My son wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. to ready himself for school. I have to also wake up to drive him to his bus stop since we live out of zone. Canadian mornings in the late fall and early winter, being in such a northern latitude, are very dark. There have been many mornings where my son would complain that he just couldn't wake up while it still being so dark (and secretly I complained to myself as well).

I happened upon a study I read on PubMed, originally published in Chronobiology International from Gabel, V., et al where it posits the positive biological effects of exposing a sleeper to artificial sunlight 20 minutes prior to waking.

After reading a few other non-sourced articles, it got me wondering if I could use my Philips Hue lights that I have in my children's rooms to help them wake up more alert and ready for the day. At the moment I've only used them to ensure that all of our lights in the home are turned off after a set hour. Seeing how difficult it was to wake upon my son, I was certainly hopeful.

Setting up your lights

There are more than just Philip Hue lights that you can purchase. Products from nanoleaf come to mind. But whatever you decide to use, make certain that any Homekit, siri or app integrations allows for setting up timers and alarms. For Philip Hue, here's how to go about setting up a room with lights that slowly fade in to gently wake a sleeper.

Set up your room

  1. Launch your Hue app on your iOS device.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Room setup.
  4. Tap the +.

  5. Type in a Name for your room.
  6. Optionally set your Room Type.
  7. Check all of the associated Hue lights to be part of that room.
  8. Tap Save.

Set up your Wake Up routine

  1. Tap Routines.
  2. Tap Wake up.
  3. Tap the +.

  4. Type in a Name for your routine.
  5. Set the Time you want the lights to be fully illuminated.
  6. Select the days you want the routine to run.
  7. Set the amount of time you want the lights to slowly fade in from.
  8. Select the rooms you what to be art of the wake up routine.
  9. Optionally, set the time to Turn off the wake up lights so that they don't stay on all day.
  10. Tap Save.

So what's the verdict

We've synchronized my son's alarm with the slow fading in of his Hue lights at around 20 minutes prior to sounding. The effects were immediate. Bright, alert, and amazingly all smiles while being up at 6 a.m.! Since my wife doesn't wake up as early as I do, but I wanted a similar effect whilst waking, I set up a small Philips Bloom lamp next to my side of the bed that is enough to rouse me but not impactful enough to illuminate the whole room. A nice compromise.

Final thoughts

Do you have a young one who's not too keen on the early rise and shine? Have you used a similar technique to help you or a loved one with their mornings? Let us know in the comments on how you've dealt with the groggy wakers!