I Tried a Wake-Up Light to See If It Helped Me with Fatigue on Early Mornings

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Since having thyroid and adrenal problems, I’ve found mornings to be the hardest time of day by far. They’re indescribably difficult, although they never used to be, pre-chronic illness days. I was one of those weird kids (and teenagers) who woke up early on weekends and jumped out of bed with energy. I could get going early in the morning without much of an issue, but these days, I wake up feeling low in mood, groggy, foggy-headed, nauseas and generally just bleh. 

So for a while now, I’ve wanted to try a ‘wake-up lamp’ to see if it helps with this. What the hell is a wake-up lamp? you ask. Well.

A wake-up lamp is an alarm clock with an inbuilt lamp that is designed to slowly wake you up in the morning. You set the alarm (so for me, 6:30am) and at 6am, the lamp begins brightening up the room so that by 6:30 when the alarm goes off, you’ve been woken up gently, as the lamp has mimicked a natural sunrise.  The idea is that you’ll already be well on your way out of REM sleep by the time your alarm does go off and be more awake and alert.

So I ordered one on Amazon, that had a decent number of reviews, all positive about the effect it’s had on them waking up more gently and less groggy in the mornings and sat waiting excitedly. I’d give anything to be able to function properly before midday. By the time I’m able to do anything, half my day has already gone.

I was excited to set it up and give it a go as soon as it arrived, but quickly found that all six of the alarm noice options were irritating. Even on the lowest volume, they pierced right through me (chirping birds, traditional beeping, pianos etc.) and I was wide awake when trialling them! When I’m woken up in the morning, I need something more gentle, that doesn’t startle me, but I eventually settled on the birds chirping. Which was a huge mistake.

When the alarm went off the next morning, the sound of happy birds on the lowest volume setting make me jump out of my skin! And what’s worse, the lamp didn’t even work – it wasn’t lit up at all! So I hadn’t had that ‘gentle wake up with a natural sunrise effect’ at all. Just some sudden all-too-happy birds making me feel more annoyed and moody that I had to drag myself out of bed.

I was so grumpy that morning.

I changed the noise but for the next few attempts, still could not get the lamp part of the product to work until a few days later. At last, I did wake up finally to the lamp having done it’s job and lit up the room. How was I feeling? Well, as soon as the lamp began coming on at 6am, on it’s very low light setting, I was woken up and from then until half six, I dozed whilst the room got brighter. So it wasn’t an ideal reaction, but I am a super light sleeper. It resulted in me getting half an hour’s less sleep and dozing is never a good thing for me to do. It makes me feel so groggy.

I also found that throughout the night when I was waking up and tossing and turning (I’m very restless and don’t sleep through the night at all) I kept looking at the time on the clock, out of some weird new habit. I was doing it without thinking, probably as the time was lit up to the side of me, in a dark room, so I was drawn to it every time my eyes opened, and this only worsened my ability to wake up feeling refreshed.

I gave it a couple more weeks at waking me up subtly with the lamp, but I gave up and packed it back up in its box by Christmas. It just wasn’t for me and made no difference whatsoever to how easily I got up for work at half six on a cold December morning.

Maybe it was the brand of clock – the way it lights up may differ from clock to clock, or maybe it was the horrendous alarms and lit up clock face I couldn’t get used to. But this one did not help me at all.

If you struggle like I do in the mornings, especially if it’s gotten worse over time, do check if you’ve got something else at play besides your thyroid condition. Adrenal fatigue is extremely common in hypothyroid patients and can cause a whole load of sleep disruptions. Optimal thyroid levels should also be in place (not just ‘in range‘) and with winter comes increased chances of vitamin deficiencies. Check you’re optimal in B12, D, iron, Ferritin etc. which can all cause heavy fatigue and low mood.

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.

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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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