Sunrise alarm clock purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Light alarm clocks make use of the genetic programming of humans.
  • By simulating the sunrise, the wake-up phase is gentler than with conventional acoustic versions.
  • Besides the classic light alarm clocks for everyone, there are also special versions for children and therapeutic uses.
  • In addition to a radio, some comfort functions such as various alarm sounds are usually integrated.
  • High-end light alarm clocks support or prevent the targeted release of the sleep hormone melatonin and stimulate vitamin D production.

Gentle awakening with the light alarm clock

The acoustic alarm clock has been part of the basic equipment of every bedroom for many decades. What began with wind-up alarm clocks with a bell was gradually replaced by electronic devices. In the meantime, there is a wide range of products, from simple analogue battery clocks to highly functional radio alarm clocks. Even coffee machines with integrated alarm functions are now available.

The primeval days of sleep

No matter how shrill or gentle an acoustic signal is to wake us up, it always results in a high stress level. This circumstance is genetically determined, because waking by a sound signal was only common in primitive times as a result of an alarm. Being acoustically roused from sleep always meant that an imminent attack or a natural event, such as a flood or forest fire, threatened the clan.

Alarm clock on bedside table

The brightness of the environment determines the sleep cycle of humans – that’s how evolution intended it. People sleep in the dark and wake up as soon as it gets light. This makes sense, because in times of scarce food it is better to spend as much time as possible sleeping, which saves energy. But when the days are long, shorter sleep means more time for food procurement. Today, however, this very procurement of food is no longer dependent on the seasons. Instead, industrialisation has established a strict, year-round eight-hour day that applies to all areas of life, no matter how light or dark it is outside.

Waking up without shrill alarm bells

The previously common ringing of the eternally ticking wind-up alarm clock was initially followed by horrifyingly shrill beeps or screeching noises from the electronic regulators. These have given way to more or less tiresome moderations and background music from the radio alarm clock. Today, the smartphone offers an almost unlimited selection of appealing melodies and sounds to make the transition from deep sleep to waking up as pleasant as possible. But as long as the wake-up is by tones or sounds, but not by light, the alarming component remains when waking up.

The light alarm clock is a device that aims to combine the evolutionary circuitry of humans with the requirements of the modern working world. Instead of being unpleasantly jolted out of sleep, a light alarm clock gently and naturally gets you out of bed by simulating a sunrise.

The different variations

Light alarm clocks are available in different shapes, but in their basic functionality they are all the same. There are round, ring-shaped, amorphous, cylindrical or cube-shaped light alarm clocks. They are powered by household electricity and have either an additional battery compartment or a rechargeable battery. The battery-powered models can be charged with a standard micro-USB charger, which also supplies power to smartphones. Some models offer a sleep function in addition to the alarm function. Furthermore, there are high-end devices with an extended therapeutic benefit.

Light alarm clocks can be divided into the following three categories:

  • Light alarm clocks for everyone
  • Light alarm clocks for children
  • Light alarm clocks for therapeutic purposes

Light alarm clock for everyone

Conventional light alarm clocks often have some comfort functions in addition to a radio. However, their main purpose is to support a gentle awakening. As the price increases, so does functionality and quality – especially in terms of the sound quality of the radio. Although light alarm clocks generally have a rather simple, functional design, they can also be used as ambient lights thanks to integrated RGB LED lamps.

Woman wakes up refreshed

In the medium device category, there are even light alarm clocks with remote control. These are usually equipped with a reading mode. They thus provide sufficient light for reading a few relaxing pages before going to bed.

Light alarm clocks for children

Light alarm clocks for children are very inexpensive. They usually have a colourful, child-friendly design and are easy to use. However, their functionality is limited. For example, not every light alarm clock for children has an integrated radio. However, there is usually a quick button for the night light.

Light alarm clocks for therapeutic purposes

High-end light alarm clocks are equipped with functions that support or prevent the targeted release of the sleep hormone melatonin. They also stimulate the production of vitamin D. In addition, they have numerous other functions. However, these high-quality devices are very expensive.

The structure of a light alarm clock

The daylight lamp is the actual heart of a light alarm clock. It consists of a row of RGB LEDs that shine in the colour spectrum of a sunrise: starting from a soft red to a bright white. LEDs are power-saving and very long-lasting. Users therefore do not have to fear burnt-out light bulbs.

A typical light alarm clock consists of these other components:

  • Partially transparent housing: The housing consists largely of brushed Plexiglas. The polished surface acts like a diffuser, spreading the light of the daylight lamp throughout the room.
  • Power supply: The power supply consists of a common cable for the 220-volt connection or through a commercially available charger with micro-USB connection. In the latter case, a rechargeable battery is integrated. This ensures the function of the light alarm clock even if the house power supply fails.
  • Digital clock made of red LEDs: The digital clock made of red LEDs has been the standard for electronic digital alarm clocks for many decades. Light alarm clocks with quartz display or a different colouring of the LEDs are rarer.
  • FM radio: Every light alarm clock has a selection of natural sounds such as waterfall, birdsong or chicken clucking in its acoustic alarm signals. In addition, a normal FM radio is also integrated.
  • Control panel: With the control panel consisting of several buttons, users set the clock and alarm time as well as some other modes.
  • Stand: A stable stand ensures that the light alarm clock stands securely in its place of installation. Alternatively, some devices are equipped with a wall mount.

