How to Wake Up Easier in the Winter

Alarm clocks that brighten gradually

You’ve heard of SAD—seasonal affective disorder; a condition causing intense irritability, lack of energy, and an unceasing craving for carbs. You probably don’t have it, but that doesn’t mean your winter blues aren’t real: Each year, about half of Americans report feeling down once it gets cold. (The rest moved to L.A.) So we’ve compiled fancy gadgets, restorative beauty products, and therapeutic advice to help you get through.

“Dawn simulation,” the idea of using light to rouse you more gently than a blaring beep, isn’t as New Age as it sounds. It goes back to the late 1800s, when inventors created “mechanical sunrise” machines that slowly lit up a room to wake the user’s body before she opened her eyes. Clinicians at Columbia University have studied the concept—which links circadian rhythms with sleeping habits—and say it’s a more restful way of rising, setting you up for a less sluggish day. One study suggests it even works on teenagers: They not only found it easier to wake up, but their parents also agreed. Today many alarm clocks incorporate this gradually brightening technology. Here, four of the best go head-to-head.

BioBrite SunRise Traveler
$49.95; biobrite.com

How it works: The travel-size BioBrite helps thwart jet lag by glowing a muted yellow for 15 minutes before the alarm sounds. The light is soft, making a hotel room feel like a romantic bar.

Does it work? Because it’s small, it isn’t very strong. Place at eye level near your pillow for best results.

Gripe: It works only when upright, so keep it on a level surface.

Yantouch Wake-Up Alarm Clock
$99.95; destinationlighting.com

How it works: The bloblike orb glows one of seven colors, from lime to glittery magenta, which get progressively brighter for 30 minutes. Canaries also start singing.

Does it work? Too well. The clock’s hands illuminate a dark room. With its high wattage, the wake-up light is too intense.

Gripe: It requires a remote to operate, so better not lose it.

Verilux Rise & Shine Sleep System
$49.95; verilux.com

How it works: A ring of white light intensifies for 15 to 30 minutes before your alarm rings, accompanied by crashing waves or a gurgling stream.

Does it work? The halo looks nice on your nightstand, but it gives off a weaker glow than the globe-shaped options.

Gripe: It can be tough to see the time in the middle of the night.

Philips Wake-Up Light
$169.99; usa.philips.com

How it works: The spotlight changes color like the morning sun, from soft red to warm orange to bright yellow. Five soothing sounds, such as a tinkling piano, help you rise.

Does it work? Yes! The beam is simple to set up and blazing enough that even deep sleepers will notice it.

Gripe: The one-tap snooze is too easy to re-up.

Photographer: Sacha Maric for Bloomberg Businessweek

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