Sleeping under an artificial sunset: Hands-on with the Drift Light bulb

Can a light bulb with a microprocessor help you sleep better? Crave's Amanda Kooser tucks in with the Drift Light, a high-tech Sandman.

Drift Light bulb
The Drift Light wants to ease you to sleep. Amanda Kooser/CNET

There are all sorts of apps out there you can use to track your sleep. Sometimes they involve keeping your phone or a fitness wristband in bed with you to pick up on all your tossing and turning. If apps and hardware accoutrements just aren't your thing, then you might like Saffron's Drift Light, a smart light bulb that is also incredibly simple.

The 40W-equivalent LED Drift Light has a built-in microprocessor. No app, no extra hardware, and no fuss. You just screw the bulb into a light fixture. In my case, I used the bedside lamp I always have on before bed. Turn it on once and the Drift acts like a regular light.

Turn it on, off, and back on, and it blinks to let you know it's entered midnight mode, in which it fades to dark over the course of 37 minutes, mimicking the light change involved in a real sunset. The third option is called moonlight mode and it fades the bulb down to a gentle glow to act as a nightlight.

The idea behind the artificial sunset is to encourage your body to react like humans did before we had electricity, laptops, tablets, and phones to keep us occupied way into the wee hours. Saffron says the bulb is meant to promote relaxation and increase melatonin to encourage good sleep.

I've been testing out the $29 Drift Light for the last week. I'm notoriously bad about falling asleep. I shuffle around looking for a comfortable position and listen to podcasts when I really can't get into dreamland. The first night I used the Drift Light in midnight mode, I really noticed it moving silently down through the dimness settings and ultimately turning off. Over the next few nights, it got to the point where I never caught it turning off because I was already asleep.

It helps when you can really dial in the timing for the bulb. Knowing it takes 37 minutes to count down to blackness, you can time it to turn off right about when you would normally be going to sleep.

There is something soothing about the world dimming around you. It's like being a kid with an early bedtime, sensing the sun set outside your window.

My one-week trial run is hardly a huge sample size. I still woke up a few times during the night, but most of that was due to a 12-pound cat weighing down my knees. Your experience with a product like this may vary, but it's a temptingly simple alternative to a lot of the other, more complex sleep-aid technologies out there.

Drift Light in a lamp
The Drift Light in residence in a lamp. Amanda Kooser/CNET

 

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