This one product makes it so much easier to wake up in the morning
It's finally possible to become a morning person.
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Here’s a conundrum: I am a morning person who hates getting out of bed. I enjoy waking up early enough to hit the gym, have breakfast, drink a cup of tea, and work on a crossword puzzle before I head to the office. (It’s possible, I swear!) But I also deeply cherish the cozy feeling of being swaddled in a cocoon of blankets and pillows.
Being awake isn’t the problem, it’s putting my feet on the floor. And, unsurprisingly, sleeping in wins out most days. That is, until a little over a year ago, when I found a solution in the Philips Wake-Up Light.
An alarm clock that helps you wake up? Groundbreaking, I know. But I’ve found that it’s not that this alarm clock works, but how—mimicking the sunrise to make getting out of bed less painful, if not pleasant.
How the Philips Wake-Up Light works
The Philips Wake-Up Light alarm clock (model HF3520/60) simulates the sunrise by cycling through 20 brightness settings—from deep red through warm oranges and yellows to bright white—in the half-hour before your alarm sounds. You can set two alarms total, each with its own pre-programmed natural wake-up sounds—bird song, birds in the forest, zen garden, gentle piano, and seaside sounds—or FM radio station.
What I like about the Philips Wake-Up Light
It helps me fall asleep faster
Ironically, I initially bought this alarm clock to help me fall asleep. I had a bad habit of scrolling through my phone before bed, so I wanted something that would encourage me to read more instead.
The Philips Wake-Up Light can simulate a sunset of sorts, the same way it simulates the sunrise in the morning. When I get into bed, I can hit the dimmer button, specify the length of time I’d like it to stay on (say, 20 minutes), and then finish up a chapter in my book while the light slowly fades to darkness. And if I want a bit more reading time, I just hit the same button to re-up my time.
Since I don’t have to worry about the light staying on all night, I’m free to drift off as I like. It’s a more calming routine than mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, and it helps me avoid the phone’s stimulating blue light. As long as I have a bookmark at-the-ready, it’s a foolproof solution.
It makes waking up easier
First, I should note that on the spectrum of deep sleep—light sleepers on the left and heavy sleepers on the right—I fall somewhere right of center. I’ve never slept through an alarm in my life, but I’ve lived in a city for more than a decade, so I filter out noises like car horns and sirens pretty easily.
Since elementary school, I’ve used an alarm to wake up—and I’ve hated it. Using the Philips Wake-Up Light, though, I’ve realized that my issue with all previous alarm clocks has stemmed from how abrasive they are. Waking up is hard enough without a cacophony of beeps screaming at you, leaving you to start your day in a somewhat-anxious state. I’ve often felt like I was instinctively resisting the noise—and, therefore, the morning.
Because the Philips light starts out deep red and slowly works its way up to bright white over the course of the default 30 minutes (or anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, per your preference), your body naturally has time to adjust to the light. The light is usually not enough to wake me on its own—save for a couple times I’ve been on my side facing it mere inches away. Instead, it’s putting in work behind the scenes, so that when your programmed noise element kicks in (I use “birds in the forest”), you’re more primed for a gentle wake-up experience.
No, I don’t always hear the birds chirping the second they start—though there’s one owl whose hoots always do the trick. So maybe I end up sleeping two minutes longer than I would with a standard alarm, but I actually feel awake from the moment I open my eyes. There’s no frantic smashing of an off button to save myself from the noise. Without that early-morning stress, waking up is less of a chore, which can’t be understated. Plus, it doesn't disturb my boyfriend on the other side of the bed.
It’s a functional lamp that works with any bedroom décor
I’m someone who has historically killed plants because I valued their aesthetic placement in my home over how much sunlight they required. Design matters to me. So it’s wonderful that the Philips actually looks as great as it works.
It’s what initially drew me to the clock when I first saw it perched on my most stylish friend’s nightstand. It does take up a bit of real estate (while it’s tall, its footprint isn’t much larger than any standard alarm clock), but it also functions as a fun statement piece.
Further, a simple press of a button will turn the light on to full brightness. My bedroom has no overhead lighting and the Philips more than holds its own illuminating its side of the room and then some. And since my apartment is short on space, having it pull double-duty as a functional lamp is a big plus.
What I don’t like about the Philips Wake-Up Light
The snooze button doesn’t always work
The light is designed to snooze for a few minutes when your hand taps its face. There’s no physical button to push, so it’s a little more nuanced, but I have gotten it to work from time to time. Unfortunately, more often than not, I don’t have the magic touch. There have been times I’ve resorted to desperately pulling the cord out of the back of the clock to kill the power.
I recognize that some of this may be user error. I’m admittedly not as coordinated as I could be that early in the morning (and the bright light in my face doesn’t help) so my taps are likely far from gentle. But an actual button would be nice.
A sleek design means buttons can be hard to find
Instead of trying to woo the snooze functionality, I’ve found it’s easy enough to simply kill the light and sound separately by pushing physical buttons on the outer rim. They’re raised a bit, so they’re easier to find as I run my hands over the clock with my eyes closed. But I’ve had to practice to get the muscle memory down—you really can’t see the light gray symbols on the white buttons unless you’re very close. But since I’ve gotten used to their placement, it’s not a deal-breaker.
Should you buy the Philips Wake-Up Light?
If you’re someone who finds mornings less than pleasant (so, everyone?), then yes. Not only can it bring a sense of calm to your mornings, it has just as much utility at night as you power down. I’m reading more and using my phone less, and I find myself less groggy and disoriented when it’s time to actually get up and start the day. Sure, it’s an expense you may not feel like you need, but if it works for you like it has for me over the past year, it’s worth every penny.
And if you want someone else's opinion, our staff tested several sunrise alarm clocks a year after I initially reviewed this product—and the Philips Wake-Up Light came out on top.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.