Enter: the Philips Somneo Sunrise Wake-up and Sleep Therapy Light, my new savior in the "Will I have time to make coffee before work?" game. (This is a trick—I always make time to make coffee before work, otherwise I would spontaneously combust.) But, I did want to see if waking up to a sunrise light alarm would help me wake up and get out the door sans grogginess.
Spoiler alert: It did!
For two weeks, I set the alarm for 6:00 a.m., and every morning before 6:00 a.m. came, the light would gradually progress over 30 minutes from a deep red to orange-ish, to a bright yellow when it was actually time to wake up. The alarm sounds you can choose from are all gentle and inspired by nature, like Zen Garden and Seaside Sounds. (Here's how to make an actual tiny zen garden in your home.) I chose the soft chirping of Birds in the Forest to wake me up. I found that having the light turn on with my alarm meant my instinct was to actually get up—even before I am awake enough to think, I know that lights on means get out of bed and lights off means cuddle under the covers.
Related: 10 Gorgeous Winter Birds To Watch From Your Backyard
I can't be sure, but I also felt that the gradual change of the light to those brighter hues helped my body come out of a deeper stage of sleep, so that I wasn't deep in an REM dream when my alarm went off. My only criticism is that when you turn the chirping off (by lightly tapping the top of the light) the light goes off too. I wish it stayed on so my body couldn't greedily hide itself back in the folds of the duvet before my mind could wake up and disagree.
Buy it now: Philips Somneo Sunrise Wake-up and Sleep Therapy Light, $179.95, Amazon.com
The biggest surprise for me in using this light was how much I enjoyed the wind-down Sunset function. When it was time to go to bed, I would read for ten or fifteen minutes, and then set the "Sunset" evening function to Ocean Waves sounds. The orange light softly dimming into red next to my bedside was a simple reminder that it was, as nature intended, time to shut down and stop thinking and worrying. I would stop myself from picking up my loudly blue-lit phone to scroll, instead enjoying the relaxing sounds and colors that signaled it was time to sleep. (Here's more on what you should know about how much blue light you're taking in every day, and when it's time to shut it off.)
Another benefit I didn't use as much—but that is fascinating (especially if you have trouble nodding off)—is the evening "light rhythms" feature: a slow pulse of red light which allows you to focus on the color fading slowly in and out, time your breathing with the light, and drift off to sleep. Want to try it yourself? Below, some options that might be a fit for you.
Though I highly recommend the Somneo, there are also other more affordable light alarms on the market. There's also been a trend in hue smart bulbs, which, similar to the light alarm, you can set on a timer for mornings and evenings, and adjust the warmth of the light. These are wonderfully nifty options, and you can add them to an overhead light or a lamp and control them from your phone.
+ Philips Hue White Smart Bulb Starter Kit, $69.97, Amazon.com
+ Philips Wake-Up Light with Colored Sunrise Simulation, $129.99, Amazon.com
+ Sleepace Nox Smart Sleep System, $119, Amazon.com
+ Philips Somneo Sunrise Wake-up and Sleep Therapy Light, $179.95, Amazon.com
+ GLIME Wake Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation, $42, Amazon.com