Are Sunrise Alarms Better for Waking Up?

Dr. Dan JensenSleep

Dr. Dan Jensen
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Do you have a hard time waking up in the morning? Do you cringe every morning when your alarm clock starts beeping? There are some alternatives to traditional alarm clocks, and one of our favorites is the sunrise alarm.

What is a Sunrise Alarm?

A sunrise alarm clock doesn’t use sound to wake you up. Instead, it slowly increases the amount of light in the room and wakes you up by mimicking natural sunlight. This dawn simulation alarm has a white or yellow LED bulb that’s usually placed into a traditional-looking digital bedside clock. You set your desired wake-up time, and the alarm will gradually wake you up in time. It will start increasing the brightness around 30 to 40 minutes before the wake-up time, easing you awake as it gets brighter.

How Can Light Wake You Up?

Like many animals, humans naturally sleep during the darkness of night, and wake when it’s light. Your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is regulated by sunlight. In the evening when the sun sets, your body starts producing melatonin to help you relax and fall asleep. When the sun rises in the morning, your body stops producing melatonin, increases heart rate, and makes you more alert.

When you’re exposed to light in the nighttime, like when you spend a lot of time looking at your screens in the evening, your circadian rhythm can get out of sync. It may not signal to your body to produce melatonin, and you may have a harder time falling asleep, or waking up ready to start your day. Light in the morning, even artificial light from a sunrise alarm, can help reset your circadian rhythm, and help your natural sleeping and waking cycle function optimally.

Is A Light Alarm Better than A Sound Alarm?

So should you switch to a sunrise alarm? If you’re tired of getting woken up by a blaring alarm clock, it might be time to try a light alarm. The sound alarm will definitely wake you up, but going from deep sleep to being wide awake is a shock. It’s not a great way to start the morning, and you may feel disoriented or groggy when you first get up.

A light alarm clock doesn’t wake you up as fast as a sound alarm. It wakes you up very slowly and gradually. As your eyes sense the increase of light, you will gradually wake up and have an easier time getting up. The gradual brightening of your room, mimicking the rising sun, will help you wake up naturally and feel well-rested and alert when you open your eyes. 

Why You Should Use a Sunrise Alarm

Not everyone will like a sunrise alarm, and that’s ok. If your traditional alarm is getting you up in the morning, and you feel well-rested and ready to start the day, then you don’t have to change your alarm. However, we do recommend a sunrise alarm for:

  • Night owls. Do you stay awake until 2 a.m. every night and have a very hard time waking up in the morning? Do you feel groggy and tired all morning? A sunrise alarm can make it easier to wake up. It can help you reset your circadian rhythms to match the daylight hours, waking up and falling asleep a bit earlier.
  • Shift workers. Are you switching between daytime and nighttime shifts? Shift workers often experience disrupted sleep, and have a hard time getting back onto a daylight schedule. A sunrise alarm can help reset the circadian rhythms, as well as help shift workers, wake up for a night shift feeling alert and awake.
  • Seasonal affective disorder. Also called winter depression, seasonal affective disorder can make you feel a bit low all winter. Nights are longer and days are shorter, and it’s hard to wake up in the morning. A sunrise alarm is a great way to wake up with more energy, and easily get up, even on cold winter mornings.

Sound Sleep Medical

Find out more about your circadian rhythms and how you can get the best sleep by visiting Sound Sleep Medical. We’ll help you discover more about your sleep habits, and what you can do to sleep better.