What's A Gentle Alarm Clock & What Are The Benefits? (Peaceful Morning Incoming)

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Mornings can be rough and most of us need an alarm clock to get up and moving. You might use your smartphone or a traditional alarm clock accompanied by the dreaded beeping sound, abruptly waking you and leaving you in a disoriented panic. There may actually be a better way to start your day, and it involves a gentler approach.

If you're someone who struggles with mornings, you're not alone, and you may want to switch out your typical alarm for a gentle alarm clock. These are designed to wake you up slowly with light, soft sounds, or a combination of both, rather than a jarring, annoying sound. According to Dr. Shelby Harris, a clinical psychologist and the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, light-based alarm clocks, also called sunrise clocks or dawn simulators, simulate natural light to wake you up in a gentler manner (via Travel + Leisure). Some of these also have built-in sound systems to help wake you up with soft tones or sounds of nature. Vibrating alarm clocks are another option that wakes you up with movement rather than sound, and they're sometimes placed under your pillow or mattress. Chances are, one of these options might even help you to turn yourself into a morning person and reclaim your morning routine

Who benefits from gentle alarm clocks?

Virtually anyone can benefit from gentle alarm clocks, and it often comes down to preference. Some people find traditional alarms to be helpful and don't have any problems with them, but gentle alarms might make a bigger difference for others. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University, recommends sunrise clocks to anyone who struggles to get up and those with low energy in the morning. Zee explains that a regular rhythm of light exposure from sunrise clocks can help regulate your sleep and wake times, thus improving your overall sleep quality (via The Washington Post). This is especially helpful if you work rotating shifts that mess with your sleep schedule, as you can simulate "dawn" even when it's dark outside to help you get up.

Gentle alarm clocks can also help people who struggle with seasonal affective disorder during the winter, according to research published in the Cochrane Library. Because mornings are darker in the winter months, this can make it difficult to get up in the morning and increase depressive symptoms. A light-based alarm clock that creates artificial sunlight can make things easier. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals can also benefit from light-based and vibrating alarm clocks that don't use sound, according to Healthy Hearing

How gentle alarm clocks make mornings easier

We often associate mornings with stress, but gentle alarm clocks are designed to make things a lot calmer. As Dr. Shelby Harris explains in Travel + Leisure, "The problem with traditional loud alarm clocks is that they trigger your stress response, increase adrenaline levels, and essentially shock you into waking up. This forced awakening can increase sleep inertia and lead to high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate." With softer sounds and light exposure, there's less anxiety when you wake up. In fact, a 2015 study in the journal "Sleep Medicine" found that when subjects were woken up with simulated light, their heart rates were lower than those who were woken up without the light. 

Light exposure has also been proven to decrease the effects of sleep inertia, which is the groggy and disoriented feeling many people get after waking up. Sleep inertia is temporary, but it can often last for hours and affect your performance with tasks throughout the day, according to the Sleep Foundation. A 2014 study in the "European Journal of Applied Physiology" found that when subjects were exposed to light through a dawn simulator in the last 30 minutes of sleep, it increased alertness as well as cognitive and physical performance after waking up.

Gentle alarm clocks also help regulate your sleep overall

Like many living things, humans operate on a circadian rhythm, which lets our bodies know when it's time to sleep and wake. Typically, our energy rises when the sun comes up and our bodies know it's time to rise. As it gets dark outside, we know it's time to rest and our energy levels decrease. But with our smartphones, televisions, and circumstances that may keep us up later at night, it becomes more difficult to fall asleep and get enough rest. 

Waking up to a gentle, calming sound and gradual light provides an easier transition between sleep and wakefulness. Sunrise alarm clocks can help you establish a regular routine of light exposure, giving you a more consistent sleep-wake routine. This can improve your overall mood because when we sleep better, we feel better. Instead of that grogginess and cranky feeling you might get in the morning, waking up more gently can give you an easier start.

Gentle alarm clock options

If you're thinking of trying out a gentle alarm clock, there are plenty of options to choose from, ranging in price from $20 to well over $100. On the more affordable side, the hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock has LED lights that slowly brighten 30 minutes before the set alarm time to wake you up. It also has a selection of nature sounds and eight different color options for the LED light. 

If you're willing to invest more into your sleep routine, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light is a great option for around $100 on Amazon. This clock has 20 different brightness settings to simulate both a sunset to help you fall asleep and a sunrise to get you up in the morning. You'll also have an option of five different natural sounds to wake up to. 

Though this one's not technically an alarm clock, Bellman & Symfon's Vibio Bed Shaker Alarm can definitely get you awake on time. This is a vibrating device placed under your pillow. It connects to your phone or tablet, allowing you to choose your wake-up time and vibration level, ranging from soft to strong. It is an ideal option for hard-of-hearing individuals as well as heavy sleepers who don't find traditional alarm clocks effective. There's likely something for everyone in the gentle alarm clock department.