Reset Your Circadian Rhythm with a Dawn Simulator

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The strangest things excite me nowadays. This past week? I’ve been crazy excited to play mad scientist with my circadian rhythms and maybe – just maybe – not be such a coffee-crazed cranky face in the mornings.
Since I wake up waaaay before dawn to see my husband off to work and take care of the goats, I have been toying with the idea of trying a dawn simulator alarm clock to make easing into wakefulness a more pleasant and healthier way to start my day.
So I was super giddy when Soleil Sun Alarm Company sent me a dawn simulator alarm clock to review! While I’d like to try this product out for a couple of weeks before reviewing (keep your eye out for my review in the near future!), I’d still like to share with you all how dawn simulators work, and why I think they are pretty much crazy awesome for early risers!

How Dawn Simulators Work

It has been known for well over a century now that a gradually increasing light, or a “simulated dawn,” can help you wake up in a gradual, gentle way. The concept of dawn simulation was first patented in 1890 as “mechanical sunrise” but it wasn’t until 1973 that modern electronic units were patented, spurred in part from research by David Avery, MD at Columbia University, that showed animals’ circadian rhythms to be exquisitely sensitive to the dim, gradually rising dawn signal at the end of the night.
Over the last few decades, scientific studies have increasingly shown that waking to a simulated dawn helps people to feel more refreshed and to wake up in a better mood. It turns out that the body is very sensitive to light in the early morning and therefore responds to fairly dim levels of light even through closed eyelids. Humans are programmed to wake to the sun, so the gradually increasing light sends the body the message that it is time to wake up.
With a dawn simulator, this happens gently and naturally – which is a GREAT improvement over the fight or flight inducing, jarring sounds that most alarms use. Also, using a dawn simulator means that you wake up in a lighted room – a great benefit to early risers and shift workers. I always feel like some kind of feral vampire bat whenever my hubby flips the light switch on the mornings… THE LIGHT!! IT BURNS!!!
Anyhoo, dawn simulators ultimately works by gently resetting your circadian rhythms. How do those work? I’m SO GLAD you asked! 😉

How Do Circadian Rhythms Work?

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants, tiny microbes and yes, even HUMANS!
In humans, circadian rhythms influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions. Abnormal circadian rhythms have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia and have been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
In studies of recent years, circadian rhythms have been demonstrated to have an effect on who may get cancer, when medical treatments are best administered, as well as who will get pregnant and when.  In relation to sleep and wakefulness, researchers in the field of circadian rhythms have discovered that differing amounts of light trigger the human body to produce various hormones. These hormones control when we fall asleep and when we wake up.

The Science of Sleep

Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. There, a special center called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN for short) initiates signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake.
The SCN works like a clock that sets off a regulated pattern of activities that affect the entire body. Once exposed to the first light of each day, the clock in the SCN begins performing functions like raising body temperature and releasing stimulating hormones like cortisol. The SCN also delays the release of other hormones like melatonin, which is associated with sleep onset, until many hours later when darkness arrives.

Melatonin – The Sleepy Hormone

Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” by the SCN and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours – all through the night – before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable.
Besides adjusting the timing of the clock, bright light has another effect. It directly inhibits the release of melatonin. That is why melatonin is sometimes called the “Dracula of Hormones” – it only comes out in the dark. Even if the pineal gland is switched “on” by the clock, it will not produce melatonin unless the person is in a dimly lit environment. In addition to sunlight, artificial dawn simulators can prevent the release of melatonin.

Serotonin – The Wakey Wake Chemical

So we know that when the eye, even with eyelids closed, perceives specific levels of light, the brain’s pineal gland triggers the production of certain hormones. When light levels increase, it triggers the production of serotonin, causing the human body to awaken.
The hormone serotonin, a chemical created by the human body that works as a neurotransmitter, is primarily induced by light and serves to wake and energize; in the same way that melatonin, induced by darkness, puts us to sleep. Both are naturally occurring hormones whose production is controlled by the pineal, the gland deep in the center of the brain termed by Descartes as “the seat of the soul.”
Serotonin is regarded by researchers as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance, and a deficit of serotonin can actually lead to depression. Serotonin can also affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire. Having a healthy balance of serotonin and melatonin is a magical chemical cocktail that spells out well rested nights, and productive, wakeful and energetic days!

To Sum It All Up…

As a result of having been in darkness all night long, the human eyes are able to perceive and register even the smallest amounts of light, even through closed eyelids.  When our eyes detect this increased level of light, a signal is sent to the brain’s pineal gland. The pineal then triggers the production of the hormone serotonin and inhibits the production of melatonin, which causes us to slowly awaken.
This natural method of waking helps to reset our circadian rhythms – which, in addition to regulating our physical, behavioral and mental processes – leaves us feeling refreshed, awake and energized! When waking before the sun, a dawn simulator alarm clock is one of the single most powerful tools for healthy sleep and healthy mornings!

