Long, dark nights and short days are part and parcel of winter life in Britain. Throw in long working hours and many of us find we leave home in the morning and return in the evening without seeing daylight at all during the winter months. With around 6 per cent of the population suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and many more experiencing milder symptoms, SAD alarm clocks can be useful in overcoming seasonal depression.
Known alternatively as sunrise alarm clocks, wake up light alarm clocks, bodyclock lights and natural light alarm clocks, SAD alarm clocks provide a novel form of light therapy. It’s a relatively simple concept: the clock gradually emits light for a set period of time (usually around 30 minutes) to simulate a natural sunrise and wake you up gently. This is designed to combat the sudden, startling awakening of a regular alarm clock, which releases cortisol and can potentially lead to bad mood and inertia.
Good sleep is key to overall wellbeing, so along with other non-negotiables such as finding the best mattress, pillow and duvet cover for you, an alarm clock that wakes you up gently and helps you start the day feeling well-rested is a small change to your sleep routine that can have a big impact. Light therapy has long been used to treat SAD, and these days a wake up light alarm clock means you can access the treatment at home.
There are many on the market, ranging from around £20 to £200. They all perform the function of waking you with light rather than startling sounds, but the more expensive have features like DAB radios and reading lights.
I tested the best wake up light alarm clocks on the market. Here are my favourites…
The best wake up light alarm clocks
1. Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300
The Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 is a more basic version of the Luxe Lumie alarm clock. While it doesn’t have many of the snazzier features of the more advanced version, it’s a lot cheaper. Aesthetically, it’s very similar.
Setting up is a little more complex; it took me a while to figure out all the right settings that I wanted. After that, I liked it. The clock light was on the dimmer side, which helped me when getting to sleep, and the morning waking light was in no way startling. You can set a particular FM radio station to wake you up, if you so wish, or several calming noises.
Like its definitively luxe counterpart, it is also proven to treat SAD.
2. Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750D
Definitely a market leader, the Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750D is a cut above its competition. Despite its high-tech features, it’s incredibly easy to use for even the most technophobic.
While some SAD alarm clocks are fiddly and complex to set up, the Bodyclock Luxe comes almost ready to go – all you have to do is set the time. It was even pre-set to wake me at my usual time of 7am.
Other reasons for this being the best? It looked more like a radio than a weird alien light, despite the groovy antenna. It had DAB, while many either had only FM or none, and Bluetooth and USB connections. Sound quality was better than most. The clock was dimmer than some, a bonus during sleeping hours.
With 20 wake up sounds, you’ll find the right one for you – I even awoke happily without any sound, just light (almost) as nature intended it. It’s pricey, but if you can afford it, this is the best wake up light I tried.
3. ALFALED Sunrise Alarm Clock
A fairly basic light alarm clock, but it works well enough. It has a battery-powered option, though with limited functionality.
It took me a while to set up, and was a little fiddly. But the SAD alarm aspect worked well. Of all the calming nature sounds available – cows, sheep, water – I opt for comforting farm animals, a wistful longing for a rural life perhaps.
Like other sunrise alarm clocks, the light starts to turn on 30 minutes before alarm time, but this lamp probably wouldn’t suffice as a bedside lamp.
Overall, it’s not bad, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin option. You’ll miss out on the jazzier aspects of some others, but it’s perfectly good nonetheless.
4. Beurer WL 90 4-in-1 wake up light
Beurer’s four-in-one sunrise alarm clock has a host of attributes, almost to the point of attempting too much. As an SAD wake-up light, it does the trick, and can be used as an ambient mood lamp too. With 256 different lighting options, you will definitely find the right one for you.
You can stream music or play via Bluetooth and there are 10 wake-up melodies. Aesthetically, it may divide opinion, and it’s on the expensive side. But the Beurer light alarm clock ticks all the important boxes.
5. Philips wake-up light HF3531/01
The first thing that strikes you about this Philips SAD alarm clock is its resemblance to an old Apple Mac. Just like the sun, Philips’ wake-up light begins red, and within half an hour – to your desired wake-up time – turns bright yellow. It’ll leave you feeling positively nourished during the bleak winter months.
There are only five wake-up sounds, so less choice than some of the best SAD alarms. But the piano sounds are pleasant, and Philips state they’ve put a lot of clinical research into it.
With so many options out there, it can be tough to find the right SAD alarm clock. Prices vary drastically, but even the cheaper options will wake you with a soothing light.
For affordability, we particularly enjoyed the Alfaled, which doubles up as a very good reading light and has a big, accessible button for changing light strength and colour (even rotating between settings, if you prefer).
The best wake up alarm, however, was the Bodyclock Luxe 750D from light therapy specialists Lumie. Not only does it look smart, it’s incredibly easy to use – even arriving with a 7am alarm time – and has extra features like a DAB radio.
Why buy an SAD alarm clock?
To recap, they’re clinically proven to help treat SAD and they make waking up more manageable. Many can provide soothing lighting and sound functions and some have a ‘sunset’ setting, which can help you nod off to a better night’s sleep.
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