The Truth About Sunrise Alarm Clocks

Before the days of nine to five jobs and exact by-the-minute schedules, humans rose and slept with the sun. 

Even in our modern society filled with clocks, personal planners, auto-reminders, and artificial light from screens and lamps, we still have internal body clocks (via The Guardian). In spite of our jobs and appointments and exhausting mentally disruptive concepts like daylight savings time, we still feel healthier and better when we listen to those internal clocks as much as we are able. For some that might mean avoiding screens for at least a hour before hitting the hay; for others it might mean forgoing noisy iPhone alarms in favor of something called a sunlight alarm clock. 

 A sunrise alarm clock may look like a standard digital clock upon first glance, but it is also equipped with a sunlight simulator, which slowly “rises” or brightens as your scheduled wake-up time approaches (via Very Well Health). This is meant to awaken you more gently and naturally than a jarring alarm clock. 

Here's how sunrise alarms work

Sure, waking to the warm and gentle light of sunrise each day sounds lovely, but does it work? To understand why it works for so many, we have to understand our circadian rhythm and how light affects our brains and hormones (via Very Well Health). 

The reason experts tell us to stop staring at screens when we are getting ready for bed is because light suppresses the production of hormone melatonin, which helps us to feel sleepy. Therefore, the rising light in the morning sends a message to our brains, even during sleep, that it is time to wake up. As the National Sleep Foundation puts it, “When we’re exposed to light in the morning, our brain prompts our body temperature to rise and our cortisol levels to increase.” 

While cortisol might sound scary – since many associate it with being the stress hormone – it actually has a positive affect on our energy levels with proper doses at the proper time. Medical doctor Alex Dimitriu tells Well and Good that these clocks can not only work, but may be a healthier means of waking each morning than standard alarms. Dimitriu points out, “Our circadian system is closely tuned to natural as well as artificial light. Light-based alarm clocks can provide a gentle wake signal, to prepare the body for wakefulness.”

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