Waking up with the (fake) sun

[Bogdan] has some trouble getting up in the morning. A blaring alarm will do the trick but that’s no way to start the day. To get him through the dark winter months he wanted to try a sunrise simulator. He patched into the alarm signal of his bedside clock, intercepting the command from the clock’s microprocessor and using it as an input for his own ATtiny13. From there, the tiny13 gradually brightens a 150W halogen lamp using a triac until his room is as bright as a July morning. A signal is then sent to the alarm clock’s audio amplifier to turn on the audible alarm. He’s got the system set for a 20-minute sunrise so it’s just a matter of programming his alarm 20-minutes early than the ‘I absolutely have to get out of bed now’ time.


  1. dan says:

    This is great; being woken by a loud noise is horrible start to the day. Especially when it is the same loud noise every day. It’d be nice if someone made a ‘plug-through’ device that could go between any lamp and the wall.

  2. Brad Hein says:

    Love it!

  3. Tandon says:

    I’ve read that when sunlight leaks through your eyelids, and your eyes see it, chemicals are released in the brain that encourage your sleeping brain to wake up.

    Waking up through that method is likely to be much more peaceful and restful than some shrieking piezo speaker.

    Neat idea, I like it.

  4. tom says:

    if only it could radiate heat so you start sweating, then it will make you take a shower too!

  5. jjrh says:

    With me I try and vary the sound that takes me up in the morning. Every few months I will change the alarm tone on my cellphone, and the file my computer plays. Seems to help since i’m not used to the sound. My standard radio clock alarm is pretty much useless since I have learned to tune it out.

    This is a cool idea though, winter is the hardest time for me to get up as it’s pitch dark or grey. Even having your room light turn on would be useful.

  6. James says:

    Nice solution, I’ve been considering something like this for a while but it would need to be mounted above the bed to wake me up, I turn over all the time so it would only be 50% effective :D

  7. piku says:

    Added bonus – with that 150W halogen bulb shining on you, it’ll feel like a war…burning hot summer’s day too ;-)

    How about one for really heavy sleepers that replaces the halogen lamp with a strobe light and the buzzer with a klaxon.

  8. Bogdan says:

    @dan That’s my intention, but i couldn’t find a small enough outlet and box to attach to the clock box that wouldn’t look ridiculous, which could allow a simple plug in. Still, you would need a much brighter than normal lamp for the work.
    I chose the 150W halogen pointed at the ceiling because it brightens the whole room a lot.

  9. Bogdan says:

    When i was a kid, i connected a red strobe light and a siren to an alarm clock. It was terrible to wake up with that.

  10. Chajtek says:

    Actually there are 2 commercial products like this.
    one – from Philips and much more cheaper “Automatic Outdoor Light Timer”. I was using second one for winter in Netherlands as I needed to wake 1h before sunrise.
    This trick is really working brain hack.

    Farmers are sometimes using this trick to get more eggs in chicken farm (as chicken has 1 egg/day they are shortening days and nights)

  11. imsolidstate says:

    Cool project. I hate getting up in the winter.

    @Chajtek – Chickens lay about an egg a day, they don’t care how short the day is. I have chickens. They lay the same amount all year.

  12. sneakypoo says:

    To be able to use something like this I’d have to completely block up my window. I’m from Sweden and during the summer it’s really only dark, proper dark, for a couple of hours each night. Or maybe one could make a sleep mask of sorts with LEDs that slowly ramp up in the morning. Hmm, never considered that before.

    I’ve considered it for the winters though.

  13. Brennan says:

    @imsolidstate That information about tricking the chickens into thinking the day is shorter was in the documentary “Food, Inc.” Not sure if it is true or not, but I’m just adding to the discussion.

  14. osgeld says:

    “if only it could radiate heat so you start sweating, then it will make you take a shower too!”

    you have never stood infront of a full blast 150watt halogen bulb have you?

    one rainy day we were unloading a truck at this place I worked at a while ago, one of the guys got the idea to dry his shirt on one of these, it started smoking in less than 10 min

  15. deathshadow says:

    Shades of Derek Flint.

  16. Bogdan says:

    @Chajtek, yes there are, probably more than two. In fact the whole idea was patented in 1937 for the first time apparently. The only one i really saw was the Phillips one and it seems quite dim.

    @osgeld You are right, it make a lot of heat. The whole reflector itself heats as well as radiate heat. I had to take extra care when mounting it to be safe. In fact, i’ve seen such reflectors used for outdoor lighting(that’s what they are made fore, they are weatherproof), when it is raining, you can see water evaporating from them as steam.

    @tom I’m pretty sure i could add a watervalve to the project for automatic showering. Don’t know what you could do with the water afterwards though.. using more lights for heating doesn’t seem like a comfortable way of waking up.

  17. J. Peterson says:

    When I was a teenager I tried hooking my clock alarm to a relay that turned the room light on. When it clicked on, I started dreaming that somebody was shining a spotlight in my eyes, and I was screaming “Turn it off! Turn it off!”.

