My most productive time of the day is first thing in the morning. Early. But in the winter I find it much harder to get out of bed, so 3 years ago I started looking for a light based sunrise alarm clock to see if I could make it any easier to contend with the dark mornings.
Sunrise alarm clocks wake you up without a blaring noise. At least that’s the idea. They gradually get lighter and lighter at the time you need to be awake in order to take you up more naturally. At least that’s the claim. But do light alarm clocks work and which ones are the best?
How do sunrise alarm clocks work?
So here’s how they’re supposed to work. The human body has evolved to sleep at night in darkness. When it’s dark, our bodies produce melatonin which makes us sleepy.
Light has the opposite effect and suppresses the production of melatonin. This is why humans generally wake up when it gets light.
So, sunrise alarm clocks work by simulating this process in the winter. In the UK it gets light a lot later over winter, which means your body might not naturally wake up as early.
And, come on… is there anything as painful as bring woken up in the dark when it’s winter and cold and awful by a blaring siren from your phone? I think not.
It’s for that reason that I went about finding a sunrise alarm clock 3 years ago.
Do they help with SAD?
Light alarm clocks are not in themselves considered an evidence based treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you believe you’re suffering with SAD, please do speak to your GP or access professional help and advice surrounding treatment and support.
Which sunrise alarm clock is best?
I bought the Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 a few years ago, which has subsequently been replaced by Lumie with the Bodyclock Rise 100.
I then replaced mine with a newer Bodyclock Shine 300 recently.
From my own experience with a sunrise alarm clock, the main things I think are important to look for are:
- Easy to use. To be honest, it took me a fair few attempts to set mine with the first one and it’s a complete pain in the backside when you’ve accidentally left unplugged and then have to re-set the time. But once you’ve got the hang of it it’s fine. Of the other light alarm clocks I’ve since looked at, I’ve found much easier to use options, which I’ll be talking about in a moment
- Option of having a “sunset” mode too, so having the light gradually dim as you go to sleep. I find this incredibly relaxing and use it on my newer clock more than I thought I would
- Option of having music (Bluetooth or radio) as well. In summer in particular when it’a light outside anyway, I’d much rather be woken by music
- Duration chooser. The Shine 300 from Lumie lets me choose a sunrise duration between 15 and 90 minutes. I opt for 30 minutes generally. What this means is that the light will start brightening up 30 minutes before I need to be awake
So we’ve looked at several sunrise alarm clocks taking into account the features we think are most important when shopping around for one and rounded up options at various budget points below.
Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks in a Nutshell
So, for the purposes of this round up, we’ve excluded any sunrise alarm clocks that rate lower than 4 stars in Amazon review terms.
Here’s our shortlist.
Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300
Some of the key features of the Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 are:
- Adjustable sunrise duration. Personally, I like mine short and sweet… 20 to 30 minutes maximum. But you can choose your sunrise duration with the Lumie Shine 300 at anything from 15 to 90 minutes
- Choose your own light intensity: Again, I tend to go for intense light but you can pick and choose
- Sunset option: With the sunset option you can choose to let the light dim as you go to sleep. Personally, I don’t find that helps me much at all so it’s not a feature I use but I know plenty of people who love that option
- Built in FM radio and the option to be woken up with sound as well : IMHO that kind of defeats the object but it could be useful the first few times you use it for reassurance as a back up in case you’re worried the light alone won’t wake you
One thing I’ve absolutely loved about the Lumie Shine 300 is the sleepy noises. Not for me, I should add! There’s a white noise option which was amazing when my youngest was tiny and was sleeping in our room! This is the clock I currently have and I find it easy to use and effective at waking me up. And, to be honest, I find I’m less of a grump in the morning if I’m woken by light rather than noise!
Coulax Wake-Up Sunrise Alarm Clock (Light Wood Look)
If ever a product proved that you don’t need the big brand label this would be it. The Coulax Wake Up Sunrise Alarm Clock is the cheapest model in our rundown, rates impeccably well and while it might not be a showcase of modcons and features, it does the job more than well enough.
A few key features:
- Both sunrise and sunset options available so you can use the Coulax both to help you wake up and drift off. I’ve said before I’m not a fan personally of the sunset clocks, but try for yourself and see what you think
- FM radio built in (perfect for something-to-dance-to-while-you-get-ready purposes)
- Built in ambient sounds: Want to be woken up to the sound of the ocean? You’re covered.
For the price tag on this one, you really can’t complain! And honestly, I think it looks great. This is probably my favourite design of all the sunrise alarm clocks in this list and I say that as someone who owns the a different one!
Lumie Sunrise Alarm
The Lumie Sunrise alarm clock is the no frills version of the brand leader’s sunrise alarm clock. I imagine (though don’t quote me on it!) this was launched in response to the numerous much cheaper sunrise alarm clocks that Lumie has had to compete against in recent years. But its low price tag doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it.
- Sunrise and sunset options: but there is a catch! It’s a set 30 minute duration and you can’t amend it. Still, probably not a deal breaker when weighed up against the cost savings compared with other models
- 6 different colours of lighting to choose from: So if you’re using it as a lamp and you fancy it in green, you’re covered
- 5 in built sounds if you want to be woken up to audio. Interestingly, as well as your standard beep, you can choose from sounds including a “purring cat” and “goats.” I can honestly say I have never been woken up by goats. But whatever floats your goat… erm, boat!
Philips Wake Up Light Alarm Clock
So I’m a big fan of brands that specialise in a single product or small range. I honestly think that Lumie becoming synonymous with the sunrise alarm clock influences the fact they’re often perceived as the best sunrise alarm clocks despite many competitors producing similar products that rate just as well!
At the opposite end of the spectrum there is Philips, an electronics brands that produces just about anything you can plug in, right? So how does its Bodyclock-esque offering fare?
Well, it’s a mid priced product with a hefty list of features and some excellent reviews. And according to the product listing, my “they do anything you can plug in” statement might be a tad dismissive as they have 20 years of experience in light alarm clocks! Some of the key features include:
- Sunrise and sunset modes available so those who want to fall asleep to dimming light can do
- FM Radio and 5 built in sounds
- Snooze function: although I’ve personally found I snooze less when using a light alarm to wake up
On the whole though, it’s hard to find any features in this one that don’t exist in the significantly cheaper Coulax light alarm clock and they both perform similarly well on the reviews front making it more difficult to justify spending more than double on this one.
Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB
- Bluetooth speaker: the quality of the speaker is well rated amongst reviews on Amazon so perhaps you could even replace an existing Bluetooth speaker with this as an all in one option
- DAB Radio: again if you you don’t have a DAB radio already and wanted one, this could be an all-in-one option
- Adjustable wake up duration from 15 to 90 minutes. For me personally, this is one of the more important features I think products should shout more about
- Really high quality speaker
- Sunset option available too
- 20 different sounds build in for both sleep/relaxation and waking
It’s a slick looking clock too!
Will the light alone really wake you up?
I was really anxious before I started using my light alarm clocks that I wouldn’t wake up with light alone. In fact, I used my phone alarm simultaneously for 4 months alongside it before trusting enough that the light would wake me up.
But I’d suggest if you’re looking to buy a light alarm clock for the first time that you have a back up alarm clock for reassurance.
I think a solid idea too for first time buyers is to buy a lower cost model as your first one, make sure it’s right for you, works how you want it to work and genuinely does make a difference to your morning. And then a year or two down the line if you want one with more fancy features, invest then. At least by that point you’ll know what you like and what you need features wise.
Last update on 2021-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API