How to wake up

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, continual activation of your body’s stress response can cause heart disease, obesity, depression and general misery.

Speaking as someone who wakes up at 4:00AM every day 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.


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    1. On April 11, 2013 Amanda Redepenning said

      How much is an alarm clock like this? I'm intruiged…

    2. On April 11, 2013 Alyssa Keene said

      I have one of these! You can find them in Amazon… I has both a radio alarm to go along with the light or chirpy bird sounds. I love it.

    3. On April 11, 2013 Chris Frykman said

      I love it. Great idea.

    4. On April 11, 2013 Cheryl Allocca Spigonardo said

      Interesting!! Though if you have to get up before someone you're sleeping with, it'd suck for them. Lol

    5. On April 12, 2013 Michael Deem said

      I know this contradicts Teddy's Sleep Canon #4 of "No flickering lights or screens within 90 minutes of sleep" (because it screws up your brainwaves), but there's a great app called Sleep Cycle for this exact purpose.

      Place the phone by your pillow and set a wake-up window anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes, and it senses when you are coming out of a REM cycle during that window by slowly increasing the volume of the song of your choosing (and then vibrating if necessary). Just put the phone back down to snooze, but it only lets you snooze for shorter and shorter periods of time until the end of your wake up window.

      Plus, it tracks the quality of your sleep, and provides cool graphs on what affects that quality based on your activities, the day of the week, when you get to bed, and your quality over time.

      Like Macklemoore says, "it's only 99 cents!" (And if Teddy gets a book deal on his Canons of Sleep, I want royalties for the initial concept and title.)

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