, and some are kind of designed like a touch screen, so I was sure I was going to bump the thing and turn everything off. Also, there’s a feature that allows you to turn the display off so there’s no residual light in the night, which I love! However, I was also sure that turning the display off was somehow going to shut off the alarm.

Image result for sunrise alarm clock benefits

Whether it was because I was paranoid about missing the alarm, or because I wanted to see how the sunrise was going to work, the first three days I woke myself up before the “sunrise” had even started. Then, because the display was turned off, I laid in bed wondering what time it was until all of a sudden, poof, the red light began to glow.

By the time the birds chirped at 6:10, Josh was already out of bed and downstairs in the office with coffee. And it was kind of nice, because by the time the birds chirped, I had lounged in bed long enough not to feel groggy. There was no immediacy or panic of needing to jump out of bed the instant the alarm goes off. I did, in fact, feel less tired.

Now that the immediate novelty of the clock has worn off, let me tell you what our more usual morning looks like.

I usually wake up about half way through the “sunrise.” I usually roll over then to face the clock, and continue to doze while the cycle finishes. I rarely fall fully back asleep because I’m intentionally facing the light, and it continues to get brighter on my face. The birds, when they chirp at 6:10, aren’t there to wake me up, just to signal that it’s time to get out of bed. At that point, I have no problem jumping up, throwing on my robe, and heading about my morning.

I am not a morning person AT ALL! And I do feel like waking up with light has made my mornings easier!

There are some other novelty features the clock has that we haven’t done anything with. One is a colored “ambiance” light.

Another is a sunset simulation you can run at bedtime which gradually decreases the light in your room over 30-60 minutes.

The only real drawbacks I would say about the product as a whole, which for us don’t matter because these weren’t features that we were hoping to utilize, is that the “white noise” sound is REALLY obnoxious, and the FM tuner does not bring in amazing quality radio. The other sounds are all pretty good for the price!

Josh is out of bed easily 30 minutes earlier than he used to be, and I have yet to hit snooze in the morning (yes you can snooze the sunrise!). And I was a perpetual snooze hitter! If you’re looking to mix up your morning routine, or you’re stuck in the doldrums of winter and struggling to make it through dark, cold mornings, this might be just the twist you need to reinvigorate the start of your day.

Oh! And as for getting the phones away from our bed. Yeah, you can’t go wrong with that either! Not one time have I wished I could text, scroll, or check an email since they’ve started living in the kitchen at night!

Cheers! Go get some good sleep.

Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

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