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Shopping Guide for Best Wake-Up Lights

If you're the sort of person who hits "snooze" on your alarm ten times before finally rolling out of bed – but you still don't feel awake until well past lunchtime – a wake-up light could be a revelation for your morning routine.

Rather than being startled awake by a jarring alarm, you could rouse yourself naturally to a sunrise-like light. It might sound idyllic, but how do you pick the best wake-up light from the huge range available?

You're in the right place if you need some guidance. At BestReviews, our primary aim is to help you pick out the right products for you. We test items in our labs, pore over feedback from existing customers, consult with experts, and perform extensive product research. The result: fair and thorough reviews that will aid you in making important purchasing decisions.

Read on for our full guide featuring all the information you need to select your ideal wake-up light.

We recommend a wake-up light for anyone who would describe him or herself as "not a morning person."

What Are Wake-Up Lights, and How Do They Work?

Wake-up lights are a type of alarm clock designed to rouse you with sunrise-like light. You set the time you want to get up, and your wake-up light gradually gets brighter over a period of time – usually 30 minutes – prior to your wake-up time. For example, if you set your wake-up light for 7:00, a dim light would come on at 6:30, and brightness would increase until it reached full strength at 7:00. A soft alarm might also sound at the wake-up time you've set, but many users find they're already awake at this point.

DID YOU KNOW?

Wake-up lights are useful on dark winter mornings – or anytime you need to get out of bed before the sun's up.

The Benefits of Wake-Up Lights

Now that you know what wake-up lights do, we'll examine the benefits they provide.

  • Wake-up lights may help your body gradually stop the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel tired) before you wake up, allowing you to feel more refreshed when you get out of bed.

  • Most users find it easier to get out of bed when they use a wake-up light as compared to a regular alarm.

  • If you'll be getting out of bed before the sun comes up, a wake-up light can help adjust your natural circadian rhythms (which usually tell your body it should be asleep when it's dark out).

  • Some people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) find a wake-up light helps minimize symptoms.

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Considerations for Selecting a Wake-Up Light

Considerations

Light Color

The default light color for most wake-up lights is a warm yellow or orange, which simulates the natural colors of the sunrise. However, some wake-up lights allow you to select between a range of colors such as blue, red, pink, or purple.

Considerations

Sounds and Alarms

As well as the obligatory light, your wake-up light will come with an alarm. Some wake-up lights have a traditional beeping alarm that starts softly and increases in intensity if you don't shut it off. But many wake-up lights come with other options. You can find wake-up lights that offer gentle nature sounds – rainfall or birdsong, for example. Others have an FM radio so you can wake up to music.

Whatever sounds or alarms your wake-up light comes with, you can usually opt the turn them off altogether and use just the light to awaken yourself. However, most people like to have some sort of audio alarm as a back-up.

EXPERT TIP

People with anxiety can find traditional alarms too jarring, but wake-up lights give users a much gentler start to the morning.


Staff  | BestReviews
Considerations

Sunset Features

Just like a gradual increase in light can help wake you up, a gradual decrease in light can help you feel tired. If you have trouble sleeping, you might be interested in a wake-up light with a sunset feature. This basically does the reverse of what the wake-up light does in the morning; it starts at full strength and decreases in brightness over a period of 30 minutes or so until it switches off.

Features

Reading Light

Some wake-up lights double as reading lights. This means you don't need a bedside lamp and can save some space on your nightstand. A wake-up light that serves as a reading light is especially handy if you're short on space, but it also appeals to anyone who prefers to pare down their possessions where possible.

DID YOU KNOW?

At bedtime, a warm yellow or orange light (such as that produced by most wake-up lights) is much better than white or blue light (such as that produced by laptops, tablets, and smartphones). The blue/white light is thought to interrupt human sleeping patterns.

Price

You can find wake-up lights to suit a wide range of budgets. Here's what you should expect to get for your money.

  • $20 to $40: Basic wake-up lights fall into this low price range. They do the job but don't usually have many added extras (such as a sunset feature or a wide range of nature sounds). They often come from unknown manufacturers and may or may not be as durable as wake-up lights from better-known brands.

  • $40 to $70: You’ll find wake-up lights from trusted manufacturers in this pricing vicinity. These mid-range lights are good, but they don't have all the features that top-of-the-line models do.

  • $70 to $150: High-quality wake-up lights from well-known brands fall into this price range. They typically have all the extra features you could ask for, such as a sunset function, FM radio, and a nice selection of nature sounds.

EXPERT TIP

Like traditional alarm clocks, wake-up lights display the time. If you find that digital time displays disturb your sleep, look for a wake-up light that allows you to dim the brightness.


Staff  | BestReviews

Wake-Up Light Tips

The following tips will help you select the best wake-up light and make the most of it.

  • Consider a wake-up light with battery back-up, just in case there's a power outage in the night.

  • Wake-up lights are generally quite large, especially compared to standard alarm clocks. Check the dimensions of your potential buy to make sure you have enough room on your nightstand.

  • Some wake-up lights also incorporate bright light therapy, which is designed to help reset your circadian rhythms and reduce the symptoms of SAD.

  • If you decide to use your wake-up light without sounds or alarms, consider setting a backup alarm five or ten minutes after your specified wake-up time, just in case you sleep through the light.

  • As well as being functional, your wake-up light will be a feature on your nightstand. We recommend selecting one that you like the look of.

You can find wake-up lights that allow you to adjust the brightness of the light that wakes you. This is helpful if you're particularly sensitive to light or if, conversely, it takes something approaching floodlight brightness to wake you.

FAQ

Q. Can wake-up lights help relieve the symptoms of SAD?

A. Bright light therapy is often used to help treat SAD, and a wake-up light isn't a replacement for this. However, some wake-up lights offer bright light therapy as an added extra. That said, many people who suffer from SAD and have tried wake-up lights find that they can make a huge difference to the start of their day.

Q. What does "lux" mean?

A. If you've browsed through a range of wake-up lights, you've probably seen the term "lux" or "lux value." The lux value of a wake-up light simply refers to the brightness of the light it emits.

Q. Are wake-up lights easy to use?

A. Wake-up lights are fairly easy to use. Usually, all that is required is the press of a few buttons to set the alarm and adjust any settings. However, this varies between models, and some are more intuitive to use than others. It’s a good idea to read through the instruction manual when you get a new wake-up light to avoid frustration.

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