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Why you should ditch your alarm and wake up with light

Bright is best. Here's why.

Is every morning a struggle to wake up? Are blaring alarms not working? You may be able to hack your brain into waking up at the right time by changing the stimuli around you.

How? With zeitgebers, or social and environmental cues that affect our natural internal clocks. These include light exposure, when we eat meals and exercise.

That first one is really important when it comes to going to sleep and waking up. If you create the right lighting conditions, you can make waking up much easier and far more enjoyable than an alarm.

Read more: 12 proven ways to sleep better tonight.

Why waking up to light is better

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If you're a late riser, controlling the amount of natural light you're exposed to immediately after you wake up, and throughout the day can help you wake up earlier.

This is because your eyes have light receptors that gauge the brightness of the light around you and tells your brain, "Hey, it's daytime," if it's light around you, or "It's night, go to sleep," if you are in the dark for a while.

When you wake up to an alarm in a dark room, your brain is still in "sleep" mode. But if you throw open the curtains immediately and let sunlight in, your brain will accept the fact that it's time to be awake. If the lighting gradually gets brighter, like during a sunrise, our bodies are even more responsive and you'll feel much more refreshed.

This gets tricky as the seasons change, when we are more likely to wake up before the sun rises. Luckily, there are ways to fake it and still wake up feeling refreshed.

How to wake up to light

If you have to wake up before the sun, there are some easy ways to add natural light to your wake-up routine to get you going. Just turn on a light, right? Well, it has to be a certain kind of light.

Adding natural daylight to your routine can be an important signal to your brain to wake up, but most indoor lighting is much dimmer than natural lighting. It confuses our bodies. Daylight bulbs mimic natural light to trick your brain, and many different devices use this technology.

For example, consider getting a sleeping mask that you can schedule to become gradually brighter as your wake-up time closes in, like the Sound Oasis Illumy.

You can also purchase lamps or nightlights, such as the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock or the hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock, that have a sunrise simulation which mimics the rising sun to wake you more naturally.


The Illumy mask.

Alina Bradford/CNET

If you're more of the DIY type, you can also buy a smart bulb, like Philips Hue, Emberlight, Stack Lighting, Lifx or WeMo, that you can connect to your phone or fitness tracker to create a sunrise alarm. Taylor Martin has the full step-by here.

Light therapy: How bright lights can make you sleep better and fight seasonal depression.

Wondering how well you slept last night? Just ask Alexa: These smart mattresses and accessories now work with Amazon Alexa.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.