    Never tried it again.

  18. Ron Proctor says:

    Switch to LEDs, commercialize it, and I’d totally buy it.

  19. Dr Watson says:

    I am continually late so i used one of those digital timers to turn a lamp on that faced the ceiling, not gradual but does the job, reading this is good to know there are many ppl

  20. Steve says:

    I think that this would be a great product also. Make it as a kit or design it so it is hackable. I would buy it.

    Great idea!

  21. Bogdan says:

    Why LEDs ?

  22. bigbob says:

    @Ron Proctor

  23. bigbob says:

    @ Ron Proctor

    LEDs do not emit the correct spectrum generally, and in order to get a sufficient amount of light in the correct spectrum would take an incredible amount of LEDs. For the short amount of time this is on I would not consider the power consumption a tremendous factor…

  24. blue carbuncle says:

    Gonna put my Furby out of a jerb lol.

    “Big Light” “Me sleep again” “Me Toh-Loo”

  25. Bogdan says:

    Normal incandescent lamps are better for simulating a sunrise, when dim they have a more orange color, which is how the light is at sunrise before the sun is up.

    LEDs don’t justify the expense because of the short operating time, unless you just want to use a bright LED pointed at your face.

  26. Jake says:

    Holy hell, those 150W lights in those inclosures or neither dim nor do they run cool! He should be able to feel the heat within a couple feet of it. The backside of those enclosures gets so hot that you can’t touch it, it’s actually a potential fire hazard in a house IMO!

  27. smaddox says:

    I thought about doing this, but I didn’t think a single light would be bright enough. My solution was to get a lutron IR controlled light switch from home depot and an IR USB transceiver for my computer. A quick gnome alarm clock, lirc, and a quick bash script later and I’m slowly woken up over 30 minutes. If I’m not up by then, then a song of my choosing wakes me up to a bright room.

    I had a bit of trouble reproducing the IR signal to turn up the lights because it wasn’t really supported by lirc, but a couple hours with an oscilloscope and I figured out a quick hack to make it work.

  28. Stroh says:

    Supposedly the easiest way to wake up is to hear your name being called. I just made a custom ring of someone saying my name progressively louder.

  29. B says:

    Why not just get a CFL with the right temp?

  30. Kaj says:

    I looked for sunrise simulators last year… unimpressed with the price, I ended up having two lights facing the ceiling, one 7W CFL and one 14W… a bit like a 40W then a 100W. I set them up on separate timers, with the dimmer bulb turning on 30 mins before wake-up, and the brighter turning on 15 minutes later.

  31. Bogopogo says:

    If you’ve ever gone camping – you know why this works.

    As the sun comes up – and things get brighter – it’s a natural signal to your body that it’s time to wake up. Much more pleasant that the alarm clock.

    I’d love to do something like this – but my wife wakes up about a half hour later than I do – and she’d kill me!

  32. Bogdan says:

    @smaddox My first idea was to split the device in two parts, have a part inside the clock that sends the go signal and a dimmer attached to the lamp and controlled via IR. But as I wanted to try the concept first. I don’t know how many dimming steps a wall dimmer with IR control has, i imagine that there are not that many since it would require lots of button presses to adjust. A custom one would do.
    @Kaj your solution seems simple and good enough.

    @Stroh What a wonderful idea!

  33. Simon says:

    @imsolidstate they don’t just shorten the day – they shorten both the night and the day. For example an 8-hour day and an 8-hour night means 547 days in the year.

  34. Stu says:

    This is a great idea, and I never heard of the ‘someone calling your name’ idea that Stroh mentioned, could be good to try too.
    I have a bit of a sleeping disorder (or is that a waking disorder) myself during the long winter nights. I may try it out myself but I’d imagine 150W for 30 mins every day is going to add up in electricity costs pretty badly, especially in rip off britain.
    Thanks tho, might be worth some experimentation to see if it helps me!

  35. Bogdan says:

    In my case 150W for 20 minutes = 50Wh. But it is less than this, the lamp increases its intensity during this 20 minutes. Say it consumes 30Wh per day, that’s about 11KWh per year. Don’t know the price of electricity in Britain, here it’s about 0.8x euros/KWh. You could of course use a dimmable CFL but they don’t start lighting from 0.
    I was thinking about someone calling your name idea too. It’s probably best not to have the voice of a person near you as you might develop some sort of adversity towards her/him because of those mornings when you wanted to sleep more.

  36. Bogdan says:

    0.08x … my bad!

  37. Nocker says:

    I know I’m rather late to the party, but… I think this is a great idea. Though if you live in constant sleep debt, this probably won’t work for you without changing other areas of your life.

    Light (especially short wave length, blue and green light) has a strong connection to the body’s circadian rhythms, inhibiting the sleep regulating hormone melatonin and stimulating serotonin production.
    Many of us stay late staring at bright screens that may be actively suppressing melatonin production.

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