Are your circadian rhythms out of whack? Have you tried a dawn simulator alarm clock, or are you interested in trying one? Share your thoughts below!

Gingi Freeman on sabfacebookGingi Freeman on sabinstagramGingi Freeman on sabpinterestGingi Freeman on sabtwitter
Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

78 thoughts on “Reset Your Circadian Rhythm with a Dawn Simulator

  • 4 February, 2015 at 8:41 pm
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    This would be a perfect gift for your sister. Although, I don’t know how it would work on someone who’s schedule is so wonky…sometimes she does full ‘night shoots’ that start so early in the day, but get her home at sometimes 3-4 in the morning. Good article.

    • 4 February, 2015 at 10:19 pm
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      She needs to get on a schedule for the times when she isn’t working.. she would feel a thousand times better!! It would probably make the off schedules feel a bit better!

  • 4 February, 2015 at 8:43 pm
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    Hi Gingi! I have never heard of a Dawn Simulator, how intriguing! I would love to try one. As the worst sleeper on the face of the planet ~ I wake like 5-10 times a night and can be quite a bear in the morning from lack of sleep, I’d be willing to try anything to find success in this area. And like you, I’m an early riser (my kids get up at 6 so so do I) and bring on the coffee, or in my case green tea with caffeine. My circadian rhythms must be totally out of wrack! But I just love the idea of waking up refreshed ~ it just changes everything when you wake up and feel like you can actually face the day! Thanks for sharing =)

    • 4 February, 2015 at 10:23 pm
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      Yeah, I have been eyeballing this for some time now. I was very excited to see Soleil Sun decided to partner with me for a review. SO FAR, I’m on day 2, and the first morning I woke up naturally, fully awake, 3 minutes before my alarm was set to go off! (Hubby woke up 5 minutes before the alarm!) But the next day, hubby and I had a late night running errands (lifting goat feed, lumber, etc.) and only got about 5 hours of sleep.. so we both didn’t wake up with the light, but had to wake up to the alarm. But we woke up easier than we normally would have, and it was AWESOME waking to a lit room. When I walked down the hall flipping on switches, I didn’t have burning eyes, haha!

  • 4 February, 2015 at 9:53 pm
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    Fascinating…I had never heard of anything like that. This time of year, it’s dark when we get up…first my wife and then me. I have always been able to wake up without an alarm clock…hate that blaring noise…not my wife. She has to get up at 5 for work and this would make more sense…can’t wait for your review…

    • 4 February, 2015 at 10:24 pm
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      Yeah, please keep an eye out for the upcoming review! I’m on day 2 of this alarm clock, and so far, it’s working like a charm.. but I’m trying to see if it’s not just my excitement at “wanting” it to work, ya know? So I’m gonna give it a good week or two before the review! ^_^

  • 4 February, 2015 at 10:33 pm
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    Incredible how many things you know!! It was so interesting – hope I understood everything correctly ;-). Never heard of this kind of clock, but it really seems very useful for who has to get up early!!

    Rosa
    Styleyourselfinstyle.blogspot.com

    • 4 February, 2015 at 10:34 pm
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      I always joke and say that I blog so I don’t forget all the random things I learn and teach myself! So this is more of a “personal growth and knoqledge journal” than a showcase of any real smarts on my part.. haha! This clock is REALLY COOL so far!! I’ll share more in upcoming posts! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 12:18 am
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    A great article that is!! I don’t like to wake up by alarm because I wake up 6:00am everyday 🙂
    well tips

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:16 am
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      That’s awesome that you can do that! I really want to get to that point! Wish me luck? hehe!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:16 am
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    I’ve never heard of a dawn simulator – sounds like a great idea.
    Yep, my circadian rhythms pretty much stay out of whack – I can’t even remember the last time I slept straight through the night. I usually spend several hours awake in the middle of each night.

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:19 am
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      I’ll have to let you know how this works for me.. I am generally a good solid sleeper, though it’s hard to tell now with a toddler that won’t let me sleep through the night! Haha.. the only constant in my life seems to be that I hate mornings! 😉

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:22 am
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      Of course!! Thanks for stopping by!! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 2:59 am
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    I’ve never heard of a dawn simulator.I think this would be perfect for me.I usually wake up at dawn too and I’m very cranky.I can’t wait to read your review.

