Dawn simulators, also known as sunrise alarm clocks, have clinically proven benefits for sleep, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and waking more naturally feeling refreshed and alert. A dawn simulator mimics sunrise (and often sunset too) with light brightening gradually over a period from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Sunrise over water

The average cost ranges from around £60 up to £180 for a medically certified and clinically tested device. There are cheaper LED sunrise alarm clocks on the market for about £10-15. When is it worth paying more? What is a the difference between the two types of products? Is it a difference worth the huge variation in price? Let’s have a look.

How to spot a genuine light therapy device

There is a market for both high quality and low price sunrise simulators, but the biggest mistake a consumer can make is paying the higher price tag for a lower quality device. Before paying a higher price, make sure the device has and does the following:

Certified as a medical device

Light therapy products should be certified and conform to European manufacturing standards. To reap any light therapy benefits from a clock, choose a medically certified device.

Brightness and adequate distance

The optimum light level for therapeutic use is 10,000 lux. Even the best dawn simulators usually emit far less light than that, as they are simulating sunrise not midday sunshine. Light gets less bright the further from the light someone is. Check both the lux rating and the distance you will be placing it at to get an accurate idea of the lux rating you will be waking up to.

Correct colour temperature

Daylight simulators usually emit around 4000 – 6500 Kelvin, also referred to as full-spectrum light or natural white light. LED lights can range from 2 500 – 6 500 Kelvin, so just because it is an LED does not mean it will emit a high colour temperature.

Filtering UV light

Light therapy devices and sunrise simulators should have UV filters in place to ensure that ultraviolet light levels are negligible, however cheaper versions that use standard lightbulbs do not require specialist filters.

Lumie sunrise simulation alarm clock on

When to buy a light therapy device

Related medical conditions and symptoms

I would recommend purchasing a certified sunrise simulation alarm clock for anyone who experiences sleep or light related symptoms or conditions, like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.

Those really struggling to wake up in the morning

Those who really struggle to wake up in the morning and hit the snooze button more than once. Sunrise simulation clocks are medically recommended by occupational therapists and are proven to aid in a more natural waking phase. I feel more refreshed, more alert and I wake up naturally with a sunrise simulation clock, whereas the cheaper LED alarm clocks do not wake me up reliably as there isn’t enough light and it feels more like someone has flicked a light switch on in my bedroom.

If you can afford it, buy it

Reputable manufacturers like Lumie and Philips produce dawn simulators that are cost-effective, made to very high standards, durable and superior quality. I have used both medically licences devices and the cheaper LED light versions and there is a vast difference. A light therapy sunrise simulator feels a little like there is a small sun rising in your bedroom, whereas a standard LED bulb is just a standard LED bulb gradually turning on.

I purchased the Sentik LED Sunrise Alarm Clock for just under £12 for my 4-year old with sleep issues to see how well it works. It did not emit enough light to wake her up even in close proximity. I think this model and type of alarm clock is fine as alternative to a standard audio alarm clock, but it does not have any of the beneficial properties of a light therapy sunrise alarm clock.

Invest in quality. A good quality sunrise simulation alarm clock is one of the best investments to make for anyone with a serious health condition that affects sleep quality.