Observations after a week of waking up to the (simulated) sun

A week ago I mentioned that I had purchased a lamp that simulates a sunrise. I promised at the time that I would provide some kind of a review after a week or two of use, and I think I’ve experienced enough with this lamp to offer some reasonable impressions. The results are good: waking up to ersatz sunlight helps make my day a bit better.

The specific brand and model I bought was a NatureBright Per3. There wasn’t a bunch of research involved in making this choice: I was looking for something appropriate to place at the bedside, with a clock/timer and the ability to simulate a sunrise (I.E.: start dim and gradually get brighter over some period prior to my wake up time). The Per3 was what I found on display at the Shoppers Home Healthcare depot, which was the first place I saw locally that had a selection of different lamps on the shelf.

Prior to buying the Per3, I had done a little bit of poking around on the Internet: I wasn’t totally ignorant of what I was looking for, just unclear on a particular device that stood out. I hadn’t found any clear winners in the “sunrise simulator” market and, in fact, had never actually run across NatureBright or the Per3. What I did confirm is that these lamps are not cheap: they range from around $100 to well over $250, with most costing somewhere in the $200+ range. Simple on/off “SAD” lamps producing the appropriate sunlight spectrum but without the sunrise/timer feature aren’t a lot cheaper: a few can be purchased for under $100, but not many.

I decided to buy locally if I could find somewhere with a selection, mainly because of the fact that I couldn’t find any really good information on the Internet. I was hoping I’d find someone at least familiar with what they had on their own shelf and able to steer me away from the real duds. I found the staff at the Shopper’s Home Healthcare depot to be helpful, knowledgeable, and non-irritating. The woman who helped Irene and I (we looked at several other interesting gadgets while we were there) never tried to pretend she knew more than she did, and in fact (gasp!) admitted ignorance on a few items. I guess since this is a place where folks with various medical and mobility problems go this probably makes sense.

The lamp itself seems reasonably well made, and basically just works: I didn’t find anything about setting it up confusing, and the controls are simple and convenient enough. But what about the whole concept of simulating a sunrise? I am actually rather amazed at how well it works for me. I still have an alarm on my nightstand, but every morning this week I’ve woken up ten or fifteen minutes before the alarm, and in fact before the sunrise lamp is at full brightness. In every case I’ve felt more “awake” than I have in months, and less stressed. I haven’t felt like I would happily kill someone just to get the chance to go back to sleep.

I should note that this “wakefulness” even applied on three days when I had less than five hours of sleep. One “night” I crawled into bed at 2:00 am: I was sure that there was no way the simulated sun could wake me up like it had on previous nights. I was wrong- I started waking up at about 6:40 am, just as with the other days. And I felt better on less than five hours sleep than I had before the lamp on eight hours.

Interestingly, the effect seems to have carried reasonably well throughout the day. I don’t feel like I’m exhausted before noon, and my mood is a bit better. I’m not singing and dancing, nor am I suddenly so energetic that I <shudder> want to exercise daily or some such craziness. I still suffer from depression, and I still say and do things as a result of my disrupted emotional state that I later regret. Cute little birds aren’t helping me get dressed in the morning either. But I’ve been making it downstairs with my eyes open and brain sufficiently engaged to have a one or two sentence conversation sometime before eight am, and that is worth the money for me.

I can definitely recommend a sunrise simulator like the Per3 if you suffer from tiredness or depression during the shorter days of winter. I’m tempted to do some more research and see if having another (non-timer) lamp with a similar spectrum near my computer or something might also be beneficial. Although I suppose then I’d run the risk of over-exposure or something: maybe I’ll just stick to the fake sunrise, and leave the fake daylight off the menu 🙂

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