Build a DIY Philips Wake-up Light for under $20

Wake-Up lights are a great way to wake up more gently by tricking your body into thinking it is sunrise. Philips makes a number of different models of wake-up lights, but they can be pretty expensive, costing up to $180 and requiring you to replace your alarm clock. So I decided to build my own wake-up light system instead.

The Basic Setup

You can build your own DIY system using a simple outlet timer and a full spectrum light bulb, spending no more than $25 (less if you own some of the parts already)

Buy a “daylight” light bulb

You could probably get away with using any light, but to really simulate an actual sunrise, you should aim for a light bulb that has a high color temperature, preferably 5000K if possible. You’ll also want something relatively bright, in case you are turned away from the light when it goes on. You can pick up a 60-watt 5500K compact fluorescent light bulb for $14 on Amazon. You can swap it out for any existing lamp in your room, and it will produce as much light as a 250-watt incandescent light bulb.

Get an outlet timer

You have a couple options for this one. You can buy a basic mechanical timer for only $7 , or you can spring for a digital version for $13. The benefit of the digital timer is that you can program specific times for each day of the week, which is useful if you wake up at different times, or don’t want to have to remember to turn the timer off before sleeping in on weekends.

Optional: Automate your wake-up light

If you are interested in a bit of home automation and have $50 to spare, you can pick up a Belkin WeMo Switch. This switch connects to your WiFi network and lets you set rules from an iPhone or Android app. This is convenient if you wake up at unpredictable times and want the ability to quickly and easily change the timer settings. I used a digital timer at first, but eventually bought a WeMo and set it up to turn on based on my calendar using IFTTT.

Using the Wake-up Light

Philips Wakeup LightYou want the light to turn on 10-20 minutes before you wake up so that your body has time to process the light and prepare you to wake up gradually. Position the light so that you notice it from your bed with your eyes closed, but make sure it is not so close or direct that it wakes you up immediately. You might need to experiment with different positions to find which works best for you. I found that aiming it at the ceiling above my bed worked best, so that it is equally bright no matter which position I am sleeping in.

  • Patrick Conwell

    Not sure how old this article is (I’ve never understood why blogs hate dating their posts), but this is a terrible alternative to a true wake up light. The lights are designed to come on gradually, not full blast all at once. This ‘hack’ really defeats the whole purpose.

    • asdfgeoff

      Hi Patrick. That’s a good point about the dimming feature. If you’re a light sleeper then having a gradual increase is definitely important. Myself I barely noticed the Philips wakeup light when it was on full, and would sleep right through it if I was rolled over facing a different direction. Going the DIY route allowed me to bounce a more powerful light source off a wall, which evenly lit up my entire room. Definitely takes a few nights of tweaking your setup so it is not too powerful though.