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Waking up to a blaring alarm can be a startling experience that provokes confusion, grogginess, and irritability. In sleep science, we refer to this as “sleep inertia.” This temporary physiological state is the result of an abrupt awakening that interferes with the natural transition from sleep to wakefulness. In addition to good sleep habits, one good solution to wake up feeling more refreshed and in a better mood is by reducing those sudden awakenings. The rising sun in the morning triggers the production of cortisol as we’re gradually exposed to its natural light — this serves as a natural indicator to our biological clock to shift from being asleep to awake.
If for some reason you’re unable to wake up to natural sunlight (for example, if you sleep with blackout curtains, like me) you’re most likely waking up to the jarring sound of an alarm, often resulting in sleep inertia. Fortunately, there are some solutions to reduce those unpleasant episodes. A research study found that symptoms of sleep inertia had decreased in people who were exposed to an artificial dawn signal in the morning. A similar study found that exposure to the same type of artificial light had a positive effect on individuals’ cognitive performance, well-being, and mood. When I tested the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light for our best sunrise alarm guide, I experienced reduced sleep inertia and enhanced mood in the first couple of nights using it. What’s great about this device is that it mimics such a beautiful sunrise that gradually prepares your body for a more gentle and refreshing wake-up experience.
Waking up with the Philips SmartSleep
The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light might take up quite a bit of space on a smaller nightstand. It’s 7.5 inches high and 7.8 inches wide. It weighs 2.5 pounds and is a little on the bulky side, but the anti-slip rubbery bottom will make sure it stays in place. The front of the device is a smooth, glossy sphere equipped with LEDs that glow evenly, and the back is shaped like a glossy cone with a built-in speaker. Two different alarms can be personalized with five nature sounds and a choice of 20 brightness levels. There are a few side buttons located on the rim of the device to adjust brightness, volume, and FM radio.
The Philips SmartSleep is also meant to be used as a bedside lamp that can be switched on and off by pressing the corresponding side button. The smart snooze lasts only up to nine minutes and can be activated with a slight tap. The time display can be set to a 12- or 24-hour clock. Users can also adjust their wake-up profile to gradually brighten for 20 to 40 minutes (30 minutes by default). It’s a much simpler model compared to the app-enabled Philips SmartSleep Connected and is also completely manual.
Setting up my Philips wake-up lamp was easy with its user-friendly instructions. The guide provides step-by-step, illustrated instructions that I was able to follow as I configured the device. I set my weekly wake-up alarm by pressing through the soft-touch controls to select my preferred light intensity, sound level, and wake-up time. I set it to wake me up gradually over 30 minutes to the gentle sounds of “Nepal bowls.” Waking up to the serene sunrise simulation with beautiful, refreshing orange-and-yellow hues and the uplifting sounds was such a pleasant experience. The Philips SmartSleep mimics one of the most invigorating and natural sunrises that I have seen in a wake-up lamp. I snoozed my alarm by tapping softly on the front of the device. (I suggest tapping on it very slightly, as too much force might cause damage to the unit.) The alarm sound stops, but the light stays on for up to nine minutes.
The Philips wake-up lamp also allows users to adjust the time display contrast — a great feature for total darkness. The display brightness automatically increases according to the amount of light in the bedroom, and it automatically dims as the room gets dark. I recommend shutting it off completely during the night. Looking at the time when you’re trying to relax can cause unnecessary anxiety. Users can also create a fall-asleep profile that simulates a natural sunset. The lamp gradually dims its rich orange-and-yellow hues for five minutes to an hour. I set my wind-down profile to dim for 30 minutes with the FM radio on. The light and sound faded softly as I drifted off to sleep. After using my Philips wake-up lamp for just a few nights, I noticed that I was waking up in a much better mood and I didn’t feel groggy. I felt energized by the refreshing sunrise and sounds that flooded my bedroom in the morning and sleep inertia was no longer an issue.
Cons to consider
There are a few things that the Philips SmartSleep is missing. First, it would be ideal if it could be controlled through the SmartSleep app. This device doesn’t have the extra features from the Philips SmartSleep Connected that I love. For instance, it lacks the AmbiTrack sensor that monitors my sleep environment and encourages better sleep habits. I prefer a more customizable option with extra features that help me keep track of my sleep, and that’s why I continue using the Philips SmartSleep Connected. However, the app-controlled version is about $100 more.
This device is also larger than the typical alarm clock, and it’s somewhat heavy to move around — not ideal for small bedside tables with limited space. The buttons on the rim that control brightness and volume are slightly difficult to navigate because of where they’re located. I often struggled to find the right buttons, sometimes unintentionally increasing the volume when I meant to increase brightness.
If you decide to try it and end up not loving it, Philips will refund you within 90 days after the date of purchase.
The bottom line
Overall, the Philips SmartSleep wake-up lamp is effective in reducing the awful effects of sleep inertia. Philips designers say they built this device based on research and science. As a sleep researcher, I always love to see products that are backed by science and contribute to healthy sleep habits. Ultimately, I recommend this device to anyone looking to improve how they fall asleep and wake up.