The other features of a light alarm clock vary greatly. Some devices have a Bluetooth connection; these control the speakers of the music system. Other devices have an integrated charging port for smartphones.

The highest-quality devices have a therapeutic licence and may be advertised as medical products. Especially in winter, a lack of light can lead to a vitamin D deficit. The consequences range from mild, permanent fatigue to depression. Light alarm clocks of the appropriate performance class simulate sunlight particularly well. They provide the body with a sufficient supply of natural light, which prevents a vitamin deficiency as well as winter depression.

What matters when buying

With increasing functionality, more time is needed to read the operating instructions. However, especially light alarm clocks in the lower and medium price range that do not offer app support are not exactly intuitive to use. Basically, these are conventional radio alarm clocks with an automatic lamp as an additional function. These devices also fulfil their purpose, but today many consumers expect more from an electronic device. Especially in terms of programmability, the cheap light alarm clocks have to fit the bill. Both the light menu and the sound selection are usually predefined. Users who are used to electronic devices being configurable at will through their smartphones are therefore disappointed.

For this reason, some light alarm clocks, especially in the upper price category, are intermediate solutions: They are equipped with modern functions such as Bluetooth control or a remote control, but the connection to an app is so far only available with a few devices. Above all, the medically usable light alarm clocks have extensive functionality. However, this is mainly focused on analysing sleep and not on any comfort functions.

Man wakes up by morning sun

Light alarm clocks typically come with the following technical data:

  • a size of 1,000 cubic centimetres
  • a weight of 0.3 to 1.2 kilograms
  • a power supply of 6 to 12 volts with USB connection
  • a 220-volt power supply (without USB connection)
  • an integrated RGB LED lamp with full colour spectrum
  • up to three adjustable alarm times
  • 6 to 20 integrated alarm tones (without app support)

The right light alarm clock for everyone

The commercially available light alarm clocks are basically all convincing with their quality and functionality. Even inexpensive devices offer the full range of functions. If the light alarm clock is to be placed in a child’s room, special versions for children offer the functions and advantages mentioned above. Apart from that, it is your own requirements that determine the price range and the functional scope of the suitable light alarm clock.

Light alarm clocks for beginners

For beginners and anyone who wants to try out a light alarm clock for the time being, there are already models at prices starting at 10 euros. Low-budget devices already come up trumps in their price range with comprehensive functions, an ambient light, a digital clock and a scan radio with automatic search and memory allocation.

Light alarm clocks in the mid-price segment

Most light alarm clocks are in the mid-price segment between 30 and 100 euros. They differ only in a few details and in the quality of the functions. The LEDs seem brighter with increasing price, the sound of the radio is better and the selection of alarm sounds is more extensive. In addition to the high-quality light alarm clocks with extensive selection, including devices with app control or playable alarm sounds, there are also special light alarm clocks for children in this price range. These are equipped with a sleep function in addition to the alarm function. They also have fun designs and a quick button for a night light. This helps children to overcome their fear of the dark and to sleep relaxed through the night.

High-end light alarm clocks

High-end light alarm clocks can cost up to 280 euros. However, real engineering is noticeable in these devices: some of them are equipped with light spectra specially optimised for hormone release. These have the effect of increasing or decreasing the melatonin level, which promotes falling asleep or supports waking up.

Light alarm clock with sensor mat

The latest generation of light alarm clocks are supplemented by a sensor mat. When sleeping on the sensor mat, the light alarm clock registers and analyses the movements of the sleeper. A microphone records the snoring sounds. With this data, the light alarm clock creates a complete sleep profile. This provides users with information about their sleep behaviour and allows them to take action if necessary.

Care and maintenance

Thanks to their smooth surface, it is sufficient to wipe light alarm clocks regularly with a damp cloth. You just have to be careful not to get them too wet. Apart from that, light alarm clocks are completely undemanding when it comes to care.

As with all small electrical appliances, repairs are usually only worthwhile for higher-quality devices. You should always leave this to a specialist. Ordinary damage such as torn power cables or cracked housings can be repaired by a qualified electrician in a few minutes. Even a burnt-out LED of the daylight lamp can be replaced in no time.

Since light alarm clocks are usually supplied with a USB cable and the matching power supply unit, broken cables or defective power supplies are not a problem: you can use the power supply unit of your smartphone as a transitional measure. The only wearing part on the light alarm clock is the button cell for the hold function of the clock. Replace it every two years.