Sunrise alarm clocks,” also known as “dawn simulators,” emit slow-building light that mimics the rising sun. Not only is this a gentle way to wake, it can help reset your circadian rhythms so that you are more alert in the morning, fall asleep more easily at bedtime and reduce certain health risks.

Problem: The circadian rhythms that regulate our daily sleep/wake cycle are easily disrupted by certain aspects of modern life. Examples: The light emitted by evening use of digital devices sends a message to the brain that it’s still daytime…resetting the clock for daylight savings time creates biannual issues…and many of us must get out of bed before dawn, especially in winter. Our circadian rhythms are most likely to go off track when the rising sun isn’t sending a message to the brain that it is time to wake.

Problem solved: Sunrise alarm clocks allow us to essentially rise with the sun and reset our circadian rhythms even if we are not truly waking at dawn. These clocks are effective for people suffering from certain circadian-rhythm–related health conditions, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and anecdotal evidence suggests that they can benefit people even if they don’t have health issues. They’re useful for anyone who must regularly rise before dawn and/or chronically feel groggy in the morning.

There are dozens of sunrise alarm clocks on the market, with prices ranging from $30 to more than $100. All perform the same basic function, but higher-end models may have more attractive styling, brighter lights and a wide range of color tones to more closely mimic the light of the rising sun. Sunrise alarm clocks also have different audio options—some can complement the simulated dawn with natural morning sounds such as birdsong, while others feature only conventional alarm clock beeping and/or the radio. Other features include Bluetooth connectivity and charging ports for other electronics.

One added feature worth having: A nightlight setting featuring a “warm” color temperature. Unlike the “blue” light produced by smartphone screens, light from the warmer red end of the spectrum does not significantly interfere with circadian rhythms. The reddish warm light option is useful for evening use, such as reading in bed, since it is less likely to suppress melatonin and delay falling asleep. But it is best to have nearly no bedroom light while sleeping at night. Sunrise alarm clocks with an appropriate nightlight function include Jall Sunrise Alarm Clock ($32.98)…Philips 
SmartSleep Wake-Up Light ($108.95)…and Hatch Restore 2 ($169.99).
Best: Set your sunrise alarm clock to wake you with a slow build of light that begins 20 to 30 minutes before your desired wake time.

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