The top 5 wake-up lights

Say goodbye to niggling early morning bleeps and bloops, and ensure you always get up on the right side of the bed with a gentle wake-up light

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We all know at least one person who is constantly espousing the virtues of being up with the lark, of greeting the day, saluting the sun, and probably some unutterable nonsense about going to the gym while it’s still dark, too. But if you’re one of those other people, the type who’s always sympathised with Bill Murray in that alarm clock-smashing scene in Groundhog Day, then this kind of early-morning cheeriness can be completely unthinkable. And for those among us who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can be especially difficult.

But no matter who you are, all of us can benefit from a slower, gentler start to the day, one that doesn’t involve being startled awake by a beeping alarm clock, and that’s where wake-up lights come in. Replicating the sunrise that would have naturally woken our ancestors, but year round, it cancels out the circadian rhythm-confusing lack of morning light in winter and carefully coaxes you into wakefulness using light and sound.

The best wake-up lights don’t just do what they say on the box though - if you have trouble dropping off at night, you can also use inbuilt sunset functions to help you gradually get to the land of nod without having to count a single sheep. Many options also offer customisable sound settings as a backup means of bringing you into the land of the living, whether that’s the comforting crash of waves, the pastoral call of a cockerel, or the sound of your favourite morning DJ.

Finally, while a few of our picks come recommended by official bodies supporting sufferers of SAD, it’s always best to check with your doctor before you embark on any treatment, even if it’s as gentle as light therapy. If they give you the thumbs up, consider looking for a lamp with more lux (that’s one lumen per square metre, to us) that won’t just wake you up, but keep you motivated on long, gloomy days, too.

1. Lumie Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light

Lights, sounds, ready for action

Best for: Customisation
Power type: Mains with back-up battery
Lux: 250
Reasons to buy
+ Adjustable sunrise/sunset times + Doubles as bedside light 
Reasons to avoid
- Not as good-looking as the Philips 

Lumie are the inventors of the original wake-up light, and to our judgment, their Bodyclock is still the best. A certified medical device recommended by, the Bodyclock Active 250 wakes you with a gradually brightening light whose speed you can control within a range of 15-90 minutes, for the mornings when you really need to get going, and those when you can afford a little more lie-in time. Doubling as a bedside light and nightlight, it has a snooze function, dimmable display, FM radio, and wake-up noise options including white noise, waves, birdsong and a rooster call. For its seemingly endless customisation options, it’s our top choice.

2. Philips Wake Up Light

Choose nature or natter with this clock radio meets wake-up light

Best for: Gentle wake-up
Power type: Mains
Lux: 300
Reasons to buy
+ Variety of light and sound settings  + USB phone charging 
Reasons to avoid
- No automatic time set 

A very close second to the Lumie Bodyclock Active, the Philips Wake Up Light is another highly recommended and reliable option, with the added distinction of looking really good on the bedside table thanks to its sleek, almost seamless design. It’s clinically proven to make getting up less of a chore with light settings, plus a bank of seven natural sounds and radio function, so whether you prefer birdsong or your local station to get you out of bed in the morning, you’re all set. The USB port for mobile phone charging is also a helpful feature, eliminating the need for wires trailing under the bed.

3. Nature Bright Sun Bliss

Wherever you are, take the sun with you with this ultra-bright lamp

Best for: SAD
Power type: Mains
Lux: 10,000
Reasons to buy
+ Ultra-bright 10,000 lux + Great for travel 
Reasons to avoid
- Not many wake-up settings 

If you suffer from SAD, or otherwise just find it very difficult to get motivated in the winter months, you might want to consider a lamp that you can use throughout the day, not just to wake you up in the morning. This SAD light from Nature Bright boasts a brilliant (literally) 10,000 lux, while our other picks have lux ratings in the hundreds, making it a superior choice for day-long use,and its lightweight design and universal adaptor means you can take it travelling, so you don’t have to disrupt your rhythm further. If you’re simply looking for a wake-up light function, you may want to go for the more customisable Bodyclock or Philips Wake Up Light. For home working or travel, though, this is the one. 

4. LUNSY Wake Up Light

A great budget wake-up light for ambience as well as alarms

Best for: Budgets
Power type: Rechargeable battery
Lux: N/A
Reasons to buy
+ Excellent value + Choice of light colours 
Reasons to avoid
- Not the best-looking, but not bad either 

Like all home gadgets worth their salt, a few years on the market has meant more development and variety in the world of the light therapy alarm clocks, and that means some competitively priced contenders have made their way onto the market, including this wake up light from LUNSY. While it might not be quite as customisable as some of our picks at higher price points, reviewers have been thrilled with its options, including three different brightness settings, five different nature sounds, and even a selection of RGB colours to set the mood of your choice, day or night. It’s not the best looking on our list, but if happy users are to be believed, it’s incredibly good for the price.

5. Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light

Combines the bedside lamp and alarm clock for the best of both worlds

Best for: Simple design
Power type: Mains
Lux: 200
Reasons to buy
+ Stylish minimal design + Adjustable for evening and morning 
Reasons to avoid
- Some found the alarm a little grating 

If you’re undecided about light alarm clocks, not fussed about nature sounds, and just want a simple model that builds on a standard sound alarm, the Philips HF3500/60 may well be it. It’s a handsome stand-in for a bedside light and alarm clock, and its light settings are ample and varied, with ten different light intensities to choose from and adjustable brightness for the time display. However, there’s just one alarm setting, so if you prefer to be gently enticed into wakefulness with birdsong, it may not be for you. One final downside that some reviewers have flagged up is that the snooze feature can be quite tricky to activate, although if it saves us from ourselves, we suppose, then all the better...