A few months ago I purchased a dawn simulation / light-therapy lamp. Before this, regardless how early I fell sleep, waking up before sunrise would leave me groggy and slow moving for hours. I even tried moving my bedtime up to 8PM but still woke up wanting more sleep!
The theory behind “light-boxes” is that they produce the same frequency of light as the sun, thereby stimulating serotonin production in the brain. Release of serotonin at the start of the day is one of the primary methods by which our body regulates wakefulness and alertness in the morning.
The specific model I purchased is the BlueMax Sunrise System Model 320. I picked this one because it is the only one that has a built in alarm function AND bulbs capable of reaching 10,000 LUX. The alarm function allows the user to set a wake period so that the light grows gradually brighter. The powerful bulbs emit a level of light that is supposed to be effective in treating S.A.D. (Season Affective Disorder).
Below are the pros and cons I have experienced with my specific light-box.
- I definitely felt more alert in the morning after a mere 15 minutes of exposure to this light.
- It is small and durable enough to move from one room to the other. This allowed me to use it while preparing food in the kitchen and then move it to my dining table during breakfast.
- This could entirely be placebo but the notion of having a “serotonin-stimulating” tool available helped get me out of bed immediately upon rising.
- This model cost $165. The price is justified by the company because it is the only light on the market that offers full spectrum bulbs AND an alarm function.
- The time and date settings get erased upon unplugging. This may not be a problem if the light-box is only used as an alarm clock in the bedroom. However, I wanted more exposure time before leaving my apartment, which meant I carried it from one room to another, completely negating the clock functions.
- Although I have not had any bulbs die in the 2 months I’ve owned this lamp, I have heard that they cannot be changed. This is a major issue considering the price of the light and the fact that it has over a dozen tiny internal bulbs.
Ultimately, I would not recommend this specific model.
A typical “light-therapy” box can be purchased for as little as $50. The clock and alarm function on this model does not justify the $100 price difference. Plus, if you are like me and want to start your day with as much “blue-light” exposure as possible, the clock will have to be reset every night in order to use the alarm setting the following morning.
I would recommend buying a basic light therapy lamp capable of 10,000 LUX. The exposure to this light has definitely helped improve my morning alertness while reducing the time it takes for me to get moving.
Remember, there will never be a substitute for 8 to 9 hours of quality sleep! But, if you are like me and have trouble getting up before the sun rises, an investment in one of these lights may make your mornings a little bit easier.