Is there a sound that makes you shudder because it reminds you of being jolted out of a deep sleep on countless cold, dark mornings? I have two: the infamous grating beep of OG alarm clocks and that first-ever default iPhone alarm sound that berated me into waking up for 9 a.m. classes in college. Thankfully, there is now a gentler solution: a sunrise alarm clock.
These days, we tend to use our phones for everything, which can be hugely convenient. If your handy smartphone provides a certain function, it can be a hard sell to invest in a separate product that serves the same purpose and takes up more space.
But if you’re a troubled sleeper or find it difficult to rise and shine, especially before sunrise, a light or sunrise alarm clock may be well worth the buy.
What are sunrise alarm clocks?
“The key thing that these alarm clocks try to mimic is direct sunlight exposure,” said Rebecca Robbins, an associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School. “They build on the circadian science that light is a vital input to our internal circadian rhythm.”
The part of our brain that guides our circadian rhythm, Robbins explained, is housed behind the eyeballs, making our eyes the receptors of light that kick-starts the awake phase of this 24-hour cycle.
That’s why exposing yourself to light in the morning, even if it’s only a simulation of the sun, will help trigger that alertness by suppressing the flow of the hormone melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain. (Darkness triggers melatonin release, while light can halt its production.)