I Tried A Bodyclock Alarm And I Like It

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot
The sunrise isn’t something I see too often. With the perpetual late nights, bottles of wine and Netflix binges, it’s no surprise my default setting is snooze. I’ve always struggled to get up in the morning, and the dark winter months have never made it any more appealing. Each morning plays out like the one before it: a battle between rising early and catching the last few 'zzz's.

Having spent much of my life clinging to the bed sheets – that’s 29 years, to be clear – I was ready to let go. I’d tried everything, from putting my alarm across the room and sleeping with my clothes laid out, to pre-preparing a cup of water with lemon. Every attempt routinely failed. But just as I was slowly settling with the idea that my will wasn’t as strong as my want, I came across an article online about artificial sunrise lamps.

The products claimed to use light to naturally wake you up. I’d heard about different apps that monitor your sleep – so you rouse in the lightest stage – but a daybreak alarm, like the one made by Cambridge-based company Lumie, was something completely new.

The Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 retails for £59.95, and is essentially a hybrid between an alarm and a lamp. It works exactly as you’d imagine: you plug it in, set the time and then the alarm. Extra features include a sunset to help you drift off and a choice in the duration of your wake up period.

Taking a room from night to day in up to 30 minutes, rays of light are gradually projected from the halogen bulb and onto the wall, mimicking – yep, you guessed it – a sunrise.
If the shrill of your iPhone alarm is unsettling (none of the options seem remotely kind to the ears), then a body clock alarm might be a good idea. Lumie spokesperson Samira Cherrouk explains: “Waking with sound is not only counterintuitive, but also has a much more stressful impact on the body.” He says the dawn lamp works with your body’s natural rhythms, using light to reset your sleep/wake cycle.

So, circa resolution time, January 2016 became the month I would take back my mornings and start using the body clock. The weekly plan? Hit the gym before arriving at my desk for a 9:30 start. An ambitious move but certainly achievable. I’d heard an endorphin-fuelled morning can mean the difference between a very good day and a pretty sluggish one. I was about to find out.
Wrapped up in the excitement of a new toy, in week one, I beat the clock. Instead of waking to a majestic spectrum of light, I lay awake anticipating it. Not quite how I’d envisioned my first time. That artificial sunrise, though! Wednesday to Friday went as planned. Dawn broke and the gentle glow roused me from my slumber. Ever-so-softly, it nudges you into an alert state. Lying in bed, eyes wide open, I feel energised and ready to start the day. Most mornings I was awake before even realising it. No joke.

I'm told that, as the "morning light" shines from the lamp’s bulb, it suppresses the production of our sleepy chemical, melatonin. It simultaneously activates the get-up-and-go one, serotonin, and just like that the body thinks it’s a summer’s a.m. Incredibly bright at complete "sunrise", when the light hits your eyelids any attempts to go back to sleep are near impossible. And it works: I was no longer putting my phone on snooze 10 times.
Then there was the advantage for my boyfriend: the Lumie’s manual dimmer makes it easy to guide my way around the room, leaving him to sleep, undisturbed and unaware of the goings-on around him. Rewind the tape, and this was a show that once played out very differently: a shrieking alarm dropping bombs in my ear; a reach for the light switch; my boyfriend yanking the sheets high above his head.
However, while Lumie improved my boyfriend's and my sleep cycle with the best bits of science, by week two I was thinking that it's no magician. Early nights were, and still are, a proven enabler to my cause. On days when I’d had little sleep, even this sunrise simulator was no match for my zombie state. No matter how majestic its aura is, there is no helping a sleep-deprived me. In week two, plenty of post-work partying meant I was fighting off the drowsiness long after 10am.

Eventually, after three weeks of bleak weather, my body clock feels like it is adjusting to the new schedule; I am even rising in the early part of the lighting cycle. With my Lumie sitting midway between ceiling and floor, each day starts with an amber blaze. Waking up feeling rested means less wasted minutes, and more time to take my time. By dialling down the morning stress: the frantic searches for the left sock, iPhone charger, house key, even my moods have improved. Just ask my housemates.

On week four, while my a.m. woes are no longer, during the evenings I am running noticeably low on fuel. By 7pm, enthusiasm levels have dropped severely, with many post-work invitations being declined on account of my fatigue. But whoever heard of someone being both an ‘early bird’ and a ‘night owl’? Since humans are creatures of habit, Lumie’s Samira Cherrouk assures me that my body will eventually “adapt to the time shifts”.

More effective than the bacon-scented alarm clock, I imagine – yes, that is a real thing – the Lumie Bodyclock did, overall, take the edge off early starts. Found online and in most department stores, if you’re still not convinced, you can buy it via Lumie.com for a 30-day trial and give it a month-long test run for yourself. That's how long it took to convince this tried old skeptic.


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