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:23 am
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      I can’t wait to review the clock!! Haha.. I just don’t want to review it TOO SOON, you know? I want to give it awhile to really give it a good go!!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 3:30 am
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    I am totally out of whack! Four kids and no sleep have made for one grumpy mama! This is such an interesting post and I had no idea a dawn simulator even existed. Thanks for the heads up!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:33 am
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      Yeah, I’d like to blame my “won’t-sleep-through-the-night” toddler on my morning crankiness, but alas, it’s been a chronic thing since my teen years, lol.. hoping to make this major change for the better if possible this summer!!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 4:31 am
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    This sounds pretty cool!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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      It really is!!! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 4:44 am
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    Very interesting post Gingi! Never heard of Dawn Simulator. Love the idea, I feel like this is something perfect for me! Thanks for sharing!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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      Glad you could find it helpful!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 8:23 am
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    Wow, never heard about dawn simulator alarm cloc. This seems like amazing thing. Just what I need 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Kiss,

    Mel
    New post up @www.livingoncloude9.com

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:40 pm
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      Keep an eye out for my actual review in a few days! The clock itself is pretty dang cool! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 9:06 am
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    this sounds wonderful. I sleep under the window so I always wake up at dawn. If a need ever arises to wake up before dawn I would love to try this dawn simulator.

    Thank you for explaining this science of sleep, this was really interesting!

    http://modaodaradosti.blogspot.com/

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:46 pm
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      That’s what I would love to do! Wake up at dawn each morning to the sun.. I love watching the sun rise in the mornings. But when I can’t, it’s nice to have gentle light now!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:50 pm
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      If you do, let me know what you think! ^_^

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:52 pm
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      No problem!! <3

    • 5 February, 2015 at 3:53 pm
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      If you do, please share!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    I have never heard of this until I read your post but I know I have a difficult time waking up in the morning, especially during winter. I am an early riser so sounds like something like this would definitely help me! I can’t wait to read your full review on it!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:03 pm
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      Have you heard of SAD? It’s a winter disorder that wreaks havoc on circadian rhythms! You should look it up!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:09 pm
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    It sounds great. My husband could use something like this. I’m one of those annoying morning people with an internal alarm to wake up.

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:09 pm
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      LOL, we need to bottle what you have and share it! ^_^ My husband is the natural morning person, haha. He usually makes me coffee to wake up to, otherwise I’m a total zombie!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:21 pm
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    I have actually thought about this before. My sleep is usually pretty messed up. I wake up a couple of times during the night and then get up early. So maybe this would help me. I cannot wait to read your review!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:12 pm
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      Everyone I know who has tried a dawn simulator swears by it.. so I am very excited to see how it helps me out over the next few weeks! I’ll let you know all the nitty gritty once I give it a good run! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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    I have had a lot of trouble sleeping over the years, especially when my job required me to get up at 2AM. Now that I am on a “normal” schedule I have been so much healthier!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:15 pm
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      Regularity is key! I am lucky to be able to have a somewhat normal sleeping schedule, but I still struggle in the mornings.. glad your sleeping is healthy! It makes a HUGE difference, doesn’t it!?

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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    these are super useful!! i don’t have a problem waking up, just going and staying asleep!!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:18 pm
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      The dawn simulator is also a “sunset simulator” though, I am primarily using it for mornings.. maybe the nighttime features would work for you??

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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      You too!! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:44 pm
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    This is all new to me but really fascinating stuff! I’m especially interested in the sleep elements of it, as I find that really interesting. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:21 pm
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      Thanks for taking the time to read! I hope you found it useful! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 1:45 pm
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    This is a great tip especially for us living in the Nothern parts of the world. Where the sun can be gone for several months in worst case. My sister in law have a dawn simulator and loves it. Instead of waking up in the dark you wake up to a pleasant sunrise. And you can also add natural sounds like bird song. I have actually been thinking about buying one for some time 🙂

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:23 pm
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      Yeah, this one has natural bird song, and babbling brooks and so on as well.. I am not a big fan of nature sounds unless I’m actually IN nature (it’s like listening to Christmas carols during the summer, it just BUGS me) lol… but the light itself is the big selling point for me.. it’s a VERY gentle way to wake up!

  • 5 February, 2015 at 4:35 pm
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    So glad I stopped by this morning to see what you were up to! Really interesting, indeed. It makes so much sense to wake up like that. Glad to hear it is working out for you. Thanks for the information!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 4:40 pm
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      I’m glad you found the information useful my friend! <3

    • 5 February, 2015 at 6:08 pm
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      Awesome! Keep an eye out for my upcoming review, yeah? ^_^

    • 5 February, 2015 at 8:54 pm
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      You should check it out!! <3

  • 5 February, 2015 at 6:46 pm
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    Would the effect be the same if Ejay just started a small fire in our room every morning and let it grow bigger and brighter slowly? :-p

    • 5 February, 2015 at 8:56 pm
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      You should try it. It would probably work best if the fire you start is using a starter fuel like your bedsheets, or pillows, that way it’s closest to your retinas….

