The Most Effective Wake-Up Lights From People Who Actually Use Them

Updated 02/06/18

Perhaps I've been living (or should I say sleeping?) under a rock for the past couple of years, but up until about a month ago, I had never heard of the majestic contraptions known as wake-up lights. Yes, I knew the importance of circadian rhythm and that my morning habit of hitting snooze was detrimental (and pretty pointless) from a scientific perspective. However, I didn't know there were sunrise-esque alarm clocks on the market specifically invented to make the morning struggle easier, healthier, and less abrupt all around.

Cool, right?

So with exciting intentions to break up with my jarring iPhone alarm routine, I did some research. And though reviews are mixed on their efficacy (some people swear by wake-up lights and some people, well, don't) for the most part, the internet—and science—thinks they're a good idea. In fact, if you condition your body to wake up via light (and not your current Spotify addiction) you might just be more alert and physically productive for the rest of your day. (Studies say so.)

So how do they work? Well, just as you would with your normal alarm system, you'll set the wake-up light's alarm tone (yes, it still has one) for right when you want to get up. The catch: up to 30 minutes prior to the audible alarm, the device will slowly start to brighten, stimulating the natural, relaxation-inducing feel of a sunrise. The end goal being that you'll *hopefully* wake up the way nature intended you to—via light versus buzzer. And though it might take awhile to wake naturally wake up alongside the mock sunrise (versus the eventual buzzer), the gradual brightening of your sleep space creates a healthier wake-up environment to begin with.

In other words, when your eyes open, your body has already had 30 minutes to process the idea that it needs to wake up soon.

Intrigued, and since an increase in quality sleep and a decrease in morning stress sounded like a win-win in our sleep-deprived book, we perused the internet to hunt down the most promising wake-up lights technology has to offer. Keep reading for the five options currently at the top of our wish lists.

1. If You Have a Thing for Vintage

Electrohome Retro Alarm Clock $30
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At first glance, this retro-inspired wake-up light might look like an average (okay, much chicer than average) alarm clock. However, ingeniously disguised by its vintage-esque facade lies some admittedly cool features like a motion-activated snooze function and night light (let's just say you'll never stub your toe en route to the bathroom again), digital AM/FM radio, dual alarm, and yes, a wake-up light function to peacefully ease you out of bed each morning. Plus, the bold face also has helpful readings like the date and indoor temperature.

And while we know you have a phone for that, here's to not looking at your apps first thing when you wake up each morning.

Amazon user Amy sings its praises alongside a five-star rating, "I have been using this alarm clock for a year and love it. The wave motion light is a lifesaver in the middle of the night if I have to get up to check on little ones and the gradual light before the alarm helps me wake up easier. I also love that I can customize the alarm to go off on weekdays and not weekends."

2. If You're Always on the Go

Nature Bright Sun Bliss 2-in-1 Portable Light Therapy and Wake-Up Light $79 $66
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A happy medium between wake-up light and on-the-go light therapy (which can help combat depression and SAD) Nature Bright's well-reviewed option makes up in function where it might lack in design. (Hey, we're just trying to be 100% honest here.) At a glance, it boasts a 10,000 LUX bright light to simulate the natural effect of sunlight, has the aforementioned wake-up alarm clock, advanced LED diffusion lens (aka it won't hurt the eyes), and has convenient travel capabilities like a universal adaptor in addition to its handy size and lightweight design.

"This is a great product. It's small, durable, and easily fits in a carry-on bag or your backpack or your nightstand. It can function as a 'normal' sun lamp, or it can function as an alarm to wake you with a gradually brightening light. In terms of its effect on my mood and energy levels, it's night and day. I felt a huge difference after my first session with it, and am glad that it is so easily portable and can even come with me to my studio. It's the perfect size for the busy New Yorker," says happy Amazon customer, J.

3. If You Love the Great Outdoors

Coulax Wake Up Light Wood Sunrise Sunlight Alarm Clock $36
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Consider this handsome, wood-accented wake-up light the busy person's counterpart to an actual camping trip or hammocked nap under the stars. The soothing wake-up light is great enough alone, but when you consider its tap-to-snooze function, FM radio, gradual nighttime dimming light, and ability to lull you to sleep with six different relaxing noises (think birds, waves, forests, and the like), this option makes our top five for a reason.

And according to Amazon reviewer Miki, there's a reason this pick is one of the site's best sellers, "The built-in alarm sounds are a really nice way to wake up, and if you hate them, then you can always use the radio. It's easy to set up and use, the build quality seems excellent, and it looks great. The light is soft and gradual, and waking up is definitely a more pleasant experience now."

4. If You've Ever Wanted a Rainbow in Your Room

Tecboss Wake Up Light LED Bedside Lamp Alarm Clock $36 $20
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Prepare yourself: not only does this wake-up light have a cool, modern look to it, but it also uses high-quality LEDs to slowly ease you out of slumber each morning—with atmospheric mood lighting and color changes. (It can whimsically transition from blue to green to orange to pink to purple.) Other noteworthy perks: handy touch controls, five calming alarm sounds, and in an interesting plot twist—the absence of a snooze button (which strategically forces you to get up).

Plus, if dreamily waking up in a "a bed of moss" sounds at all appealing, take note: "This little kitten of a bedside lamp/alarm/white noise emitter is so adorable. 1. You can set the color you wish or no color at all. In the morning about 30 minutes before a nasty alarm sounds, the light on the square becomes gradually stronger and stronger. It's as if you are dreaming in a bed of moss and the sunrise is telling you to wake up slowly. 2. you can play white noise at night to ease you into your bed of moss. It is really great." We'll be taking Amazon reviewer Alice's word for it.

Because really, who wouldn't want to wake up in fairy-esque bed of moss?

5. If You Don't Mind a Tiny (Yet Worthwhile) Investment

Philips Wake-Up Light $140 $110
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Last, but certainly not least, this peppy wake-up light by Philips comes in as both the brand's best-selling wake-up light (they make 10+ varieties ICYWW) and also comes superbly rated on Amazon. Here are the features: colored sunrise simulation, soothing sunset-inspired dimming feature, five natural wake-up sounds you can customize to gradually grow louder (read: "bird song, birds in the forest, zen garden, gentle piano, and seaside sounds—pick your poison) FM radio, tap to snooze, automatic display that dims with the darkness of your room, and 20 different brightness levels.

Oh, and the brand also makes the bold, yet very impressive claim that their wake-up light is the only option, which has been scientifically proven to work. Still iffy? Amazon reviewer Natalie claims it played a major role in curing her Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

"This has seriously changed my life in ways I didn't think it would. Previously, I would wake up grumpy, set my alarm to snooze, and just get grumpier. I hated whatever noise woke me up, even if it was a song I previously loved. With this alarm clock, I wake up most days without having to hear my alarm at all. I have it set to a 20-minute light cycle, and I almost always wake up five minutes before the alarm would start making noise. When it does use noise to wake me up, it's pretty unobtrusive.

I chose a local bird call for my alarm, but there are several other options as well.

"On a more personal note, I suffer from SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—and I live in the Northwest. Fall and winter are very difficult for me. I have been using lamps to get more light to combat this for years, but this clock actually made the biggest difference. Waking up with light really impacted my SAD. It didn't get rid of it entirely—I don't think anything can do that—but I found that I had more energy and a more positive outlook when this light woke me up."

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