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Best Light Alarms 2020: Wake-Up and Sleep Lights

If you need help waking up in the mornings, the answer may be a light alarm. Rather than terrorising you out of sleep the way your regular alarm clock does, a light alarm will wake you gently, so that by the time you need to get out of bed, you feel ready to face the day.

Also known as a wake-up light or a dawn simulator, light alarms are hybrids of alarm clocks and lamps. They are designed to wake you slowly with a steady build-up of light that simulates a sunrise, complete with a shift in hue from reds and orange to brighter yellows and white over the course of the wake-up period.

There’s some evidence that light can prepare the body to wake up, signalling the brain to increase your body temperature and raise cortisol levels. This means you shouldn’t wake up as groggy and confused as when you’re jolted from sleep.

Light alarms can also help SAD sufferers who struggle to get going in the mornings without natural daylight. If you have seasonal affective disorder, you might also like to check out our round-up of the best SAD lights we’ve tested.

We’ve rated and reviewed the best light alarms below but if you need information on the kinds of features you should look out for, read our buying advice after the chart.

Philips Somneo Sleep and Wake-Up Light – Best overall

Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 – Medically certified for light therapy

Lenovo Smart Clock – With Google Assistant

Lenovo Smart Clock

Lumie Zest SAD & wake-up light – Dual functionality

Lumie Zest SAD & wake-up light

Groov-e Light Curve Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Radio – Best budget option

Groov-e Light Curve Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Radio

Amazon Echo Show 5 – With Alexa functionality

Amazon Echo Show 5

Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 700FM – Add custom wake-up audio

Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 700FM

Lumie Bodyclock Spark 100 – Best budget Lumie option

Lumie Bodyclock Spark 100

Philips Wake-up Light – Best design

Philips Wake-up Light

Light alarm buying advice

There are a few key features to look out for in a light alarm.

Light settings

The first thing to check is how much control you’ll have over the the light. Basic light alarms might only let you set a wake-up time, but pricier models can give you control over the light intensity – the Philips Somneo has a scale of 25 different intensities – or the duration of the sunrise effect.

Sound settings

Easy to overlook, sound settings are just as important, and arguably more so than light customisability. Light alarms should help you to wake up naturally from light alone. However, the stress of worrying that you might oversleep is counterproductive, so almost every light alarm includes some sort of optional alarm sound as well.

Simple alarms might just include a beep – but this sort of abrasive noise is probably exactly what you want to get away from. More expensive models might include a range of soothing sound effects including birdsong or waves, an FM radio, or an AUX input so that you can connect your phone to provide audio.

Sunset modes

You also want to look out for optional sunset modes, which will slowly dim at night to help you relax and fall asleep naturally. Again, look out for customisable settings, optional sound effects, or even breathing-focused modes to help you soothe yourself to sleep.

Other functionality

There are other features you might hope to see. Some are just basic alarm settings that aren’t always guaranteed: easy snooze modes or the option to schedule alarms to specific days. Otherwise, make sure you can save customised alarm settings easily, and look out for other nice-to-haves like a USB port for charging a phone, or an easy way to switch the lamp on and use it as a reading light or nightlight.

SAD lamps

Light alarms are related to, but not the same as, SAD lights. SAD lamps are designed to treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and are required to emit at least 2,500 lux to be medically certified for the purpose.

Many light alarms have been clinically tested and shown to help with SAD symptoms and other seasonal disorders, but they’re only a complement to a proper SAD light, not a replacement. We’ve also reviewed the best SAD lamps, so take a look for recommendations.

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