I didn’t do a lot of research or read reviews before I bought the Phillips Wake Up Light. I made sure it did what I wanted it to do (wake me up with light and simulate a sunset at bedtime) and took the plunge.
I’m so glad I did.
Alarm clocks are unnatural. To illustrate my point, I want you to imagine you’re camping in the wilderness. It’s very early morning and you’re still fast asleep. Outside your tent, it’s quiet and still. Even the birds are still asleep. The occasional rustling of leaves as nocturnal animals burrow down for the day is all you would be able to hear if you were awake. Which you’re not. You are directly in the middle of REM sleep, dreaming about sunbathing on the Aegean Sea.
Out of no where, you hear a loud, blood-curdling shriek, right next to your head. You immediately bolt upright, grabbing the nearest weapon as you do. Is it a bear? A wolf? A hungry hyena? You’re on your feet, wide awake and prepared to fight. You instinctively know that sound: something intent on harming you and possibly having you as an early breakfast. You are not going to let it.
Over the years, we lose the “grab the nearest weapon” response and learn how to hit the snooze button but we never grow out of the rush of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that are released when a modern alarm clock goes off. There is no natural equivalent and our bodies react with panic, fear and stress. It’s a horrible way to wake up. I refuse to begin each day with my fight-flight-or-freeze mechanism activated and pinging. But I still need to get up.
Part of proper sleep hygiene is sleeping in a completely darkened room. If you live in a city or well lit neighbourhood like I do, chances are you need blackout curtains. Unfortunately, unless you have curtains or blinds that open automatically when the sun comes up, there is no natural cue that morning has actually arrived. The room will continue to stay dark long after your boss was expecting you at your desk. Longer than normal hours of darkness can mess up your body’s seasonal clock, making it think it’s winter all year long, making it harder to shed weight and creating that ‘nesting’ feeling we get in the darkest part of winter. We can also take longer to get going, or feel inexplicably tired during the day because it seems like we got up in a panic at 2 a.m. The modern solution is an alarm clock. We’ve already discussed why that’s such a bad idea. So how are we supposed to get up on time?
When we’re out in nature, light is what wakes us up. If we want to be true to our primal roots and give our body what it expects from a natural setting, we need to wake up with the sun.
The Phillips Wake Up Light solves this problem. It starts off with a warm red glow that won’t affect you at all and gradually brightens over the course of 30 minutes (or whatever you’ve set) until it’s as bright as the sun. If you wish, you can choose from 5 different nature sounds or the FM radio, which won’t start playing until the ‘sun’ has completely risen and it’s really time to get up.
The first few times I used the Phillips Wake Up Light, I set my regular alarm as a back up. Used to being groggy, sleepy and irritated when I woke up, I wasn’t entirely trusting that a little light was going to penetrate the fog. However, by the third day I had abandoned the back up alarm. By the time the bird sounds started playing, I was wide awake and ready to start my day. But the biggest change I saw was in my mood. Waking up gradually as the sun comes up–and not being ripped out of deep sleep due to some arbitrary, fluctuating time–is very natural and soothing. Not only was I fully awake when it was time to get up, I was aware, optimistic and excited to start my day.
I set the alarm on the Wake Up Light every day at the same time, regardless if I have to get up or not. I feel balanced, have energy throughout the day, and naturally get tired at the same time each night. After years of waking up groggy, or hitting snooze for 45 minutes, my mornings have been revolutionized.
The other feature I had been very interested in was the sunset. This needs to be manually set, but it’s easy to do. Choose a brightness (the Phillips Wake Up Light has 20 light settings) and choose the length of time until darkness and the clock will do the rest. I have found that setting 7 is about the equivalent of two candles and is usually what I start with. Gradually dimming from yellow to orange to red and then off, it’s a wonderful way to let your body know it’s bed time.
Although I was initially wary of the hefty price tag, I knew that nature had created the optimal way to wake up–and I wanted to recreate that as best I could in an urban environment. I also knew that Amazon has an incredible return policy. I highly recommend the Phillips Wake Up Light for anyone who wants to honor the natural rhythms of the sun and to live in alignment with their circadian rhythm but who can’t sleep outdoors year round.