2 years ago, for Christmas, I was given my Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30. I was having a really hard time getting up on winter mornings, and I’d heard that this might help.
Why would dawn simulation help me wake up better?
These kind of ‘wake up lights’ are aimed at helping people wake up easier, using ‘dawn simulation’. Some are actually targeted as therapy for people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
To understand how and why these lights work, we need to talk about circadian rhythms.
You can think of your circadian rhythm as a kind of sleep/wake cycle; a pattern of biological processes and functions that fluctuate during the day and tell you when you should be preparing for sleeping and waking.
Although this is all happening inside our bodies, our circadian rhythms are influenced by external cues like light and temperature. For example, many hormones ‘reset’ themselves in the morning during dawn-light hours.
The other thing to be aware of, is that there are 2 types of sleep. There’s the slow wave NREM sleep, and there’s the more active REM sleep. Naturally, we’re supposed to wake up during a more active sleep state, rather than the slow wave type.
Apparently, when we wake up abruptly during slow wave sleep (i.e. when our alarm goes off and we’re rudely jolted awake), it can cause sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia is that groggy feeling you experience when you first wake up. You can’t seem to walk properly, or articulate in anything other than grunts. You might accidentally put your phone in the fridge and the jam in your dressing gown pocket. True story.
I don’t know if I’ve been waking up during NREM sleep or not. I don’t use sleep tracking apps. But, I do know that I feel really lethargic and clumsy for most of the day when I’ve struggled to wake up in the morning. You know how it is.
And, I’ve noticed that I struggle with this way more during the latter half of the year, as the mornings become increasingly dark.
So, considering all of this, it isn’t surprising that simulating dawn-light can make it easier to wake up , because light is one of the cues our body uses to ‘set’ our sleep/wake cycle.
The Bodyclock features and use
Lumie is a company that have been making lights to treat SAD since 1991. The clocks are actually certified medical devices, and they supply the NHS.
My Bodyclock is one of Lumie’s wake-up lights, and it’s designed to wake me up gradually with a simulation of natural daylight that increases in intensity and brightness. In theory, this produces a biological signal for my body to start the wake cycle.
We know sleep is important. It affects everything from cognitive function, energy, productivity, mood, hunger, and social function. Hopefully, then, waking up naturally would help keep all of those things in a nice, happy, regulated harmony.
What I like about the Bodyclock is that you can customise how you use it. There is an optional alarm beep and a snooze feature, neither of which I need to use right now, but some people might love.
I use just the ‘sunrise’ feature which gradually increases light intensity for 30 minutes before you want to wake up. However, you can choose to use the ‘sunset’ feature which helps you wind down before sleep, again, for 30 minutes.
It can actually be used as a dim-able bedside light. This is great if you get up during the night and don’t want the instant bright glow of a normal light.
Did it work for me?
I need to get up at the same time every weekday, so it’s really easy for me to use. I set the time once, then press one button to activate my sunrise for the next morning.
The room is full of seemingly natural sunlight when I wake up. There’s even a sun-ray effect which makes me smile when I see it.
Honestly, I don’t use the clock all year round. I use it during the winter when mornings are darker with less natural light.
Since using the Bodyclock, I have felt more refreshed and ‘with it’ during the whole day. I feel alert when I wake up, rather than groggy and tired like when I wake up with my phone alarm.
Whilst I can’t speak for experience of SAD, I do think this device would really help people who generally have winter blues.
As an alarm clock, it isn’t cheap, but if you think of it more as a device that’s going to benefit your mood and general health, it’s well worth it in my opinion.