For the millennia before electricity, humans woke up to the gradual light of sunrise. Our brains thrive in this environment. Our circadian rhythm, cortisol cycles, and sleep health are all evolved for dawn stimulation.
Somewhere along the line things got twisted. Instead of waking up with the sun in a relaxed and energized state we now lurch awake, in the dark, to blaring alarm clocks. This means that your first waking experience is a fight-or-flight response with your stress hormones going through the roof. It’s not a great start to the day. And unfortunately, long-term activation of your body’s stress response can cause heart disease, obesity, depression and general misery.
Speaking as someone who hasn’t slept past 4:00AM since 2009, I feel like I have unique insight into how lame an unnatural wake pattern is. (very lame) After years of torment I finally decided to make a change so I got a wake-up light. I bought a Phillips model, because it was the cheapest, and it’s turned out to be pretty much the shizzle.
It works by gradually lightening until it reaches a level of brightness similar to sunrise. Then it makes a chirping bird noise, just in case the light wasn’t enough to wake you. I’ve been using this thing for a couple of months and only once have I needed the bird chirps to wake up. Usually by the end of the lighting cycle I’m awake and coherent.
The wake-up light is not a quick fix for a crummy lifestyle. But I’ve found that starting the day off with healthy hormone levels makes me more effective and less stressed throughout the day. I also think I fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply through the night.
True, waking up to a light bulb isn’t quite as good as waking up with our big yellow friend in the sky, but I’ll take it any day over a blaring klaxon and flashing LEDs.