  • 5 February, 2015 at 9:00 pm
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    Gingi, I never heard about “dawn simulator” before! It is such a great idea and I need one!! anything that can wake me up in the morning!! 🙂

    • 5 February, 2015 at 9:02 pm
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      Make sure you keep your eye open for my upcoming review!! I’ll be providing much more information then! ^_^

  • 5 February, 2015 at 9:01 pm
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    A lot of interesting things there! I do think my rhythms go out of whack. I don’t go to bed at the same time every night and although I’d love to wake up at the same time every day, it doesn’t quite work out with kids. And with time changes and changing light, it throws me off!

    • 5 February, 2015 at 9:05 pm
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      Yeah.. I do fluctuate my morning wake up times now and again.. usually on the weekends, so I’m curious to see how this will work with the alarm clock! Guess we’ll see! 😉

  • 5 February, 2015 at 11:57 pm
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    Wonderful write up….. glad to know about new stuffs….. 🙂

    • 6 February, 2015 at 12:00 am
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      Glad to share info about new stuff!!! <3

    • 6 February, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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      It really is! Still happy with it and I’m on day 4 now! ^_^

  • 7 February, 2015 at 4:09 am
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    I’ve never tried this alarm, but have heard great things about it from friends. I am familiar with the circadian rhythms concept though, and would love to get my schedule synced properly {saying this as I’m typing here past 11PM, which is way past the recommended time for going to sleep to be aligned with nature — can you see why it’s hard? 🙂 }. When all’s well though and I’m able to be well rested, I notice my body naturally begins to wake up with the sun at dawn — which has always been incredible for me. I think this alarm can be a really great idea for many people.

    • 7 February, 2015 at 4:13 am
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      Yeah, I am very happy with it so far.. at the moment I’m not waking up to the light (still need the alarm sound to fully wake up) but I am noticing that when I wake up, I am far more rested and alert, and I absolutely LOVE not getting blasted by painful light when I turn on the light switch in the mornings.. I’ll share more about my experience in about a week!

  • 8 February, 2015 at 1:11 pm
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    i’m a huge fan of getting your internal clock on a predictable schedule. i go to bed, wake up, eat and poop at the same time every day. i’m not kidding about this either! when your body is on a predicable schedule, you just feel SO MUCH BETTER! you can totally train your body to learn when to feel hungry or sleepy and this is what i did (took me about 3-4wks).

    • 8 February, 2015 at 3:30 pm
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      I am planning on doing this as soon as I have the baby! Well.. as much as I can with two little ones in the house! hehe!

  • 9 February, 2015 at 3:15 pm
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    I bought a similar lamp (not sure if it’s from the same company as the one you’re testing) when he was in high school because it was so hard to wake him up when it was pitch black outside. It actually worked! It even had an audio setting with the sound of birds chirping that gradually increased in sound with the light. It’s really cool!

    • 9 February, 2015 at 3:44 pm
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      Yeah, this one does that too! I’ll have the review up sometime next week! Did he like it??

        • 9 February, 2015 at 4:39 pm
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          You can’t remember the brand name??

          • 9 February, 2015 at 9:15 pm
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            Yeah, different model than what I’m reviewing then.. that woulda been crazy thought, right?!

  • 11 February, 2015 at 1:38 am
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    Oh my gosh, this is so interesting and I can’t even tell you how great it is to hear all about it from someone who REALLY tried it out…
    I actually suffer from SAD and have been looking into light therapy and had heard so much about different lamps but having read this I think a dawn simulator could be a(nother) great option for me…
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    K.xo
    http://www.rarelytakenseriously.com

    • 11 February, 2015 at 2:46 am
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      Glad this post is useful to you!! Keep an eye out for the upcoming review, the manufacturer of the alarm clock just offered to extend a discount to my readers with the review! <3

  • 11 February, 2015 at 12:42 pm
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    Hmm.. I am intrigued. I hope you post that review soon! (Or have you already? I’ll find out a bit later I guess — I’m backreading and commenting on your posts lol)

    This method is much more workable for me than the standard alarm clock to wake me up during mornings. It seems like a gentler yet much effective way of waking me up without feeling harassed and stressed (or to my ears) from the alarm clock banging so early in the morning. And it feels more natural, y’know? Like you wake up early, just in time at mornings, to a brightly lit room, and instantly you feel like you’re in a good mood all day.

    TBH, my body clock is seriously messed up haha. Sleep around past midnight, wake up around 10AM, or if earlier than that.. I’ll eat breakfast and back to bed. I’ll wake up past lunchtime. What a mess.

    • 11 February, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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      Not yet, but I’ll be posting it soon! My daughter had taken to waking me up BEFORE my alarm is set to go off, so I haven’t really been able to use the alarm the last few days! lol!

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