Time for a change of alarm clock?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and it feels good to finally share this little rant!

It is my other half who has the problem. But, as with most things, I end up sharing it! I’m talking about the alarm on his Nokia mobile phone. Aside from the fact that it forces us to get up when we’d rather stay in bed, it has the particularly unwelcome feature of displaying the time remaining before the alarm sounds.

So, every night, just as we’re ready to slip off into sleep, my other half sleepily sets his morning alarm and – bam! – he’s wide awake again because now he knows that he has only 7 hours 22 minutes (and counting) until it’s time to get up. Which, of course, he then kindly reports to me, along with a raft of expletives.

I agree; it is a bizarre and unpleasant feature that creates stress at bedtime. Knowing the limited time you have to sleep really does not help the mind to relax and switch off. Instead, you’re alerted to the fact that you really must fall asleep right now, which stimulates feelings of anxiety rather than calm.

Why anyone would want this tool is beyond me. So, Nokia, if you’re reading – please explain yourself!


Product review: Lumie Bodyclock Classic

Welcome to my fourth product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the Lumie Bodyclock Classic daylight alarm clock.

The Bodyclock Classic - not pretty but pretty good at getting me out of bed!

The last couple of months have been full of activity with the opening of We Love Sleep’s new Sleep Solutions Centre in Sheffield, generating lots of interest (check out this brilliant piece in the Yorkshire Post newspaper – “Silent night – the art of a good night’s sleep”), and keeping me busy. But, I’m back with you, and bursting to tell you about a product that could have you bouncing out of bed, even on dark winter mornings.

If you’re anything like me, getting up in the dark – particularly when it’s cold and miserable outside – is a struggle. My new rural location means that all I see is inky black when my alarm jolts me out of sleep (there are no street lamps out here in the sticks!). Then it takes me at least an hour after rolling out of bed to shake off my morning grogginess and grumpiness. So, when I was given an opportunity to test one of Lumie’s daylight alarm clocks, I jumped at the chance.

There are four daylight alarm clocks within the range, varying in price from £58 for the basic model (the Bodyclock Starter), up to £145 for the top-of-the-range model (the Bodyclock Elite). I tested one of the mid-range models, the Bodyclock Classic, priced £78. The other mid-range option is the Bodyclock Advanced, priced at £98.

All four alarm clocks offer the same unique feature – they wake you by emitting a powerful light that gently eases you from sleep. Simply set the alarm for the time you want to wake up and the lamp will gradually illuminate prior to that time. The idea is that as the light gets brighter, your body is fooled into believing that it’s sunrise and accordingly reduces production of sleep hormones like melatonin and kick-starts levels of those that help you get up and go like cortisol. So, in simple terms, you’ll find it easier to get up.

The alarm clocks use a special daylight bulb knows as a pure light full spectrum bulb, which emits a whiter light than conventional light bulbs to mimic natural sunlight. It can also help Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter blues sufferers cope with dark winter mornings.

The light is incredibly bright. But despite this I wasn’t certain that it would wake me from my slumber – I’m a very deep sleeper, you see, and have been known to sleep through the most unbearable alarms, much to my other half’s annoyance. Lumie have thoughtfully provided a back-up beeper on their daylight alarm clocks, though, so if you’re not roused after the “sunrise” has reached its maximum brighness, this isn’t a problem. And, unlike some conventional alarms, the sound isn’t jarring – it’s more of a gentle bleeping sound.

My other half and I have been testing the Bodyclock Classic for the last eight mornings and we’ve had some of the easiest wake-ups in a long time. After only night two, my other half requisitioned it to his side of the bed on the grounds that he gets up five minutes sooner than me, so I have extra time to come round before getting out of bed. Hmmm.

Perhaps because of this, on most mornings the light hasn’t been enough on its own to wake me up. However, when the beeper does sound I wake easily – there’s no nasty shock that conventional alarms give you – and I feel more alert and refreshed on waking than usual. My other half, meanwhile, enjoys the full benefit of waking naturally with the light and says, simply: “it’s so much nicer than waking up feeling like you’ve been slapped around the face!”

All four daylight alarm clocks also feature a sunset function. The light gradually fades to darkness, helping you to wind down and drift off to sleep. There’s also the option to use the alarm clocks as a simple bedside lamp or reading light too.

The Bodyclock Classic also has an AM/ FM radio function – although due to my rural location this couldn’t actually pick up any stations! For what is otherwise an innovative piece of kit, I’m surprised that it’s lacking more advanced technology. There’s no DAB digital radio, for example, and, unlike the two more advanced alarm clocks in the range that have the benefit of a digital display, the Bodyclock Classic has a clunky manual clock and awkward buttons. It seems strange for such an ingenious product to be so old-fashioned technologically. But, perhaps if that’s an issue for you, you pay up for one of the more advanced models, where you can also get an SD card reader to play your MP3, white noise setting, security light and various sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up, amongst other things.

My other complaint is the look of the product. It lacks style and I imagine that some people might be put off by this.

However, ultimately, this is an inspired product that eases the struggle of getting up in the dark, and helps you to wake up feeling more refreshed, alert and ready to get on with your day.

All four Lumie daylight alarm clocks, including the Bodyclock Classic, are available from We Love Sleep.

Design student recognises importance of sleep routine

Last week I received an email from a product design student at the University of Dundee, Natalie Duckett. Natalie has designed a beautiful alarm clock using natural materials, that would look stunning in any bedroom.

There’s more to the alarm clock than a pretty face though. Natalie’s unique piece is designed to help users get more good quality sleep and doesn’t actually have a clock interface! For those who find themselves kept awake by clock watching, Natalie’s new style of alarm clock is the perfect solution.

Unlike standard alarm clocks, Natalie’s design has two alarms – in addition to the usual morning alarm that wakes you up, Natalie’s piece has an evening alarm to signal when to start preparing for sleep. A clock interface is not necessary as setting the morning alarm automatically sets the corresponding evening alarm for 9 hours earlier, giving the user at least 8 hours of sleeping time plus time to wind down before bed.

Another distinctive feature of Natalie’s design is the alarm signal, which has been created to imitate the sound of a woodpecker drumming his beak against a tree. The user may alter the sound and volume of the alarm by choosing either a brass or elm wood “beak” and placing the beak against different materials and objects, such as a bedside table, door or radiator.

Natalie’s alarm clock is not yet ready for the commercial market, but it’s exciting to see new designers recognising the importance of quality sleep. I hope Natalie’s university project is just the beginning of more beautiful and unique sleep products to come.

For more information about Natalie and her unique alarm clock, click on the following links: www.natalieduckett.co.uk and www.open-output.org/nemduckett/project/10747