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Sunrise wake-up lights could help you get out of bed on a dark winter morning

By Aley Davis, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 5, 2020 at 10:01 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in Utah history, the state Legislature has passed a bill which could make daylight saving time permanent in Utah.

If SB59 is signed by the governor, the bill would still need action by Congress and at least four Western states before taking effect. Once that happens, it would remain lighter in the evenings in Utah but stay dark longer in the mornings — which could be challenging for people who like to hibernate when the sun doesn't rise as early.

One Utah man has found a solution to help him get up before dawn on dark, cold mornings. Austin Jones has always struggled with irregular sleeping habits and suffered through a period of severe insomnia.

"I usually wasn't falling asleep until like 4 or 5 (o'clock) in the morning," he said. “It was terrible!”

He finally decided to make a few changes to help him get better sleep. He established a set routine, started eating better and began practicing mindfulness meditation, which he said helped him significantly. Austin also installed a sunrise wake-up light in his bedroom to help him get up in the morning.

"For me, it's been huge. I am not a morning person,” he said. A sunrise wake-up light, also known as a dawn simulator or sunrise alarm clock, is designed to simulate the sun rising by slowing getting brighter and brighter.

"Just to be able to wake up and have the room be light, it makes it a little bit easier in the wintertime because I don’t want to get out of bed anyway,” he said.

Austin sets a timer on his phone the night before to program the lights to turn on at the time he wants to wake up the next morning. He wakes up at 5:30 a.m. on the weekdays, “so that I can do everything I need to before I have my commute to work,” he explained.

The lights come on a half hour before Austin wants to get out of bed, starting soft and gradually getting brighter until it's time for him to get up.

"That kind of wakes me up more gently than just a blaring alarm,” he explained.

Austin calls it a game-changer because it allows him to rise and shine on dark winter mornings when the sun doesn't pop up until after 7 a.m.

Austin Jones wakes-up at 5:30 a.m. during weekdays when it's still dark outside. (Photo: KSL TV)

Intermountain Healthcare's Megan Jones, a nurse practitioner at the LDS Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, said a lack of light can affect the sleep-wake cycle.

"We often feel a lot more tired in the winter,” she explained, but added that people don't actually need more sleep during colder, darker months. "We need seven to nine hours of sleep year-round."

However, Megan Jones said there are things people can do to not feel so tired, such as "going to bed around the same time and getting up at the same time, even on weekends."

She also said it’s important to find ways to get outside in the daylight during the winter, whether it’s taking a walk at lunch or going for an evening stroll in the neighborhood after work.

More your life your health:

The nurse practitioner suggests keeping the blinds and curtains open as often as possible to let the sunlight in. She said while natural sunshine is the best form of light, artificial light from a wake-up light or dawn simulator can be helpful if used only in the morning.

For more intense light therapy, she recommends looking for an artificial light box with anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000-lux. She cautions people against using computer and phone screens two hours before bedtime.

"That blue light suppresses melatonin," Megan Jones explained, making it more difficult for people to fall asleep.

While it may seem tempting, she reminds people to avoid sleeping in, too. She said it can make you feel even more sleepy and groggy.

Wake-up lights sell online anywhere from $25 to $100.

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